Images, December 1976

{ Gert Verberkmoes and her dog in her Madison home, December 1976. }

{ The Jefferson farm in winter, Friendship WI. }

{ Me showing off an icicle & a temperature of 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. }

{ Me with snow in front of the farm house. }

Dad milking Belle {, a cow that had been a 4-H project of mine as a calf} .

Me & Belle in front of the house.

{ Dad opening presents, Christmas Eve 1976. }

{ Front row: Pilar, Jaime, Mom, Dad; Back row: Jaime's Dad, Jaime's Mom, Jaime's sister Julie; taken at Jaime's folks' home, Neenah WI. }

{ A bit of Pilar, me, Mom & Dad at the home of Jaime's parents. }


Journal, November 30, 1976 PM

Manuel, the administrative assistant, called from Peace Corps Office this morning and said they had received the necessary papers from El Salvador to get my plane ticket. Looks like I’ll have no hassles with going {home} unless my Costarican temporary residence visa fails to come through in time. I’m going to stop by the Office this afternoon and see if they’ll give me my December salary in cash. <I need money to pay rent to Doña Carmen, and I want to give Sofia some money soon, so they can get started making the wedding dress. One of Sofia’s sisters is going to make it, since she does a lot of sewing for other people anyway.>

Jaime {Olson} says he figures his wedding cost him $800 or thereabouts. That’s a lot of bread, but one can’t be chincy about his wedding. Presumably, it’s a one-shot deal! I finally got to rap with Jaime & ask that question, among others, Sunday at the {U.S.} Ambassador’s Thanksgiving Day dinner for Peace Corps. Pilar & Nuria also went.

I met a few PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} there & decided that they are another varied and interesting crew, like those I knew in El Salvador. They have more jocks here (sports programs), and more women because of nursing & swimming programs. Rita {Klukazewski} was there. She says I have to invite her to my wedding.

I had a weird experience at the dinner. I saw a guy who was a near perfect ringer for Dale Kranz, a fellow I knew in F.F.A {Future Farmers of America, an agricultural youth group} and at U.W. {University of Wisconsin - Madison}. I looked and looked, and finally had to go over and tell him about it. His name is Jim Hamilton, and he’s been in Costa Rica for 8 years. He’s an ex-PCV. Even his voice was enough like Dale’s that it was freaky.

<Sofia & family did all the shit work of cleaning up after the party.> I feel like a worthless bum. <I got to Sofia’s last night, & she handed me 60 Colones which they got back upon returning the two cases of pop. Her sister’s boyfriend took them back to Heredia in his car.> That sure was easy, I said to myself! I can imagine the mess left after the party - goo, spilled drinks & dirt on the floor, half-full cups of liquor all over, “bocas {snacks}” being eaten by flies & ants. <It reminded me of old times back at Delta Theta Sigma {fraternity} to hear Sofia describing it.>

<Poor Sofia, she has reservations about marrying a man with aspirations to be a physicist.> The only thing worse would be a mathematician, she says. Although she’s good in math (her own judgment), she hates it with a passion, so much she says she thinks she’ll study philosophy instead of psychology because I told her there was chemistry & biology (& therefore math) involved in psychology. Her mind is still open though. High school math bored me too. They make it sound so cut & dried. Plug in the formula & crank it out, as Mr. Koleck {a high school teacher} put it.

Journal, November 29, 1976 PM

I don’t know if having my journal here in the lab desk is such a good idea. I left it here Friday, and that was more than excuse enough for me to not record anything until today. I was running all weekend anyway, so I really don’t expect I’d have written anything coherent in any case.

I’m now officially engaged. <Sofia has the ring on her right hand and is “feliz como una lombriz {happy like a worm}.”> I guess I am too. It was a pleasant engagement party last night. <Sofia’s sisters are a real troop of workers when it comes to serving drinks & “bocas {snacks}.” They also were the life-blood of the party, dancing & flirting with the men.> {some text not transcribed}

I had one major surprise. <After we had gotten the first round of drinks passed out, & Sofia & I were discussing logistics of making the engagement announcement, she said, “First you have to talk with Dad in private, OK?, and get his formal approval!”> I had half expected something like that earlier on, but I thought they had let it pass. <Anyway, she cleared everyone but her Mom & Dad & us out of the kitchen, and I said, “Sir, I want to marry your daughter Sofia.”> He said, “Con mucho gusto {With much pleasure},” and the deed was done. I think he & I were both forced into the formality by the two women then present. He doesn’t seem any more a lover of formalities than I.

Soon after, I had a small surprise when I went to open the champagne and the cork hit the ceiling, and bubbly went all over the floor (exactly as we’ve all seen it do in the movies). I hadn’t thought to leave the champagne in the refrigerator ‘til the last minute.

<We made the toast with bare shots of champagne for all, and I slipped the ring on Sofia’s finger without formalities in the aftermath.> Jaime made the toast, and I don’t remember a word of it.

<The last little adventure of the evening was a reckless ride to Heredia with Sofia’s sister’s boyfriend who was more than semi-drunk at the wheel of his VW {Volkswagen beetle}, and the return at a snail’s pace with yours truly driving, hitting every pothole and killing the engine once. The car has a very weak battery, so Sofia & her sisters had to push to get us started again.> The seat was too far forward for me {some text not transcribed}, but I crawled back to La Asunción and parked it.

{some text not transcribed}

Jaime & Pilar {Olson} gave me a bottle of brandy for my engagement. They still seem to be honeymooning. They livened up my party with little stunts & making faces. I continue to marvel at how they get along and compliment each other. They both put a lot into just entertaining each other. And they’re such good friends to have.

