Journal, October 14, 1976 PM

I finished the “Inferno” today at work. As I was reading through the final Cantos, it struck me what Dante had attempted. He tried to combine the poetic and the literal into a single unity, and along with it incorporate the pre-Christian literary tradition into the Christian worldview (while completing & enriching this view). He finds places for Homer & Virgil in his “odyssey” and for their monsters, demons and heroes within his Christian hell.

For Dante, poetic justice and literal justice are one. The archbishop who let a man starve is gnawed upon for eternity by that man, etc. However, he wouldn’t have agreed with Kurt Vonnegut’s idea that evil is that part of all of us that wants to hate with God on our side. He, with “Virgil’s“ encouragement, actually berates, threatens and then slyly tricks a sinner frozen in the ice of hell’s last pit. He even pulls out some of his hair! Apparently, Dante thought hating with God on your side was all right, even a sign of virtue. I prefer Vonnegut!

Perhaps Dante realized, who knows, that the power of the Bible was largely in its virtue as a literary work. Whoever may have written it, it converted the learned because it was convincing, dynamic literature. In any case, Dante (within the stylistic paradigm of his day) set out to write a powerful work, a masterpiece of symbolism, integrating the pagan literary tradition into medieval Christianity, and did it. No poet or writer takes pen in hand today, it seems, who has not first read and appreciated Dante. His “Inferno” is repeatedly quoted and alluded to.

I took my advanced physics book to work too. I read up a bit on relativity today. There is simply nothing for me to do at work; I feel so guilty!

We heard the Yankees beat the Royals in a pre-World Series playoff tonight. Yankees and Reds will be in the Series, starting Saturday. A whole bunch of PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} came to listen to the game. Peter Brooks brought his Sharp 2500 radio, great reception for such a little one! Only one glass was broken, though we went through many bottles of Regia beer.

When everyone had gone, Jaime {Olson} sat down to write in his diary. Conscientious Jaime began his diary when he entered Peace Corps, has kept it up, and plans to end it when his Peace Corps service is over. Life is so straightforward and logical for some people.

Journal, October 13, 1976 PM

Our basketball team finally won one at work. Mark Newman, another PCV {Peace Corps Volunteer}, played with us for the first time. With three of us gringos plus two half-decent nationals, we were a really viable team for the first time. We beat Meteorologico {Meteorology} by 8-10 points, amazing! Mike {Shank} just got home, and he’s all excited, telling Steve Pamperin and Jaime {Olson} about it. It sure was fine to win & to play well. I made 3-4 baskets myself and got a lot of rebounds.

No word from Peace Corps Costa Rica as of yet, bummer. The Castillo Murillo family wrote though & said I could board with them when I go to Costa Rica to start my new job. As always, they made it sound as if they would be offended if I didn’t stay there. <I may stay there until I can find an apartment I like & that is big enough for Sofia to move in, eventually.>

I finished my Peace Corps final report today. Don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow!

Mike and I got a ride with Fred Tracy from DGRNR after the basketball game. Fred and Marlene {Johnsjoy} came out to Santa Tecla with me. They may move in with Steve Hays and Mari Cruz when Ed Shiffer leaves. Fred is so high-pitched, he just can’t slow down, and he carelessly offends people because he is so intense in all he does, and can’t stand slackers. He’s got to slow down enough to enjoy people. If he doesn’t, even sweet Marlene may not stand by him.

Journal, October 12, 1976 PM

Mike {Shank} & I climbed the ridge out back this morning, great view! I read more of the “Inferno” and went to see “The Old Gun” at the movies this afternoon. It’s a well-done movie, good acting, a good story.

I had supper with Steve Hays and Mari Cruz tonight. We had “güisquiles rellenos {stuffed chayote squash}” and “camote con panela {sweet potatoes with brown sugar}”. She can prepare the native dishes all right. Jaime {Olson} is here tonight. He got the job with Neil {Dingot} training El Salvador’s next forage group. It looks like his plans are all falling into line.

Journal, October 12, 1976 AM

I spent my day at the office yesterday writing up my final report for Peace Corps El Salvador. I started with my work in Atiocoyo and went straight through the 2 years, very superficially of course. I don’t think it will be all that useful of a document.

Mike {Shank} was working with Dick Ledgerwood on a fisheries report all day. Dick has one of those pocket calculators that you can even run regression analysis on. What an amazing advance! I remember writing computer programs (actually we just filled in “canned programs”) to get correlation & regression just two years ago at the University {of Wisconsin - Madison}.

I went and had a few beers last night with Rick Ingles and Ken Vogler, two new PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} at DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables}. We just B.S.’ed; they are old train buffs, etc. The more Peace Corps people I take the time to know, the more I find they’re all likeable, interesting folk. It’s just that the more friends you make, the more time you have to devote to your friends!

Ed {Shiffer}, Steve Pamperin and company went to Costa del Sol today. I got up to see them off, then went and ran 3 laps at the cafetalón {coffee field}.

Journal, October 10, 1976 PM

Today we went to pay a visit to our maid’s house. What an odyssey! We had to go first to a San Salvador barrio called Mejicanos, the grubbiest part of that city I know of. From there we walked perhaps 5-6 kilometers to her place. She lives in some steep hills that are just being covered with bahareque {stick and clay construction} & other poor quality shacks. Ed Shiffer & Harry Brokish built her house 2 years ago. First they had to “build” the lot since the hillside is so steep. They made a terrace & put up a pole & tin shack, which is solider than many in the crowded slum, but a real oven.

God it was hot today, climbing and then descending into the hole where she lives. Our party consisted of Mike {Shank}, Steve Hays, Mari Cruz, Steve Pamperin, Ed, Silvia (a friend of Ed’s) and myself. On arrival, Toni (the maid) rewarded us with a tremendous banquet - duck soup, Russian salad, rice with vegetables, refresco de orchata {a rice-based drink} and roast duck. I never cease to be amazed at the resourcefulness of the people here! They live so poor, yet if you’re their friend, they’ll treat you like a king. I was so full I passed up supper.

Talk about rip-offs (if you care to)! Toni pays 13.5 Colones (over $5) per month for that so called lot, and will not own it ‘til she’s paid that amount for 10 years. Some S.O.B. is making a fortune from her and all the other poor folks who inhabit that “lotificación”. How utterly immoral! But that’s capitalism! And perhaps that’s why many people believe socialism is where the world is inevitably bound.

Journal, October 9, 1976 PM

Remember Morena Rodriguez? In the early pages of this journal her name appears frequently, although the time when I felt most intensely about her had already passed when I began the diary. I visited her house today for the first time in maybe 10 months, and perhaps the last time ever. She was there along with her 2 brothers, her sister and her mother.

It was a nice cordial visit. They even offered me coffee and a roll. I had come on the pretext of leaving a couple pictures for Morena’s grandparents, Torribio and Julia Varela.

We talked about many things, from ISTA to insect collections, to marijuana. Morena was both interested in what I had to say and animated. It was like those first raps we had in San Isidro so long ago, and on the phone from Metalio. We should, I should, never have tried to push beyond that level. We can enjoy each other on that level. I guess I just needed and wanted so much more . . .