<At the height of the fiesta {party} Sofia led me out the back door, ostensibly to show me “their farm.”> “Mucha bulla {A lot of noise},” she explained when we were alone, then, “Sabes que no nos hemos besado en todo el día {You know we haven’t kissed each other today}?” <She is something, this little woman, Sofia, something very special.>

Letter, November 26, 1976

Hi Jan,

How are things going? It’s been a while since I heard from you! Jay said he’d gotten a letter recently, but I don’t remember when I have. My address has changed, look on the envelope!

Looks like I’m coming home unless my visa gets held up. (I need a temporal residence visa here before I can leave.) I’ll be coming to Madison on December 10 at 7:35 PM, flight #739, Northwest. If it’d be OK I’d like you to meet me, & I could stay the night in Madison. I want to go to the U.W. {University of Wisconsin-Madison} administrative offices, to the bookstore and a few things like that, Saturday morning before I go up to Friendship. I’d also like to pass by & see Gert Verberkmoes, the old DTS {Delta Theta Sigma Fraternity} cook. But only if it’s convenient, otherwise I’ll just go home. Tell the folks if you can’t meet me & want them to. I told them in a letter I was counting on you, & I doubt there will be time for another exchange of letters.

I’m looking forward to talking with you again while I’m home. I’ll be home about a month - lots of time.

<Sofia & I will be engaged on Sunday.> We bought the ring last Friday, but have been holding off until Jaime Olson’s wedding was over. Jaime’s wedding was an authentic folk festival. I wish you could have been in San Antonio to see it. Mauren, Doña Carmen’s littlest (the blonde, green-eyed “gringa”) was a flower girl, and Marielos, her oldest, was a maid of honor. I was the “major amigo” {best man} - it was a real community event. 5 Peace Corps Volunteers came down from El Salvador for it & were like a delegation of goodwill ambassadors. Everyone in San Antonio got a kick out of them. Jaime’s parents & one grandma came. They are super good folks. Typical humble Wisconsin farmers, but also very calm, very tolerant. They really were impressed with the hospitality in San Antonio.

My job is the most sophisticated technically I’ve had yet. Have you ever heard of aflatoxins? They are toxic substances produced by fungi & are a major problem in food grains in a hot wet climate like they have here. I keep on learning, so I guess I should be satisfied.

<Sofia and I have set up March 4 as our tentative wedding date.> It’s very soon, but convenient because it’s before her university classes start, before the rains start, and hopefully before planting season in Wisconsin. I hope someone will be able to come down, but that’s a matter to discuss when I get home in December.

Jay says you’ve changed jobs, true? See you soon.



Letter, November 25, 1976

Dear folks,

I had about forgotten it was Thanksgiving today until I went by Peace Corps Office here in San Jose and found it closed. Now I am waiting in line at the Pan Am {Pan American Airlines} office to see if they have my return reservation from Wisconsin confirmed yet. Looks like I’ll be home for Christmas if my visa comes through in time! I’m scheduled to leave here December 10, arriving in Madison about 7:30 or 7:45 pm. I think it might be best if I can get Jan to meet me at the airport and I’ll run a couple errands in Madison Saturday morning before coming home. I want to go to the University Book Store and see Gert Verberkmoes {the cook at Delta Theta Sigma fraternity house when I lived there} (remember her?), etc. I’ll write Jan too!

<Sunday Sofia and I are throwing an engagement party.> We already have the ring. We are talking about a March wedding – like March 4th (a Friday). Think about that, and I’ll give you the hard sell on why I think you should try & come when I get home. It’ll be before planting season.

I talked to Jim Olson’s parents when they were here for his wedding. They said I should be sure and bring you (Mom & Dad) up to visit when I’m home in December. Jim & his new wife Pilar will be up there too after about December 20th, so maybe we can go up and see them between Christmas and New Years. They really enjoyed their stay in Costa Rica and fell in love with the people of San Antonio {de Belen, Heredia}. They just couldn’t say enough about the hospitality. The Olsons are really good people, farm people.

My work here is pretty interesting. I am working in a much more sophisticated environment than in any of my jobs in El Salvador. I work in CIGRAS {Centro de Investigacion de Granos y Semillas}, the national grain and seed research center of the University of Costa Rica. My two top bosses are PhDs who studied in the U.S. One has a brother who studied at U.W. {University of Wisconsin – Madison}. There is a guy in my lab who is being exceptionally good about getting me oriented to my work. He’s also invited me to go fishing some time. They have trout in the mountain streams and lakes here, & of course there is lots of salt-water fishing on the coasts.

One gets so much more of a positive attitude about life living here. There are still virgin lands here & so much natural beauty, population growth is being brought under control and the government is civilian. However, because they are better off you find people more like in the States – putting so much importance on cars, clothes & other material possessions. I guess it’s human nature to be greedy, and especially in a decidedly capitalist society.

Anyway, I got here, no problems, with my bike & everything. I hope and plan to be in Madison the 10th of December, and home probably the next day. I’m so busy I have had to write in installments.



Journal, November 25, 1976 PM

At noon we played soccer, so there was no time for eating or writing. It was good fun & good exercise. The guys here are easygoing & joke around as they play.

We worked hard this morning, calculating a regression coefficient and Y-intercept longhand from Renán’s {Molina} rice data. Then Dr. Mora showed us the programmable calculator in Dr. Echandi’s office. It is no bigger than a common desktop adding machine. With control panel it fits in a briefcase, yet you can do all kinds of complex math operations on it. God, what they have done with calculators in the last couple years!

<It was a crisis last night for Sofia & I.> We just kept rubbing each other the wrong way. She was being the talkative, spoiled girl, & I the sullen, unwilling suitor. I think we’ll survive it.

Journal, November 24, 1976 PM

I feel so serene and content with my life today that I hardly believe it’s me. <Last night I went with Sofia to register for the University in Heredia, and it was just a very pleasant evening. The registration took no time at all since Sofia’s sister’s boyfriend works in the University’s administrative section, and he got the girls’ forms to them without them having to stand in line or anything.>

<Sofia pulled the favorite trick of the locals on a tourist, on me.> She told me to get off {the bus} at the stop in from of the Siemens store and, as it turned out, the store no longer says Siemens anywhere on it. I ribbed her about it, but she told me I was supposed to tell the bus driver to let me off at Siemens, and then there would have been no problem.

The engagement party is going to be Sunday now. There was a conflict with Alexandra’s graduation, but now it’s all worked out, so full steam ahead. I guess I’m in charge of the drinks, and they are going to handle the food. I want to make punch.

Wedding planning is already moving. <Sofia has a list of who she wants to invite, and we hashed over some possible “padrinos {godparents}” and “amigos {friends}.”> I’m going to write to ask Fred Tracy to be my best man. He’s the last one left of our original pastures and forages group, and I’ve a lot of respect for him besides. I hope Marlene {Johnsjoy} and he can both come down, though it’s a lot to expect. I don’t know who’d be my second choice.

<Sofia’s older sister made me supper last night.> In spite of the fact that I seem to be eating a lot here, I also am skinny. Of course, at Doña Carmen’s the standard fare is rice and beans, and the cafeteria where I eat lunch is only a little better. You always get a piece of tomato, cabbage salad, a thin tortilla and meat or cheese with your rice & beans.

Yesterday I out figured Renán {Molina}, my lab partner & teacher at present, on a math problem, percent humidity of a sample of rice in 2 stages. He wouldn’t accept the reason for the discrepancy in his answer and the calculator’s from my explanation though. Like so many people (e.g. my Dad) he is more inclined to rely on an authority than on his reasoning powers. After his boss (and mine too), Dr. Miguel Mora, confirmed that it was indeed necessary to make a correction such as I had suggested, he took a good look at the correction formula, and then explained to me why it was essential. I try to be an attentive student, but at times it costs me. Renán is a very patient instructor though, and I think we’ll get along well. Today he commented that I have a lot of shoes, very observant! <I’m wearing a pair Sofia had been storing for me, and it’s the fifth pair of shoes I’ve worn to work in 7 days.> I have 5 pairs & it’s a lot, but shoes were cheap in El Salvador & are less so here. I should get by a year with those I have.

Journal, November 23, 1976 PM

I only have time to write at lunch break it seems. I’m only home to eat and sleep, often not even that. <I ate at Sofia’s last night and will probably eat on the road tonight because I’m going with Sofia & her sister to register at the University {Universidad Nacional} right after work.>

<Last night I was first kind of down on Sofia and then pretty down on myself. With Sofia, it was because of her lack of appreciation of a good wine. I brought over a bottle of California red wine to share with Sofia’s family.> I’d gotten it in El Salvador tax free because of the Feria Internacional, and I thought it was just a little special. <It was not sweet enough to suit Sofia, and in general the family treated it like a bit better than guaro {Costarican rum-like liquor}, but certainly not on a level with vodka. Only one of Sofia’s sisters said she really liked it.> But you can never tell if she is sincere or just being nice. The lesson is, the quality of a product is of no importance to people who don’t realize or appreciate the quality, and if they don’t like the taste, well, they just don’t.

<Sofia was being a little bossy, a bit overly self-assured, and that can get me a little miffed, even while I’m kind of enjoying the performance.>

I got more pissed at myself for letting it slip my mind that the El Salvador bunch were leaving early today. I went to bed pretty early, & it turned out they had gone drinking right in San Antonio. I’d have only had to go looking. What a deadbeat.

Anyway, I got up at 4:30 AM with Dean {Current} to be sure to not miss saying goodbye. Strangely, I feel none the worse for it! I told Steve {Pamperin} I’d probably get married in the “spring.”

There’s a problem with the engagement party Saturday. Alexandra, one of Doña Carmen’s {children}, is graduating from grade school. I want them there, as closest representatives of my side of the family. They’d be so utterly crushed & offended if they weren’t included, and they always treat me right.

I started the rumor at work that I’ll be getting married. It means some ribbing, but in general this is a very marriage oriented society. It’s just that many men want a woman who never leaves the house, & who doesn’t holler too much when they come home late. I don’t think the idea of a wife being an important intellectual companion appeals to most of them.

Journal, November 22, 1976 AM

Today we encounter our hero in line waiting to get fingerprinted at the Ministry of Public Security in San José. I haven’t written since Thursday, no time.

I am now pretty well “cocido {cooked}.” <We bought a ring for Sofia on Friday.> It’s beautiful. We were fortunate to find the place where Jaime {Olson} & Pilar bought theirs. Other places had no selection. <I feel very positive about taking Sofia on as my partner.> But all the expense & hassle of a wedding scares us both.

Also Friday, the boys arrived from El Salvador. They have been a hit with everyone in San Antonio since they got off the bus. List of passengers: Steve Pamperin, Mike Shank, Dean Current, Jim Monachino, Art Bailey {all PCVs, Peace Corps Volunteers, except Art}. <Sofia took a real liking to Mike immediately & for the wedding I left her in Dean’s care, so she got close to him too.> They were like a delegation of good will ambassadors. With {PCV} Felipe {Vasquez} & I, they took Jaime out for a few beers to send him off.