Anyway, it was pleasant and at the same time reassuring. There are some things about Morena I just couldn’t handle, like her overt materialism & persistent belief that North Americans are rich. She’s got a selfcenteredness that can be inflexible & self-righteous to the point of offending. Her intelligence and sincere, enthusiastic interest in a wide variety of subjects makes her interesting to converse with, but if you try to get closer than arm’s length, you break into “her world” where people as well as things must be up to her stringent standards! I couldn’t even eat shrimp with knife and fork (no fingers)!

Morena slyly asked if I’d been to Costa Rica lately, but it was her mother who made all the right assumptions, and just started asking me questions about my “novia {girlfriend}” in Costa Rica. Morena seemed to ignore all references to such person!

So I left off the pictures and more or less promised to write. You can’t get away from anyone without denying the finality of it, can you? Morena, in addition to the aforementioned, is into living in the past. Remember when we went to Chele’s she said. It was last year October 19th, her birthday. Shit, at the time she didn’t seem to enjoy it at all. It rained & I got lost on the way out there. We finally took a cab. She talked about when she came to Chele’s before with her university class friends. I ate with my fingers. She didn’t want to pose for a picture with me, etc. No wonder I was so upset, constantly, when I was attempting to be her boyfriend!

Nice girl Morena, nice family, etc., but she has to get her trip straightened out before there will be room for a man in it. I’m glad I went to Costa Rica last December! I’m persistent enough and foolish enough that I might still have been pursuing her other wise.

Journal, October 8, 1976 PM

It was an interesting morning at ISTA {Instituto Salvadoreño de Transformación Agraria or Salvadoran Institute for Agricultural Transformation}. I met an economist, a sociologist and an ingeniero agrónomo {holder of a master’s degree in agriculture}, who are to be in charge of the relocation of the minifundios (families with less than 5 hectares [7 manzanas] of land) in San Isidro. I learned later that the economist is also a lieutenant in the army. I was pleasantly surprised to find they had really read my study, and were very conscious of the problems involved in the planned relocation. We had a lively discussion for almost 2 hours. I think I managed to inject all the major points I had hoped to. The three of them and their boss (the guy who came out to DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables} yesterday) are all sharp people. They have a tough job ahead of them, but I’m encouraged by their systematic, thoughtful & concerned approach to the relocation problem. I hope they continue on their present tack. I’ve been here too long to not be a little cynical. Words are cheap, but the tone of our meeting was very positive. It made me feel good about carrying that darn study through! When I was walking in the hot sun down the railroad tracks to Las Pavas to try to catch a couple farmers at home, I never anticipated that my study would get the attention it has gotten. They’d like me to help them out as they get into the relocation process, but I told them I was Costa Rica bound, por una chamaca {for a girl}!

I devoured the New York Times weekly review, once out at DGRNR. I have nothing to even piddle at now! Having consumed the Times, I answered Pilar’s {Campos} letter and sent her a “vezo” (a mythical animal I invented, which sounds exactly like “beso”, the Spanish word for kiss, when you say it). Pilar is a near saint. Maybe she is a saint, who am I to say. She always puts the best construction on everything and believes and trusts people. I dearly hope she never has to fend for herself! She’s always had her folks to shield her and soon she’ll have Jaime {Olson}.

Zero from Peace Corps Costa Rica. I sent a telegram tonight to make sure they’re not still waiting on my letter. I’m so impatient!

I bought 4 birthday cards today! <Sofia’s adds one more to what was already my heaviest month.> In the family, Dad, Joyce & Carla all have birthdays this month.

Journal, October 7, 1976 PM

No word from Juan Coward {Peace Corps Costa Rica Agriculture Program Director} yet about the job in Peace Corps Costa Rica. I think I’ll send him a telegram if I don’t get anything tomorrow.

I got one letter from Costa Rica though, from Miss Pilar Campos, so sweet, so sweet. She acts so naïve, almost dumb, but she was shrewd enough to get herself a big tough guy named Jaime Olson to look out for her! <She’s heard that I’m going to spend a year in Peace Corps Costa Rica, and that Sofia & I are going to be engaged in November.> I’m sure all of San Antonio has found out when exactly we’ll be married as well. They can be counted on in such matters! I only hope someone tells me.

I even ran out of busy-work at the office today. I read 2 or 3 Cantos from Dante’s “Inferno” and borrowed a newspaper to pass time. The “Inferno” is another one of those books I wish I’d read a long time ago. To think of the time I wasted reading “Rin-Tin-Tin”, “Danny Dunn and the Antigravity Paint” and “O’Reilly of Notre Dame”. <All I can do is resolve to better direct my kids’ education (and maybe Sofia’s to some extent).>

I have finally been called upon to explain my San Isidro study of potential candidates for the relocation of minifundios {small farmers} with less than the legal size lots. A guy from ISTA {Instituto Salvadoreño de Transformación Agraria or Salvadoran Institute for Agricultural Transformation} came by this afternoon and I am going over there tomorrow morning to discuss my study and my experiences in the San Juan - San Isidro area with people who are to be in charge of the long awaited relocation. The guy I talked to today liked the idea of giving the candidate more land if it was poorer quality land. I’ll be interested to see what the rest are interested in.

Journal, October 6, 1976 PM

<I wrote a letter to Sofia today, one in which I gave her some heavy philosophy about why it is impossible to possess another person, physically or otherwise.> I wonder how she’ll take to that! I even got down to basics and told her the orgasm takes away the desire, but doesn’t fulfill it. It’s true, I borrowed the treatment from Sartre, but it certainly holds in my limited sexual experience. The Spanish have a word for sexual love that I like, “incertidumbre”. You can never be fully satisfied, just experience a release of tension and a pleasant weakness & exhaustion.


Journal, October 5, 1976 PM

I finally saw the first set of debates between Carter and Ford. They were on at the embassy this afternoon on videotape. It also gave me a chance to meet the new ambassador, Ignacio Lozano of Los Angeles. He’s the only person I ever recall meeting who looks exactly like his pictures, same expression on his face, maybe even the same suit!

The debate served to solidify my support for Carter. Ford is a better debater from the theatrical or forensic viewpoint, but Carter said so much more of substance. Actually one could argue that he tried to say too much. He talked rather fast and sometimes drifted off into a monotone. The key for me is that Carter is a man with new ideas & with goals. He’s a man eager to lead, “a take-charge guy”, he’s been called, while Ford is a hedger, taking a negative attitude on things. He was talking more about what he will prevent than what he will do! I’ll take a risk with Carter. It’s clear that no positive changes will come about as a result of Ford’s initiative.

<I meant to write Sofia tonight.> I had the letter half written in my head, but former neighbor Francisco appeared, & it ended up being a popcorn & beer evening. Would you believe Francisco knew the father of Steven Stills (the pop singer), and had met Steven himself? True. The father spent 3 years in El Salvador working for some company, & was a big Al Hirt fan. Steven had a good-looking sister who died from a drug overdose. Francisco has been around!

Journal, October 4, 1976 PM

A long day. I had a headache just “went through the motions” without putting any enthusiasm into anything. I did go to DGORD {Dirección General de Riego y Drenaje} in the morning though, and leave them a good Spanish copy of the San Isidro study I did. Nestor Gonzalez has just been made subdirector of DGORD. He’s a good man for the post, competent and a guy who gets things done. He has sure been bounced around since he was head of the Atiocoyo {Irrigation} Project, but he’s back in favor now it seems. Politics, politics, God free me from it!