Jaime was the star of the show at his in-laws’ house. He carried a bottle of guaro {rum-like Costarican liquor} around and judiciously made sure every one of us had as much to drink as he did. He had hoped Ahenor, his buddy from Anamoros, would show up, but he didn’t come on the Tica Bus with the other guys, and once Jaime got drinking he forgot about Ahenor completely.

The first round of drinking ended at 11 PM when we returned from the Jardín Cervecero {a bar whose name means beer garden} (after the guaro and 6 pitchers of beer) to hear a “serenata {serenade}” that some local musicians had been contracted to do for Pilar. They got there late, but it was really nice, a guitar & singing, as a sendoff for the bride.

Steve, Art and Felipe took Jaime into San José to drink more beer about 1 AM. I had already gone to bed at that time, but found out about it promptly in the morning through the rumor mill.

The wedding was beautiful, a real community event, with about 20 couples in the party between “padrinos {godparents}” and “amigos {friends}.” The fiesta {reception} was a true folk festival. <I danced the second dance with Pilar, & then got Sofia’s jealousy flowing by dancing one with Nuria (the “major amiga {maid of honor}” and a special enemy of Sofia).>

<Sofia got over it quickly, & we caught all the slow dances after that.> The rumor mill has turned full force on us now. Not only were we both repeatedly asked when we were getting married, Jaime’s Dad asked me if it was true we were going to get married in March. It doesn’t bother me any more. We’ll just follow our own timetable.

<Sunday, Sofia, her sisters & I took the El Salvador bunch to Ojo de Agua {water park}.> It was great, just the thing for the morning after, even though it was ungodly crowded. The guys loved the cold water, the falls below the Ojo {spring} and the diving boards. I went off headfirst from 3 meters for the first time ever. Mike took a picture of us in the falls.

Jaime’s folks came to visit Doña Carmen in the afternoon, and I served as interpreter. Jaime’s folks are so much like Pilar’s, just humble, hard-working folks who hate anyone making a fuss over them. But they just can’t repeat too often how much they appreciate the hospitality. They said Doña Carmen reminded them very much of a neighbor of theirs, & she was tremendously flattered.

When they had left last night, Israel Campos {Pilar’s father} said to me (taking me aside), “You know, you people come from a culture that is very much the same as ours, you & Jaime. His folks are like us and you’re like our children, and that’s why it has all worked out so well.” He said it all.

I saw the Olsons to the airport this morning. Again, I was interpreter & managed to help the flow of communication. Actually, most of what they tried to get across was emotion, & the language was largely superfluous. I couldn’t find any better words for them, or for Doña Marita {Pilar’s mother} and Doña Carmen, to express the great love & respect they all felt. The liquid level in my eyes got pretty high, but didn’t spill over.

<Sofia said that when I go home in December, she’s not going to the airport.> She doesn’t like to cry in public, she claims. I bet she wouldn’t cry, she’s pretty self-controlled, but I know what she means.

I got to Peace Corps Office late, but no hassle, & it appears I’ll have no problem going home for Christmas. Only the visa could hold me up. That’s what the fingerprints were for. I’m finishing this after lunch at the cafeteria in the Facultad de Agronomía {Agronomy Department} before reporting to work at CIGRAS.

<Sofia & I keep getting closer.> We both are apprehensive of the rough financial road we’ll tread in the early years of our marriage. But I’m very confident now that she believes in the central importance of learning all she can as much as I do. Her Dad is a great preacher of the get-an-education doctrine, like {my} Dad. She really enjoys the interchange of ideas, & I think she must get the same high from fresh knowledge that I feel. I’m pretty content with her.

Journal, November 19, 1976 AM

This wedding tomorrow is going to be something. Yesterday a few neighbors pitched in to kill a big hog & make chicherones {Costarican food like very thick bacon}. It is like weddings must have been in the U.S. when people had less money (Jaime’s {Olson} phrase), when my parents were young. Pilar {Campos} is the pride of the whole village, the joy of her relatives, the sweet girl who has never offended anyone. Jaime plays the part of the gallant and worthy suitor from afar perfectly. He is big & husky, a mountain, yet ruggedly handsome, outgoing, affable and saintly with his future in-laws.

It will be a folk festival, like one of the flashbacks in “The Old Gun”, or the wedding scene in "The Godfather!"

<Today, Sofia & I buy a ring. I have been getting bad vibes about Sofia from other folks, just yesterday.> What a weird phenomenon at this crucial turning point. <A girl on the bus said Sofia doesn’t know what she wants. Pilar is still upset because Sofia declined to be in the wedding party. Doña Carmen made a big scene this morning of explaining to me that she really doesn’t dislike Sofia, etc., etc. and so forth!>

Well, I can still back out. I won’t. I think she just doesn’t meet their standards for the all suffering, docile spouse. I’m not quite “cocido {cooked}” yet.

Journal, November 18, 1976 AM

Yesterday got completely forgotten until about noon, and at work I couldn’t do much about it. I barely was home at night. <Two nights in a row now I’ve eaten at Sofia’s.>

<Sofia & I are talking about the details of the marriage process.> I don’t hardly believe it, but tomorrow we’re going to buy a ring. We’ll make the engagement a fact next week, Saturday. She wants to set a wedding date then, tentatively. We’ve talked about March & June.

We had a minor “pleito {fight}” last night. {some text not transcribed}

Work is good. I am learning to classify rice & beans by quality. My lab partner is really decent. There is a Salvadoran woman in the adjoining seed quality lab. They have very fine facilities here, but lack personnel, & are just beginning in the seed & grain quality control field.