<Sofia wrote a very dry letter reassuring me on every doubt I expressed in the last letter of mine she got.> She takes my insecurities all too seriously, but she’s lovable! I really need to see her, writing has really gotten stale. I’m not writing again ‘til I get another letter from Juan Coward, and know more about when I’ll be getting to Costa Rica.

Journal, October 3, 1976 PM

Too much beer again tonight. What a feast Charlie & Chita {Meyer} put on for the forage group! She even made baking powder biscuits (& they were butter-melting warm)! With turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cooked corn, gallo pinto {a mixture of rice & beans} & gravy it was really too, too much. I can’t hold the pen steady, so good night.

Journal, October 3, 1976 AM (Sunday)

I spent what was left of yesterday organizing all the stray papers I had laying around my room and writing letters.

I’ve got pretty well straight in my head how I’m going to handle getting my stuff down to Costa Rica now. A lot of the books & papers that I don’t need right away I’ll ship by land mail, or possibly by air freight if I find it’s fairly cheap. Before I do anything I’m going to wait for the reply from Costa Rica though. I only hope they don’t putz around and end up deciding I should take my home leave during November, thus royally fucking me over as far as Jaime’s {Olson} wedding is concerned. It would be vintage Peace Corps!

Today I go to a friend’s house to take a few pictures for his daughter’s birthday, and I’m kicking myself for not buying flash cubes yesterday since the stores that sell them probably won’t be open today! I have still another party in store this afternoon with the forage group at Charlie Mayer’s. Party, party, party. It’ll be the last with Diego & Mariana, and perhaps with Dave Quarles. They go by ones and twos.

Notes on 3 native legends: (1) La carreta chiona - also called “la carreta bruja”; it can be heard going along at night because of the squeaky noise it makes, but generally you can’t see it. The oxen are a pair of devils, and there is nobody driving them. (2) El cipotío - a little man (elf or dwarf) who roams around completely nude except for his huge sombrero near the rivers and springs where young women bathe. (3) La siguanaba - also “sigüeguet”; a beautiful young woman who causes men to fall in love with her and then converts herself into a hag (long fingernails, long nose, warts, etc.).

Journal, October 2, 1976 noon

The old mind is working at a snail’s pace today. Yesterday I went through three fiestas, getting home this morning at about 3. Still, after 5 hours sleep, I’m in pretty fair shape, but slow.

First of all there was the AID monthly meeting in which Doc. Eisenhower presented his final report on the mineral research program he has gotten going here in El Salvador. The results of their first tests indicate that it could show phosphorus deficiencies are occurring in even well managed herds where the proper mineral supplements are not fed. I’ve been looking for the opportunity to write down what a remarkable pair of people Art and Lila Eisenhower are. Art is a veterinarian of course, and rented out his lucrative practice in Arizona to join the Peace Corps. First he went to Afghanistan, where he says he nearly died from eating improperly handled food. Then he came here, serving over 3 years all told. He’s extremely competent, unquestionably the best & most experienced field vet. in this country, and that includes a U.S. AID veterinarian and one from England, who also makes 10 times what Doc. {Eisenhower} does! I suppose he did it for the new experiences and the challenge. He’s a scrappy little guy. You’d never get him into AID with all the politics and bullshit involved in it. Peace Corps made him available to El Salvador.

Lila teaches English plus all types of needlework, including something called macramé! She’s at least as energetic and indomitable as her husband, & still a very beautiful woman in her late 40’s or early 50’s.

They are just down-home folks too. Lila makes a mean banana cream pie, and Art likes to talk about the Portuguese farmers in California & Arizona, and their common remedies for the ills of their cattle.

Forgive the digression. Dave Hughes (of AID and Recursos Pesqueros {Fisheries Resources}) won the “rifa {raffle}” and gave us all a few hits off his bottle of Old Forester. Boy is that smooth whisky! I had 3 shots and some beer & about a half hour later I felt my head a spinnin’.

Jaime {Olson} got talking & drinking with Ingeniero {Engineer} Bará (head of Ganadería {Cattle Farming}), and we had to leave him when we went to Peace Corps {Office} to get Jim Monachno’s shirt for him. Russ Soules got married at 7:00, and with the running around, eating and dragging Jaime away from Bará, we were late.

Luckily it started a little late. John {Jones, Peace Corps Director} & Chico {Rodriguez, Agriculture Program Manager} were there, which was nice. Both missed Steve Hays’ wedding. The priest was relatively brief and good, not a hardliner like the one Steve Hays had.

The reception somehow never loosened up and got comfortable like the one after Steve’s wedding did. I was a little disappointed, but there were lots of folks to talk to.

About 12:30 we went to a fiesta in the center of town, celebrating 2 years in country for 15 or 20 volunteers from the group in which Mike Shank & Steve Hays came. There was beer on tap and I had a few, until I got so full & sleepy that I was ready to head for home. I hitched a ride with Art & Lila, cooked me some frijoles {beans} & went to bed.



Images, October 1976

Mike Shank practicing his photography hobby in the mountains above Santa Tecla.

A "veranero" tree in bloom on a ridge above Santa Tecla.

Aerial view of Santa Tecla from a ridge above the town.

Another aerial view of Santa Tecla from a ridge above town.

{ From the farewell party for pastures and forages group at Charlie Mayer's house, front row (L to R): Chita Mayer, Fred Tracy, Marlene Johnsjoy, Mary Ann Carr, Diego Cox; back row (L to R) Charlie Mayer, Jaime Olson, David Quarles, Dino Jefferson. }

María Teresa de Chavez, Dean Current, Steve Pamperin, 3 friends of Ed Shiffer & Jaime Olson at Ed's "despedida {farewell party}", Oct. 16th at our apartment. It was a loud and crowded affair with fireworks, dancing in the area in front of the apartments, etc.

Journal, September 30, 1976 PM

Well there is no longer any reason for me to stay in El Salvador any longer. In a marathon meeting at work today, it came out that they no longer plan to do the Río Tamulasco watershed study this year. To participate in that study is of course why I went to DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables} in the first place. The stuff I’ve been doing on land tenure and standard of living using census data may get used eventually. I’ll write up the analysis to accompany the graphs & tables, and leave it with Mike {Shank}. What I need to do now is let John Jones {Peace Corps El Salvador Director} know I have no reason to stay at work. He wants me to stay here until December, & then take home leave before going to Costa Rica, so the paperwork will be easy. I am scheduled to leave December 18 (termination date).

Jaime {Olson} thinks I should go on the plane with Ed {Shiffer} and him also. It would be nice, but October 20 is awfully soon.

I think I’ll take my bike down to Costa Rica with me. Ed Archer brought it down on a plane. I hope they’ll let me take it to Costa Rica on one.

Mike and I played basketball after work. As usual the natives were more into arguing & hassling each other & the referee than into playing ball. What a pain! The ref. deserved most of it though. At different times he: (1) gave their team 2 shots for a technical foul and gave them the ball, (2) gave their team 2 shots for a technical and gave us the ball, (3) gave us one shot for a technical and gave them the ball, and (4) gave them one shot for a technical and actually gave them the ball like he was supposed to! When the game ended, the scorekeeper first declared them the winners by a point. Then some fans insisted we had won by a point. On a recount the scorer decided it was a tie, and so after at least 20 minutes of semi-heated discussion, we played 2 five-minute overtimes, and decided the issue. One of our guys fouled out and refused to leave the game, costing us a technical. We then played with 4 guys and fell behind, losing by 5 points. Actually we played good ball, for us. This team had beaten us badly before.

I had supper at Yugo’s Steakhouse with Mary Ann Carr, up from Costa Rica, already an RPCV {Retired(?) Peace Corps Volunteer} and ready to head out through Mexico with Diego Cox and {another} Jaime. Mary Ann hasn’t changed, she’s just sweet, practical & chummy.

We went to a music recital afterwards. Fred Tracy’s woman, Marlene Johnsjoy, played her flute and her cute little roommate Ann played her huge $600 harp. It was a very suave evening, good people being the critical element.

Here’s a thought for the record. I was thinking during the concert of all the things I’ve done with Jaime {Olson} and Diego (Fred too, but he didn’t enter into the original thought.). We’ve gone whoring together a couple times. Willie Wheelwright’s ‘despedida {farewell party}’ being the most vividly remembered! We’ve planted & cut sorghum together, in training. We roughed it at Jacó together, and there we were at a music recital together. Small wonder I’m much closer to them after 2 years than I ever was to, really, anyone outside my family before entering Peace Corps. Well there was Bobby Christofferson. There was Paul Skidmore in college too.

Journal, September 29, 1976 PM

And tonight I’m too drunk & fuzzy eyed to write a respectable epistle. I wanted to start a series on amazing people with David Hughes of AID, fisheries expert. Jaime {Olson} is here & that explains the situation. Good evening.

Journal, September 28, 1976 PM

I didn’t forget to write tonight, it’s just that it got so fuckin’ late on me, and things had changed so little from yesterday, that I decided to forget it!

Journal, September 27, 1976 PM

I just read the letter over again. It appears I’ll be in Costa Rica well before Jaime’s {Olson} wedding, and that I’ll be staying on there for about a year, perhaps two, in Peace Corps. I got said letter from Juan Coward, {Peace Corps} Costa Rica Agriculture Program head. He invited me to come down in early November for a program in collection of data on handling, storage & marketing of seeds & grain. He requested 2 volunteers to come in October & only got one. I’m game, even though I’ll be far from my specialties. <The program will work through the University of Costa Rica, and though I’ll be going to the “campo {rural zone}” a lot in the first phase of the program, I’ll be stationed in San Jose, close to Sofia. It looks like a great setup for Sofia & me.> Which means of course I’m having some reservations (i.e. It probably means two more years away from school, etc.).

I’ll take it, however, lock, stock & barrel, and I’ll start by taking the letter to John Jones {Peace Corps El Salvador Director} tomorrow morning. How ironic, I went to him today to ask if I could improve my chances of getting a job in Costa Rica by reapplying to Peace Corps Washington instead of extending. He was sympathetic, but said there was no way, that I’d have to wait on the extension/transfer. But now Juan Coward has come through!

Ed Shiffer says I should arrange to leave on the plane with Jaime {Olson} & him. I’ll have at it! Right now I feel nothing is beyond my grasp!

First letter goes to Juan saying, “Take me I’m yours!” <The second goes to Sofia saying, “Don’t open the champaign yet, but it definitely looks like I’m going to be spending at least a year in your beautiful little country, & just as close to your beautiful little self as you’ll let me get.”> I don’t fully believe it yet, it’s all happening too easily!

Journal, September 26, 1976 PM

Tonight I’m in my 8th residence since entering Peace Corps. After supper I moved into Steve Pamperin’s and Mike Shank’s apartment, and Steve Hays & wife Mari Cruz moved into my old room in Ed’s {Shiffer} place. Everything is so disorganized, I don’t know where to begin. I had shelves, a closet & a table at Ed’s. Here there is nothing but a clothes rack & no space! I sure got spoiled in the little time I was there. I really feel like I’m taking a step down on the standard of living scale.

Other than that, I went to a softball game today (a doubleheader actually). Mike’s team, the Gringos, split. And I cut the grass, & ground up beans, & lounged around the house.

I am getting nowhere trying to read & improve myself intellectually. Today I really feel like a Joe-ordinary shmuck! I even misplaced Sartre!

I saw Charlie Mayer today at the ballgame. Good old Charlie from training. His kid is big, 15 months old. He is working away, and just the same old down-home person. He’ll be at Russ’s {Soules} wedding to see all the guys.

Journal, September 26, 1976 AM (Sunday)

I finally finished retyping & revising my San Isidro “minifundio {small farmer}” study last night. I spent all afternoon & evening in Peace Corps Office working on it, ‘til 8:45 PM. Now I can run off a copy for Chico {Rodriguez, Peace Corps Agriculture Program Director} & one for DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables}, and show it to Nestor Gonzales to see if DGORD {Dirección General de Riego y Drenaje} would like a copy.

Jay {Hasheider} was at Peace Corps Office working on his manure digester (methane gas producer). I think he’s forgotten all about my bike. I guess I’ll have to do my best to sell it, or keep it if I go to work in Costa Rica. <I could take it down on Tica Bus perhaps, & leave it with Sofia.> Still if I could get $100 for it . . .

I went on a buying spree yesterday. I figure it’s a good time because of the danger that the Colon will be devalued. I don’t want to be caught with a lot of Colones, so I’ll just try to buy the stuff I was going to eventually as I go along. I contracted to get a shirt made of “manta {unbleached, undyed cotton}” cloth with the Guaria Morada (national flower of Costa Rica) embroidered on it, 25 Colones. I also am having a pair of dress shoes made for me for 40 Colones. They’ll serve for Jaime’s wedding & hopefully last a long time, since I use dress shoes sparingly. I got a belt (also looking forward to the wedding), a coin purse, and a pouch that you put on your belt for documents, at a little store Mike Shank had told me about, but which I’d never been in before. Nice place, they give you a pretty straight price there rather than start high & try to see what they can take you for. They have Guatemalan blankets for 50 to 70 Colones. I may buy one there rather than go all the way up to Guatemala again. Unless of course DGRNR sends Mike & I up.

There was a birthday party for Mari Cruz last night, plus Francisco, a former neighbor here, was at the tienda {store} giving away shots of vodka. Steve hays made a great chocolate cake for Mari Cruz, what a treat!

Journal, September 24, 1976 PM

It sure looks like the Salvadoran Colon could fall. Peace Corps Director John Jones told Mike Shank and I today that Guatemala won’t take Salvadoran money at the border or in banks. I’m glad I’ve changed over most of that $500 I got from home to dollars or Costa Rican Colones. I have about 300 Colones yet in cash. I should buy stuff I plan to get before leaving now since money invested in stuff would not lose value in a devaluation. It would be a bummer if they devalued early in the month, just after our salaries are deposited, when we have lots of money (well, over 400 Colones) in the bank.

Mike and I may be sent to Guatemala to look over a fish marketing study they did up there. Max Anaya, the head of Planificación {Planning}, wants us to go along with 2-3 other people to review the study & see what ideas we can glean from it for a study we need to do here. I’d like to go & make use of the opportunity to buy a couple blankets, one for me & one for Jaime {Olson} & Pilar as a wedding present.