Journal, November 16, 1976 AM

First day on the job, and I felt like I was back in college. I’ll be working in a lab in the Agriculture faculty. The place is well equipped for grain analysis. I was impressed. The people seem very friendly and cooperative.

I spent little time at the Peace Corps Office. Juan Coward {Peace Corps Costa Rica Agriculture Program Director} asked if I had anything pressing to do, and when I told him no, he took me right out to where I’ll be working. He said that as far as arranging vacation leave was concerned, I would have to work it out with them, that he would defer to whatever they decided was best. Fortunately I had already discussed taking my home leave at Christmas time with Dr. Ronald Echandi, who appears to be the big boss at CIGRAS {Centro de Investigación de Granos y Semillas}, so I think there will be no problem.

<I saw Sofia on the run today as I returned from work, and she headed for the University in Heredia.> Not much of a love life.

I visited Pilar’s and B.S.’ed with Israel {Campos}, Marita and Juan Diego. Poor Marita is worn out from all the wedding preparations. She fell asleep sitting up. She’s incredible though in that she never loses her good humor. Mom would be feeling persecuted and be touchy. Israel’s a good man too, responsible. He says a lot of Costarican men spend their money in the bars while the family doesn’t eat right, but not him. Pilar is so sweet, and so incapable of a bitter thought. Sometimes I think she doesn’t belong in this world! <Sofia wonders how she’ll cope with the reality of married life.> Will Jaime {Olson} continue to shelter and protect her?


Journal, November 15, 1976 AM

It was a whirlwind transition. <In an hour I’ve moved from my El Salvador world into the world of San Antonio (of Sofia, Jaime {Olson} & Pilar, Doña Carmen, etc.).> It almost wiped me out. Now that I’m here, it seems like no time at all since I left.

Jaime’s folks are here, and his grandma (who is a real wonder, she’s got the grip of a man at 85+!). We drank the German wine from the Feria Internacional last evening. It was good, the only white wine I’ve ever had & I really liked. I’ll have to remember the name.

<Sofia received me with open arms even though I’d caused her and everyone else around here a lot of consternation by coming a day late.> The airline never gave them my message. <Sofia has already read the Aeneid (& many other classics).> They must stress the traditional humanities here more than in the U.S. She was impressing me with her insights and rational evaluation of situations more than ever before yesterday.

Journal, November 13, 1976 PM

We went to San Rafael near Zacatecaluca today to build a partition out of bamboo as an example for some campesinos {peasants}. That’s right, we were taken there by Margaret’s agency, the Unión Comunal Salvadoreña {Salvadoran Communal Union}, to stimulate their cooperative socios {members} to build themselves bamboo house / room dividers, even though they seemed perfectly happy with cardboard ones or none at all. It was a vintage Peace Corps expedition, Walter Mondale would be proud!

It was hotter than hell down on the coast, a good break-in for Art Bailey who yesterday morning left 20 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures {in Wisconsin}.

<I’m ready for Costa Rica, Sofia, Pilar and Jaime, and all the rest, now.> One extra day in this country was kind of interesting, sweet nostalgia, but now I’m impatient. Life is waiting for me there. I’m already a day late!

Journal, November 13, 1976 AM

I’ve been delinquent again. I intended to write after I ran this morning and then forgot. I have had two very pleasant farewell parties, one at my office (DGRNR) yesterday and the other here tonight. At work they gave me a huge pair of wall plaque that just barely fit in my suitcase and a hammock. Joaquin said the hammock had been strength tested for two! Everyone signed the wall plaques, & Max Anaya, our boss, took pictures. It was a nice waste of office time. Then they shot nearly the whole afternoon in a meeting to plan the office Christmas party. It’s no place for the person who wants to get things done, our office, but very sweet people, sincerely!

I got the corporate shaft this morning. LACSA {Costarican airline} called and informed me they had oversold my flight for today; would I like to go Sunday or Monday? <What an incredible bummer for the people there who’ll be expecting me, Sofia, Jaime {Olson} & Doña Carmen.> I was so disgusted I could feel the adrenalin flowing up into my head and the lump growing in my throat as I was sitting in the LACSA office being told that I had a reservation for the 14th, and that was all they knew, after I’d been called and told that my reservation for the 13th would not be honored earlier in the morning. I almost reached that point (threshold) where you have to interpret it as anger or grief and either strike out at something or break into tears. So now I go tomorrow.

The party yesterday evening was very mellow, very relaxed, and seemed to lack no one. Jay {Hasheider} came, with Conrad {Ebish}, Ana {his wife}, her mother & her kid sister. Russ Soules brought Rosamita, Hilda’s sister, as well as wife Hilda. Gerardo {Chavez} and Teresa from the tienda {store} came, and after the crowd thinned out, Gerardo got into form with his jokes. His jokes always border on the ridiculous, but his mannerisms and accents carry them. Fred {Tracy} was on hand, helping fry the rabbit meat, making light conversation and generally being useful. Art Bailey, who I once stayed with during a DTS {Delta Theta Sigma} fraternity “hell week” (1970-71, my freshman year of college), came by plane today {really yesterday} to spend two weeks with Steve Pamperin. He’ll be down for Jaime’s wedding.

Journal, November 10, 1976 PM

There’s no way to top off a day that’s quite as pleasant as drinking a bit of wine. Gary Forest brought home a bottle from the Feria {Internacional}. Everyone is buying wine! He shared some with Steve Pamperin and I. I have so seldom drunk wine that it is always a very special thing for me to try a little.