Mike & I pieced together the latest draft of the fishermen’s co-ops study (El Tamarindo & La Unión). Literally it was a cut and paste job. I hope that’s the last major revision. I’m sick of the thing. This time I redid the methodology section. I think the only two sections Mike & I aren’t primarily responsible for now are the objectives & the justification. At least we’ve written the drafts of everything else, using other people’s ideas at times. I want a copy if they ever publish the damn thing!

Ed {Shiffer} has a friend over. We went down town for ice cream and got soaked! It is still coming down pretty hard. But we got no ice cream, everything was closed. What fools we were!

Journal, September 23, 1976 PM

“Emmanuelle”, is a plotless movie about the search for ultimate erotic pleasure, but oh what a chic - the pixy face & tall lean, yet very feminine figure. Oh what a hardon!

Journal, September 22, 1976 PM

I just busted Ed’s {Shiffer} Agua Crystal bottle, oh shit! I was trying to sterilize it with hot water, like a fool. I got away with it the last time, but this was the straw that broke it.

<I think I’m resigned at last to the monk’s life for the next 10-11 months (i.e. until Sofia & I get hitched).> Well anyway I just feel like I would be such a bastard if I “cheated” on her knowing she couldn’t have the same opportunity. Her culture prohibits her, but I have to deprive myself through sheer self-discipline. Usually it’s not that tough because of my habitual shyness & klutziness around women, but some of these chics take a very special interest in Gringos {North Americans}, especially shy ones, maybe because we’re such a contrast to the big “macho” bluff of the Latin dudes. {some text not transcribed}

Journal, September 21, 1976 PM

Ed {Shiffer} gave me some genuine Reece's Peanut Butter Cups tonight. What a treat, it had been more than two years! I think they may have aroused my amoebas though, my stomach feels queasy.

<I spent more of my energy at work today in writing a 4-pager to Sofia than in anything else, except a practice basketball game.> I wrote to {sister} Mary & to Mom tonight (and now it’s tomorrow already). Boy, it’s hard to get anything done!

Now it sounds like a powerful, ornery storm’s a brewing. We’ve had no rain in 4-5 days so the farmers will welcome it.

Letter, September 21, 1976

Dear Mom, Dad & everybody,

I’m really slow answering your letter this time, but I’m fine – just kind of busy. I’m going to be here in El Salvador until mid-December, but it already feels like my days are numbered. We had a last party for the 7 people from my training group who were still here last Saturday. Only 7 of us out of 19 stayed the 2 years, and 3 of the 7 (including me) ended up in programs other than the one in which we started, not a very good average! But we all agreed the 2 years went by fast – perhaps it’s just that we’re getting older . . .

The first of the “magnificent seven” to leave flew home Monday. He took with him his girlfriend and her 4-year-old son – both Salvadorans. That’s what I call taking responsibility by the horns! He’s looking forward to it though, already teaching the kid to play baseball!

I still don’t know if they will allow me to spend a year in Peace Corps in Costa Rica. If they don’t I may look for a private job down there and spend about a year there anyway. <Sofia is doing very well in school so far, and I think with 2 years of university level studies in her country and some English lessons she’ll be ready to try college in the U.S.>

I am now scheduled to end my term of service in El Salvador on December 18, so that’s about when I’ll be coming home. I only expect to be there 3-4 weeks whether I get the extension in Costa Rica or not. Jaime Olson, the guy from Neenah, WI who is marrying a Costarican girl in November, plans to be home for Christmas, too, and may drive down to Costa Rica in January. He’s already asked me to go with him. I also told Jaime I’d do my best to talk you, Mom & Dad, into going with me up to visit him at his parents’ farm near Neenah sometime around Christmas. Sounds like it would make a nice Sunday drive, what do you think?

I had a suit made for me here, complete with vest for $80, and it fits so well I just don’t believe it! Don’t dare out on much weight though! I needed a decent suit, since I’m going to be the “major amigo” {best man} at Jaime’s wedding. I doubt there’s many places in the world I could afford to have a suit made for me, but El Salvador is one – labor is cheap here!

My housemate just pulled out a box of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (he got back from Pennsylvania yesterday). Oh what a treat. I had thought my taste for chocolate had diminished some, with the poor quality chocolate that’s available here, but give me good stuff & the old taste buds respond! It’s a tremendous irony, that they don’t make decent chocolate in a country where cacao beans were used for money by the Indians before the Spanish conquest! After the conquest El Salvador was a major exporter of cacao for many years – you wouldn’t guess it now!

Well, I hope you salvage something of a corn crop! September has turned dry on us here recently. It’s unusual because September is usually the wettest month of the year, characterized by “temporales” during which it rains or sprinkles for 2-3 days straight without stopping. We’ve had no temporales in September this year. Take care of yourselves. Mom, any color sweater will be fine – just make it warm! I haven’t seen snow since 3 winters ago.



Journal, September 20, 1976 PM

Jaime {Olson} is still here; Diego {Cox} took up other lodgings for the night. Ed Shiffer has returned to take over his house again.

I saw Mike {Staigers}, Rosa & Edwin off for Ohio this morning at about 8:20. Jaime, Diego & I caught the 6:30 bus out of Santa Tecla. Mike’s optimistic, Rosa’s quiet & Edwin was at first pensive and then as vivacious as ever. I may never see them again. I wish them well. I have his address and plan to write.

Maybe 25 people came to the airport to meet Ed. It was an emotional arrival. Poor Ed, the mysterious operation was the removal of one of his testicles because of a danger of cancer. He’s looking forward to starting work in Colombia in about a month.

Ed and Jaime are currently shooting the breeze, evaluating Peace Corps staff. I’m getting sick of all the B.S. How am I going to stand another year in Peace Corps? <I have to write to Sofia.>

Journal, September 19, 1976 PM (Sunday)

Jaime {Olson} & Diego {Cox} are still here & they so occupy my time that I don’t really have much time to write. It’s already almost 11, I have to shower yet tonight, & Jaime is trying to sell me on the idea of coming down here (to Costa Rica actually) in January.

We went with Mike {Staigers}, Rosa & little Edwin to Puerta del Diablo today - beautiful view. Jaime didn’t go; he opted for a T.V. baseball game.

Diego, Jaime & I had spaghetti, wine, chocolate cake & ice cream for supper at Fred Tracy’s & Marlene’s apartment. It was a rare feast, good wine, good food and good people. A pleasant way to waste the time!

Journal, September 18, 1976 PM

It was an appropriate last party for the pastures and forages group. 7 of us are still here for it. We went to La Libertad, to the beach. We just had a nice day of it, playing with a football, drinking beer and playing euchre. No regrets, no sad farewells. We’re a special bunch. We got along well and easily from the first, and as the time to split up approaches, we say, “Well, if I never see you again, have a good life.” Mike {Staigers} originated the phrase, & will be the first to go. He takes with him his tiny (15 year-old looking) wife-to-be and her almost 5 year-old son. It isn’t going to be easy, but Mike seems very ready & very “calmado {calm}”. Buena suerte, que le vaya bien! {Good luck, may everything go well for you!}

Journal, September 18, 1976 AM

One wedding down & not even a hangover. I drank some champagne and a little punch, but then Mari Cruz (the bride) introduced me to some of her girlfriends, and I started rapping and dancing with one of them. It was a much pleasanter way to pass the time. <I swear I’ve met more nice girls since I promised myself to Sofia.>

Jaime {Olson} & Diego {Cox} came in while I was at the wedding & reception, and so they are distracting me. I was the only one who brought any rice to throw at the wedding, so Steve Pamperin & I & some others divvied it up & showered the newlyweds.

Journal, September 16, 1976 PM

Today I wrote the woman a letter. I’m keeping right on her ass, not giving her pause to change her mind about me. I have to push, she’s too much like me, half believes it will never really happen, and resigned to accept it if I were to dump her. She just doesn’t know what a straight-laced, up-front dude I am. She doesn’t realize how I sit there weighing out the words for 2 minutes each time before I say I love her!

Today, Steve Pamperin and I finally got a gift for Steve Hays and Mari Cruz’s wedding. Tomorrow at this hour I should be feeling good at the reception! Saturday is the pasture & forage group send-off. I may not get a good night’s rest again until Sunday so . . .


Journal, September 15, 1976 PM

I called the “cipota {girl}”and talked for 25 minutes. All in all it was a letdown. I felt inhibited and uncomfortable, and didn’t say hardly anything. The connection was bad at her end, and she kept asking me to speak up. Also, she seemed kind of distant and cool. I don’t know, the medium is so limited; it even changes her voice so I hardly recognized it. I almost prefer letters, even with the time lag. With a letter, you can note style, weigh the words, read in subtle meanings. We were very stiff and formal on the phone. She even started calling me Usted! She leveled her big guns at me and said, “When are you coming to visit me? Why not sooner?” Sorry lady, I can’t make it ‘til November, much as I’d like to.

She loosened up, talking about her studies, but I didn’t catch most of it, and hadn’t heard of the book she was lauding. So it goes. I think I’ll keep her though. I was reflecting earlier today on how most women I meet almost immediately play me for the fool or else the “nice” boy to take home and show the family. I guess I’m a natural for the role of the naïve well-meaning fool! <But Sofia treats me like a man, attractive and desired but not to be trusted too far for all his seeming reliability.> It’s a good tactic!

Jay said just now that he’s always admired pickpockets - so smooth, clever and nonconfrontational. I would add sneaky and gutless, but that’s a distinct viewpoint.

Journal, September 15, 1976 AM

Central American Independence Day is today, and as with every holiday they have, seemingly, they started celebrating it very early in the morning with rockets (cohetes). I just heard the traditional song coming from somewhere: “Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el Rey David, a las muchachas bonitas se las cantamos aquí . . .” What a drag, every holiday the same shit! When are they going to invent a nice quiet holiday? Jay came over last night & so we chewed the fat for a while. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my bike now. He says they wouldn’t give him the papers for it at the airport. They want him to take it somewhere and pay import taxes on it, and the whole bit. I’d rather sell it to someone who knows his way around, and let him get falsified papers on it.

I got to kidding with a couple of the guys at the office yesterday, and they came out openly with one of their big frustrations - that of having to steer close to the political mood (usually conservative) in the writing of their studies. The higher-ups have just sent a study they did back down for revision; they didn’t like the conclusions. So we can’t do anything on the Río Tamulasco or upper Río Lempa study (whichever it’s going to be) until they get that done. Bummer! That’s exactly why I don’t want to remain in the social sciences. Even if you do publish the study, nothing is done about it unless or until the political mood is right. Neither would you want any fascist up there who could do what he wanted, when he wanted to.

I ran into the spacey friend of Jay’s erstwhile woman Blanca, Nina from Metalio days, in the bank in the afternoon. She just “normally” acts as if she’d been smoking dope for 3 days running and was completely out of it! Blanca’s finally run out on Jay for good, went to Canada to study French. With crazy Nina was another chic who claims to have just recently baptized {former Peace Corps Volunteer} Mike Steppling’s kid. That’s heavy! She was very calm - he just didn’t want to stay - but what a fix to leave a chic in!

Journal, September 13, 1976 PM

We had a basketball game today after work. We lost badly, but I got a real good workout, hustled more than I generally do. Another game Thursday, I’ll be in shape by the weekend. In shape for a couple good parties! Steve Hays gets married Friday, and the pastures & forages clan is planning one last shindig Saturday. Mike Staigers will soon be going home.

With all these parties & wedding gifts I’m liable to go broke! <And I still need to stash away $150 more for Sofia’s ring, and tomorrow 100 Colones goes toward my suit, and for Jaime’s {Olson} wedding I need something special, and then there’s Christmas!> Tener amor y amigos cuesta tanto! {Having both love and friends is so expensive!} Y yo tengo una familia grandisima, tambien! {And I also have a very large family!} Ni modo! {So it goes!}

Busy and yet stagnating all at the same time, that’s where I’m at. I’m busting ass to put together an acceptable copy of the study I did for the Atiocoyo Irrigation Project, and when I read over what I wrote I realize it’s a piece of garbage. The fact that I personally interviewed 143 minifundios {small farmers} and recorded some socioeconomic & attitude data on them is pretty valuable. What other fool would have done that? However, the analysis is part Mickey Mouse and part just plain strange. I’d be ashamed to show it to any professor I ever had. The conclusions aren’t bad, but they follow more from observations outside the actual study than from the study data. Plus, I was so blindly against the idea of relocating those farmers when I wrote the study report (Probably from hearing all their sob stories about what a hardship it would be!) that I didn’t consider, objectively, other ways of doing the relocation. I put no imagination into the thing! I have to watch myself recopying the study. I keep wanting to modify the conclusions and recommendations!

Journal, September 12, 1976 PM

I’m tired and I want to go to bed. In addition, I think I have some kind of parasites again. The symptoms are of an amoeba attack, but I don’t know where I could have gotten them from. I’m boiling my water at home, drink “Agua Crystal {bottled water}” at work, and have only drunk water in a restaurant once lately. But once is enough. Or maybe the treatment I took a while ago just set them back & didn’t kill the little beggars.

<I’ll finish my letter to Sofia in the morning.> I’m debating whether to ask her permission to go home for Christmas, or tell her I’m going - tough decision. As my intended she ought to have a say in what I do, but what if she says don’t go! I really need that trip home.

Journal, September 12, 1976 AM (Sunday)

I’m putting nose to grindstone today. I have to finish revising and typing up a Spanish copy of the study I did for the Atiocoyo Irrigation project folks in San Isidro. I’m finding out just how bad the translation Rosario, the secretary, and I did is! Actually, sometimes she translates sentences accurately, even imaginatively, but other times it’s clear she didn’t understand what I wrote in English at all(!), and of course she wasn’t well versed in the technical language of sociology. I’ve always hated going back over my work too, because I always find myself dissatisfied with it and wanting to revamp it completely! For example: ‘I sure phrased that weird!’ or ‘Why in God’s name did I waste so much time belaboring that minor point!’ I only got through 7 of 25 original pages yesterday, and then there are 11 pages of tables!

I was repeatedly distracted though. I was up in the volunteer room at Peace Corps Office, and this older man who teaches chemistry at the university fairly accosted me verbally. He really needed someone to bounce his opinions off (and really his ideas were well formulated and in general backed by experience & informal research), and there I was - always the good listener. I even had lunch at Mc Donald’s with him & his wife.