I went to DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables} today (tomorrow’s the last time) and read over Chico’s {Rodriguez, Peace Corps Agriculture Program Director} latest draft of the Río Pacayas watershed project. I made a few comments on it and gave it back to him this afternoon. He’s getting his ideas organized better & better. It could be a really interesting piece of work.

I killed the rabbits this evening, and threw them in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator. The skins are for Doña Teresa, in the tienda {store}, and Tony, the maid. I also got a chocolate cake to take to work tomorrow & eat.

Virgil was in his glory today, describing the gore of battle as the Trojans and Latins waged battle. His descriptions of the deaths of “name” warriors are some of the most vivid mental pictures he draws. Through the long & sometimes tedious epic, I had reflected from time to time that he was just a Homer imitator, but just turning the tables (Trojans are the good guys and Greeks are the bad guys), and changing the setting and some names. I apologize. He is a true poet, building on Homer’s base, and adding in his own vivid imagination to turn a collection of Roman myths of their country’s beginnings into an epic worthy to be the sacred myth of the founding of the Roman Empire.


Journal, November 9, 1976 PM

I forgot to mention the landslide of mail I got yesterday, 3 letters in a day (and one more today). <Sofia wrote at last. She’ll be at the airport with her nephew.> And Jaime {Olson} wrote. Jaime has been picking coffee and enjoying Costa Rica. <Sofia says their wedding day will be the happiest day of their lives for Pilar and Jaime, but for her it won’t be like that.> She added a quote about living & dying rationally and productively. She also mentioned a humanized humanity, which is more in line with the idealism I remember.

I went out to DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables} today, and B.S.’ed. I also went to a soils workshop with Fred Tracy. I’m such a bum, not doing anything of my own for my self-betterment, except {reading} the Aeneid.

Fred and I went to the Feria Internacional and bought wine, two bottles apiece, which used up all of our money. I got a bottle of German white wine and a bottle of California red. The German wine is for a toast with Jaime. <The other is for a special night with Sofia’s family.> Perhaps I’ll save it for the engagement party.

Fred showed Rick Ingles and I a bunch of his pictures tonight. Fred is such a worker. You can see all the stuff he has done as an extensionist from his pictures. He makes me ashamed of my puny accomplishments as a PCV {Peace Corps Volunteer}. He’s all energy and initiative! He really knows his field too. He’s not diddling in something he’s not sure of like I felt I was in the campo {rural zone}. But then, for me, the Peace Corps years will be just a pause for reflection, decision and personal emotional growth, while, for him, they are an integral part of his experience in his chosen field (as well as a great time of personal development, no question).

Journal, November 8, 1976 PM

I spent the day on administrative chores and odds and ends. <I sent a card to sister Mary for her birthday, and saw one I liked, so I sent a card to Sofia too.> Perhaps it will get there before I do.

I hung around with Fred Tracy some today. I was surprised to find that he leaned toward Ford in the {U.S.} election. Of course the whole West went to Ford, and he’s just back from spending some time with his conservative parents. Still it disappoints me to see Fred cop out and say, “Well, we knew what Ford could do, and Carter scares everybody!” I wouldn’t vote for Ford precisely because I knew what we could expect from him, negativism! Ford’s campaign button was red, Carter’s green, like metaphors of the two men.

Journal, November 8, 1976 AM

“And I just want to live on and on!” I was grooving on that tune through my 4 laps this morning. That’s what it’s all about for the living and thinking person. Writers write so they will be remembered through their works. Scientists develop theories to describe the universe so that they will perhaps be remembered as adding a given insight to our worldview. Politicians propose laws and programs which they hope will immortalize their names. Though so many of them are cynically power hungry that you wonder! I want to create something, too, that will prove me a useful human being who was worth having on this globe. Still, I don’t fell tremendous urgency yet. Perhaps I never will. {Walt} Whitman says you show what you are through your daily actions.

Yesterday I went to Metalio to say ‘Goodbye.’ El Maizal greeted me with lots of faces (Sunday is clinic day), but none I knew well. I took a hike around, and found some great legumes for my rabbits. They are getting some things done. They have a place built for the scale from AID, and, a building next to it that might be a milking shed, is under construction. They have a couple pastures fenced off that look pretty good. They filled the silo with maicillo {grain sorghum}, which made me feel good, though they could have put more in if they had heaped it up in the center. They have one huge female rabbit (a New Zealand White) that is simply gorgeous. Things are coming along at El Maizal, but slowly, and I don’t think my being there would have made them move any faster.

There being nobody to say goodbye to at El Maizal, I left my cuma {small curved machete-like tool} as a gift for Aristides and went to Metalio.

Don Tin was glad to see me as always. He called me Jay instead of Dino, just like always. He and his wife Reina are such good people, and their kids are so cute. The littlest girl played peek-a-boo with me all the time I was there and seemed to enjoy it immensely. I took a picture of the family group, minus the young son who was asleep.

Don Tin is a true hard working, self-reliant man. He has worked hard all his many years and never asked favors. What a contrast he makes with the last people I visited in Metalio, Don Adán and his family. Adán takes care of the beach house where Jay and I first lived, and where Jay is now living again. His wife used to wash my clothes. They live so wretchedly, in such filth, and look such physical wrecks. Yet everyone helps them out. When their children are sick, they appeal to Dr. Suares Castro, who owns the house Jay & I lived in. Everyone gives them things because they look to be in such desperate straits. I gave them my kerosene lamp and my water jug. Don Adán is so worthless, he does nothing except raise a little “milpa” {corn field}, and of course drink. I don’t think he’s been really sober in years. I took 2 pictures of the family. I don’t ever want to forget the contrast between Don Tin & Don Adán. Neither started with anything much in life. Adán has regressed.