I got into another round with John Newton (#1 Peace Corps orator and political analyst) and Steve Hays. John says Romero’s (General Humberto Romero is the official party’s candidate for next year’s presidential election) brother-in-law is the new head of the Atiocoyo Irrigation District, and that he says Romero didn’t want to be president, he was forced into it, but that when elected (unless there’s a coup or some other horseplay he will be!) he will push on with the transformación agraria {agrarian transformation or land reform}. I was glad to hear it. Rumors have been floating around to the effect that Romero was against the agrarian reform law and the big first agrarian reform district.

<Sofia, you are gentle on my mind this morning.> I feel like I’ve found the one I can’t let go. Now if I just don’t blow it some way. That letter of hers was a hunk of granite - solid, heavy, firm. She’s an intelligent, alert person who has chosen me freely, and all I have to do is show her I’m willing to carry it through too - no games, no bullshit, just two people with compatible personalities and goals, and a special little feeling of “rightness.”

Journal, September 10, 1976 PM

<Sofia sent me a real epistle this time.> I swear, the more I learn about that chic the more she frightens me. She’s so much like me. She was responding to a real pessimistic letter I wrote some time back - said she loves me of course - but she leveled with me & said she really does want to continue studying. She says she didn’t want to say so until she was sure she was capable of it. Now with her excellent first term marks, she’s confident. She says she’s willing to live the student life of depravation & work in order to study & have me. (Poor misguided lass!) She doesn’t like the possibility of me shuffling off to the States to study for a semester if Peace Corps doesn’t come through with a job offer. She’d rather we married in January or February, and went together or I don’t know what. She doesn’t trust me alone on my own turf; scared of the competition of the gringas {North American women} must be! Just about everything she says makes good sense. My going back alone for any length of time is a bad alternative. I think Peace Corps will come through though; I’m counting on it.

Nestor Gonzales, the boss of the Atiocoyo project when I joined it almost 23 months ago, solicited my help today. ISTA {Instituto Salvadoreño de Transformación Agraria or Salvadoran Institute for Agricultural Transformation} is starting to carry out (at long last) the relocation of people from the San Isidro area to put them in conformity with the legal minimum parcel size of the project (7 manzanas). Since I interviewed nearly all the candidates for relocation (143 family heads) during my study of a year or so ago, Nestor wants me to have a talk with ISTA’s sociologists to orient them concerning the situation in the region. I’m game, though it means I’ll have to work my butt off this weekend typing up a good Spanish copy of the study, and making an outline of the points I want to make in my discussion with them. Luckily Chico {Rodriguez, Peace Corps Agriculture Program Director} stashed away some of my drafts & working papers from the study, so I have ample materials on which to draw for a presentation. Nestor wants to do it next Friday.

<Sofia again, if I have been searching for a “sign” or a “turning point” in my relationship with her, this letter has to be it.> She’s said it, we seem to want the same things in life; primarily to study, learn, better ourselves (superarnos) and we love each other - care about each other. She wants me, but can’t play the waiting game. I simply can’t go off and leave her for a while, put it on the back burner. If I don’t get the year in Peace Corps Costa Rica, I might adopt her preferred plan to get married in January or February. I could work there for a year in something or other, and maybe even take first year physics at night at the University of Costa Rica. It doesn’t really matter where I take the basic courses, I don’t think.

Journal, September 9, 1976 PM

I wrote to the Castillo Murillo family and to Juan Coward (to ask for more info. on the Costa Rica multi-cultivos {multiple cropping} program & ask if he wanted me to look around for info. here to help him get the program together). Neither has answered my previous letters to them (Juan or Doña Carmen et al.), so who knows what will come of my latest efforts.

I read a lot today & learned a little about the politics of my office. It seems that the director of DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables} at times tells my boss (director of the Department of Planificación {Planning}) with whom he will fill a vacancy in our office. Our boss is candid about it; he mentioned today in a meeting that 2 of our present personnel were acquired that way. They are both competent and well liked by the way. We are getting another such surprise package he informed us today. Also, he is juggling folks around due to the loss of 3 people to other agencies. To top it off, he announced some pay raises. The secretaries will now get 450 Colones per month (35 Colones more than I make). Rafael Lazo, the highest paid guy except for “subjefes {assistant bosses}” and “jefes {bosses}”, gets 1240 Colones per month. The boss appointed a woman subjefe, Silvia Campos, & made a fitting speech about the equal professional capacity of women. He assured us he’d remove her though, if it appeared she couldn’t handle the post!

Journal, September 8, 1976 PM

And the saga of the vicious African bee continues. It’s no hoax I’m certain now. There was an article in the local press today saying it’s been found in Guatemala, and Steve Pamperin showed me an article in the April “National Geographic” that tells more about the bees and how they first got loose.

Over 150 people and countless animals have been killed by the bees in Brazil. Apparently if one member of a swarm gets agitated by something (it doesn’t take much), it gives off an odor which causes all its buddies nearby to zero in on the source of the disturbance. The “National Geographic” article said the bees weren’t due in Central America for maybe 6-7 years. I hope they’re right.

Rafael Lazo, at DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables} wants to see my study of the people to be relocated in San Isidro. He’s trying to put together a questionnaire for the Río Tamulasco study. It looks like he’s the one who’s going to run that show, so I better start listening to him and seeing what he has in mind for the study.

Journal, September 7, 1976 PM

It was a blah day except for a vigorous basketball game after work. We lost by about 9 points. Looks like everybody in the office has a different idea about the Tamulasco study & that the main motivation behind doing it is the “meta {goal}” which the department has, to wit, ‘do one socioeconomic study of the Río Tamulasco watershed.’ Silvia Campos, a young economist, wants to do a good thorough general study with a random sample & the whole bit. No one else does. I’m not sure it would be worth the time & expense. I tend to think not. But I don’t get fired up about the rinky-dink study methodologies other folks in the office have in mind.

Anyway, it made my day when I got a letter from home & one from sister Mary, both with pictures, & Mary’s with news clippings. They’ve had two big forest fires up in Juneau County (the county across the Wisconsin River from Adams County where my family lives). Don Jerabeck of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported on the fire. It made me laugh. I worked under Don one summer (at Roche-A-Cri State Park, 2 miles from home) and know how authoritative the little spit & polish exNavy guy can sound; that is unless his wife’s around, she’s bigger than he is! One of the fires did over $1 million worth of damage - an awful lot up in that scrub forest & marsh land. I got 2 great pictures of Mary’s kid Brian (1 year old), plus some pictures I took down here, including 2 of the Corazón de {Heart of} Jesus celebration they had in the corner store.

I forgot my vitamin E this morning, but took it tonight. I’ll see what it does for me after a few months.


Journal, September 6, 1976 PM

First day on vitamin E. What a letdown, it was not only a normal day, but a subnormal day (i.e. a real drag)! I may have my first bit of evidence favoring the hypothesis that vitamin E increases sexual vigor though. I developed a hardon looking at one of our secretaries and it took quite a while to soften away! It’s very embarrassing to walk around in baggy cloth pants with a hardon. They don’t hold the partially erected penis in close to the body like blue jeans do, but let it make a mini-tent out of the spare material!

Today was Labor Day in the U.S., so I didn’t bother going to Peace Corps Office. No mail, that’s the significance of Labor Day to me in my present life situation. The U.S. Embassy is shut down, so no mail.

<I wrote to Sofia.> I ate foods from all 4 of the basic food groups today. I took the most nearly normal shit I have in months this evening. I’m on the road to physical health, long life and maybe a psychological depression. The office life, plus not doing something that is aimed at a goal I place a high value on (and being woman lonesome) has got me somewhat low.

Journal, September 5, 1976 PM

Fred Tracy graduated from college, Humboldt State University in California, with over a 3.0 GPA. He graduated 33rd out of 300+ from highschool, while lettering in 3 sports. Now he is the driving force behind a program to introduce new cropping practices and especially soil conservation in the watershed of Río Pacayas, Department {Province} of Chaletenango, a program that involves about 10 PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers}.

I had a pleasant day with Fred, taking some stuff up to La Laguna for the PCVs up there, and moving 2 of the 3 of them to their new quarters in Comalapa, then trucking back to San Salvador tonight. I’m buzzed right now because we downed 3 quick beers over pizza after we got back. Take two aspirin . . .

Fred’s happy; he has a going project which keeps him running his butt off and a sweet, sweet woman to sooth away the tension. Still he confessed that he doesn’t know where he’s headed in the long run. Should he go for a Masters and aim for a job on that level, or say ‘fuck it’ and get a ranger job with his present degree, and have his own little area in which to pursue his various dreams & projects. Fred’s a complex person, shy & reserved yet confident & able, and motivated to do something for people. I love Fred. What a person!

I read up on nutrition at Peace Corps Office this morning. I have to lay off the sweets, eat a high protein breakfast (to keep from snacking all day), and learn to bake whole wheat bread, among other things. I’m going to start taking vitamin E tablets tomorrow. Ed has some, and I’m get some from Doctor Zavaleta as soon as I can. Jim Monachino says he’s been popping vitamin E daily for years. Perhaps it’s just a fad, but he had already heard that it had some inhibiting effects on aging too, so maybe it’s for real. It’s not supposed to be harmful, so here goes! I hope it don’t make me more horny, I couldn’t handle that!

Journal, September 5, 1976 AM (Sunday)

I can’t get over how fast the time goes, September already. <I would have been gone by October 18 if it weren’t for Sofia.> Oh, I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into! In today’s paper (which they delivered last night) there were 4 articles concerning scientific developments. The most exciting was the apparent elucidation of the reason for the aging process by a team of researchers in San Francisco. They speculated about raising the life expectancy of a person to maybe 800 years! Realistically they hope to find an enzyme which inhibits the “sticking together” of molecules & resultant general clogging up of vessels, stiffening of structures, etc. which is aging. The head of the team says they’re shooting for an extension of the life span of at least 15 to 20 years & maybe even 80 years eventually. For now he says the best you can do is eat right, take care of your health and take vitamin E (which has been proven to inhibit aging)! I had never heard that about vitamin E, just the virility shit. I’m going to find out what foods are high in it & eat them! Maybe I’ll even buy capsules to take daily or whatever! I don’t want to live forever, just a few extra years!

Anyway, I started to write about the 4 scientific developments to make a point. It’s this. I feel left out down here! I feel like science and technology are leaving me behind while I’m here in limbo. Worse, I can see them zoom by, (semi-see them) through the translucent medium of the daily paper. My “Scientific American” would help, but they’re in Friendship {WI, my hometown}. Oh shit!

I cut my lawn by “cuma” {small curved machete-like tool} power yesterday, & carted off 3 basketfuls of green stuff. It really needed cutting badly. A friendly Mormon missionary (who is trying to convert the neighbors) stopped to ask how I liked using a curved machete (‘cuma’ is the common term here) to cut grass. Other than the 3 blisters I got from it, I’m no worse for it. I swear he and his sidekick have been there (at the neighbors) every night for a week!

“Vera Cruz” was the one Colon movie at the Cine Coloseo last night. Dean Current, Steve Pamperin and I trucked on down to see Gary Cooper & Bert Lancaster as super machos in the bloody setting of the Mexican revolt against Maximillian. Just part of the tough life here in the LDCs (Less Developed Countries, the latest semi-official euphemism).

Journal, September 4, 1976 AM

I played with numbers all day at work yesterday, and came up with two neat tables over the land tenure situation, which I then decided were superfluous. I combined the summary data from the two into one simpler version. So it goes.

Mike {Shank} said he got sicker than a dog on the food from the comedor {cafeteria} at work (DGRNR) {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables}. I haven’t eaten there for 2 days as part of my program to see if I can normalize my vital bodily functions (like shitting, farting & the stability of my stomach)! I’m just skipping lunch, like I did in highschool to lose weight for wrestling, or just to have my lunch money as a sort of allowance. That, with boiling my water here, has got me somewhat more “normal”, though the beer I had last night has me a little groggy yet this morning.

I want to sit down with Sartre and maybe finish it today. I read the final chapter, “The Verdict of History”, yesterday - one man taking responsibility for all human actions in a century (great theater!): “I saw the beast in another’s eyes and killed it, and then I saw the beast again reflected in the eyes of the dying other - it was me.” Heavy!

Journal, September 2, 1976 PM

Oh what a headache! I’ve been getting headaches daily or almost daily, always centered in the right front part of my head, for over a week now. I never remember having headaches so steadily before. Hypochondriac that I am, I’ve gone so far as to speculate (seriously) that it might be some kind of cyst or something caused by amoebas causing pressure & therefore the pain. I read in my Peace Corps medical info. About them finding growths in the brains of fatal amoeba cases, & have never gotten the fear of that completely out of my mind. I’m very sensitive about preserving my brain!

I don’t think that amoeba treatment has cured me, my stools still aren’t normal. I’m not certain it isn’t just a constant reinfection of bacteria or the little burp-inducing amoebas from the water here. Tonight I boiled 2 bottles of water for drinking, & I’m going to try to continue the practice. I want to get my system cleaned out before I leave this country! Also, I need to take better care of my health if I’m going to spend another year here in the tropics. I need to break some bad habits.

I tried my hand at estimating a Lorenz curve and Gini coefficient for the Department {Province} of Chaletenango today at work. I used 1971 census data, and they only had the land divided into production units rather than by ownership, but I did it anyway. Actually, according to an article I read, by John Booth, crossing property owners with parcel sizes gives a conservative estimate of land concentration, because it ignores renters, “colonos” {essentially serfs} and day laborers who tend to manage small lots under some tenure agreement other than ownership, but who depend on the land for their livelihood. The land exploitations, which were the unit I used (it being what was in the census) include “producers” in the categories of renters, “colonos” and similar arrangements, so it should give a more graphic demonstration of the concentration of land resources in the department {province}. I got a Gini coefficient of .7876, pretty high, but not at all surprising given what I already knew about the land tenure situation in this country.

Journal, September 1, 1976 PM

I’m feeling the urge to attempt an article for a newspaper or magazine. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought about doing it - even jotted down a few ideas - but I never get any farther. I can already see that the ideas I have now need more researching if I were to write a serious, informative article. Then there is the official “muzzle” the U.S. government puts on PCVs {Peace Corps volunteers}. The handbook says check out any stuff you want to send to the press with your country director first. I have no idea how seriously they take that rule. I guess one would have to get an article published to find out!

<I answered Sofia’s nice letter today.> Sometimes I feel an almost fatherly protectiveness toward her. She’s so frail & her health is so seemingly delicate. She may take a little special care, but we’ll make it.

And it’s raining again tonight. I think it’s rained every night for 2 weeks in Santa Tecla.