In between the two visits, I ran into Don Santos. We had a good talk about life - women, wealth, politics. Both Tin and Santos lamented the situation in El Salvador. There is no work here, no chance to get ahead. And as Santos said, you don’t even dare say anything against the government, or two “agentes {agents}” will take you by the arms, put your hands behind your back and lead you off to jail. The next morning they will take you out somewhere and put a bullet in your head. And nothing will be heard about you again. The failure of the agrarian reform project shows how hopeless things are. The countryside is peaceful yet, but both Santos & Tin hint that it won’t last. This poor country! The paradise of Claudia Lars’ youth has been raped by the big landowners and industrialists, and by the campesinos {peasant farmers} trying to scratch out a living. I fear the path from its present unstable state to a more egalitarian & stable one (socialist or socialist / small capitalist) will be a bloody one.

Journal, November 6, 1976 PM

Pupusas de ayote , just another of those innumerable experiences I’ve had here that I’ll never be able to duplicate. Gerardo’s {Chavez} wife, Teresa, made us some huge (6 inches in diameter & nearly an inch thick) pupusas with filling of ayote (a winter squash they tell me, with a taste close to pumpkin), tomato, onion and two kinds of cheese. They were delicious, and 3 made a big meal. The evening was made complete by Mike’s {Shank} antics and Gerardo’s endless repertoire of jokes (most about Salvadoran President Molina). It was Gerardo’s and his family’s “despedida {farewell party}” for me. I’m going to miss them.

I bought 2 more rabbits today, for Friday’s barbecue. They are skinny, so I plan to fatten them up until Thursday. They eat everything in sight!

I’ve given up the idea of doing anything useful before I leave this country. Mike met the new group of trainees (51 of them arrived last night), and he says no replacements for us came. So I’m a lame duck with no successor. It’s probably better that way. I don’t know how my replacement would have kept busy.

Journal, November 6, 1976 AM

I took an easy day mentally yesterday. I went up to Parque Balboa {Balboa Park} in Los Planes de Renderos. It is one of the more peaceful and beautiful spots near San Salvador. However, even there I was approached by a couple kids selling sweets & gum. There is no escape in this country. I shudder to think this is where the world is headed.

We went to the Feria Internacional {International Fair} last night. It is mostly industrial exhibits, but they are selling some foreign wines tax-free. I think I’ll buy a bottle to make a toast with Jaime {Olson} and Pilar.


Journal, November 5, 1976 AM

Día del primer grito de independencia de {day of the first shout of independence of} El Salvador.

I ran again today, 4 laps on the big cafetalón {coffee field} track. I weighed in at 176 lbs. at Peace Corps Office yesterday, but I don’t feel fat. I feel tough, or at least semi-tough.

I got my stuff packed in a big bamboo basket to send to Costa Rica yesterday. I’ll send it tomorrow morning. I also got my bike wrapped up in foam rubber. I feel just about ready as far as my possessions are concerned. Jaleh {Peace Corps staff} promised me my airplane ticket for Monday. Then I can change money over and such.

Carter will get somewhere between 272 and 303 electoral votes when the “college” convenes in December. In any case, it was an incredibly tight election. He won by only about 34,000 votes in Wisconsin, and even less in Ohio. Actually, Ohio is doing a recount; he may lose it, but will win without it. The entire West went to Ford (except Oregon where the final count is not in), and the whole South to Carter. It was a regionalist election. As an older woman from California (who is a Peace Corps Volunteer) said, “Westerners distrust someone who wears his religion on his sleeve.” At least it’s an interesting observation, if not a partial explanation for the phenomenon.

I saw this same woman’s nephew, Robert DeNiro in a movie last night. Steve Pamperin and I went to see “Taxi Driver.” It was “well done” as everyone had told us, and their adjective “strange” was also apt. The story of a man who just could not take the meaninglessness of his own life and the vile baseness of his world. He tried to lash out at the most visible of the powerful (whom he also saw as at least a symbolic sexual rival), a politician. Failing that, he spent his wrath on the corrupters of a young prostitute. He, even in his insanity, was very moral. He was haunted by the $20 the girl’s pimp had given him to look the other way, finally returning it to the “hotel manager.” His wrath spent & himself proclaimed a hero, by accident of fate, he returns to his taxi, now seemingly content to be just an invisible taxi driver.

Journal, November 4, 1976 AM

I ran over at the cafetalón {coffee field} this morning, and am writing while the sweat is still dripping and that feeling of euphoric exhaustion from physical exertion is still upon me. I am trying to get better control of myself emotionally and intellectually by this physical conditioning and discipline. Last evening I was at a peak of frustration and disorientation. I had been trying to get all my possessions into my two suitcases, and had found it impossible. I was torn between getting another piece of luggage and letting Steve Pamperin take a lot of stuff down, and mailing some of my books and other junk down. I’ll mail some stuff. Then Mike {Shank} was occupying almost the whole kitchen when I wanted to make supper . . . Plus, intermittently, I was struck with the big doubt about why I am forsaking temporarily my personal goals for the sake of a romantic relationship. I wish I could just make a decision and shove it to the far corner of my mind, remembered and followed but no longer subject to reassessment!

James Earl Carter is President-elect of the United States. I wore my Carter button to work yesterday in the interest of having my own little one-day campaign. I am pleased to have a nonlawyer President, a President who has a varied personal experience (military, academic, private enterprise) instead of a lifelong politician. Carter has promised to pay more attention to Latin America, too. I have high hopes. He is just unorthodox enough to be a great leader. America and the world need one.

Journal, November 3, 1976 AM

I had a very wholesome day today. At 7 AM I went to run 3 laps around the track at the cafetalón {coffee field}. I had a good breakfast, and at 11:00 I headed for Los Chorros swimming resort with Steve Pamperin, Marlene {Johnsjoy} and Margaret. It appears Margaret is going to inherit my room here when I leave. We never have any vacancies in this place. The price is right!

I took a nap this afternoon, ate and went to Tiffany’s (a Gringo {North American} place in Escalón) to an election night gathering for the American community. When we left at 12:30, they had projected (CBS) that Carter had 267 sure electoral votes and Ford 126. The popular vote was 51% to 48% for Carter with 63% of the vote counted. Wisconsin is predicted in the Carter column. They impounded the ballots in New York. The race is extremely close there. In California, 85% of those eligible apparently voted, which should mean Carter has a better chance of carrying that state. I expect Carter to win, and I’m pleased. It could be a historical turning point. At the very least it means some new faces and new ideas in Washington, change instead of the status quo.

Russ Soules was at the election night what-cha-ma-call-it. He and Hilda seem to be getting along fabulously, and he promised to come to my despedida {farewell party}. I may have seen Art and Lila Eisenhower for the last time. They leave Thursday. They gave us one last ride home this morning.

Journal, November 1, 1976 PM

The dog that bit me still lives. I apparently won’t have to get the 20 odd rabies shots. Not only is she alive, she’s got 6 fat little pups.

I left work just a little early today, and while walking to where the #33 bus stops, I met a man from the campo {rural area}. He’d been at DGRNR {where I work} trying to talk to the head of the Fisheries Service. He was looking for work, a common pastime here, and he meant to leave no stone unturned in his search for employment. I fully expected him to ask me if I could help him get work (that’s not uncommon either) but he was too polite to be so forward with a complete stranger. For the unskilled and uneducated getting and keeping work is a constant battle. Many will try most anything. From the Gringo’s {North American} standpoint it’s a liability of getting close to people that they ask for and sometimes simply expect your help getting a job. The PCV {Peace Corps Volunteer} who is on a limited salary and has no leads on jobs, can be made to feel inadequate. You gain insight into the thought behind the Biblical saying about the poor always being there. There is “too little of you” to help all of them.

Dave Quarles can be a bother to have in the house. Nothing escapes him and nothing is safe from him! He has borrowed one of my pens (I spied him with it, having assumed I’d lost it.), and ate half an apple I had stored away in the refrigerator for a special treat. I have to make sure he at least pays me the 20 Colones I loaned him last night before he leaves.

Dave has a book of quotes just about like mine. I copied an interesting quote he had by Henry Kissinger. Dave’s hard to live with, but interesting to have around certainly.


Images, November 1976

Gerardo Chavez, Maria Teresa de Chavez, Mari Cruz and Steve Hays at my farewell party in Santa Tecla.

From my farewell party, Hilda and Russ Soules, and Hilda's sister Rosamita. Mari Cruz is on the left in the background.

Conrad Ebish, wife Ana, her sister & mother at my farewell party in our apartment.

Margaret, Art Bailey, Rick Ingles, Fred Tracy and Marlene Johnsjoy at my farewell party.

Doña Carmen's youngest daughter, Mauren, with a cousin, in front of their house.

Jaime Olson and his parents in church at his wedding. Mike Shank is kneeling to take a picture.

Juan Diego Campos & his escort walk down the aisle at the Jaime Olson & Pilar Campos wedding.

Dino Jefferson and other groom's men at Campos / Olson wedding.

The two families at Campos / Olson wedding.

Alexandra {Doña Carmen's "middle" daughter} receiving her diploma at graduation ceremony. {Costarican primary school is grades 1 through 6.}

Alexandra's 6th grade graduation.

Alexandra's 6th grade graduation.

Alexandra's graduating class at primary school.

Girls doing a dance number at Alexandra's graduation.

Alexandra and her teacher at her graduation from primary school.

Jaime & Pilar {Olson} at our engagement party at Sofia's house.


Journal, October 31, 1976 PM

It was a peaceful afternoon. We went to Cafetería Tin for lunch. I had 3 tacos, a platano {plantain} with crema {sour cream} and coffee, and I wrote 2 letters. I also spent some time B.S.’ing over at the tienda {store} on the corner. Marlene Johnsjoy, our new neighbor (she & Fred Tracy are living with Steve Hays and Mari Cruz now), was over for an evening visit. She even did our supper dishes, in spite of the fact she ate almost none of it. Without Fred and in a new environment, she’s very lonely. She reminds me of my sister Joyce, loves plants and animals even. I gave her “All Creatures Great and Small” (which Joyce sent down to me) to read.

Journal, October 31, 1976, 12:20 PM (Sunday)

I just got through killing Hojo Rojo {literally Red Eye} the rabbit and giving his skin to the folks at the tienda {store}. What a cold-blood I am!

I went to {Peace Corps El Salvador Director} John Jones’ party for {U.S.} Ambassador Lozano yesterday afternoon. Ah the peaceful chatter and appetizing snacks of a suburban lawn party. But then PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} are interesting people, so it was decent. I listened to the new {U.S.} Embassy number two man (Lubensky?) talk about Germany and Ecuador, two of his favorite countries, and about his 120 acres in West Virginia, where he hopes to retire soon. I met the aunt of a newly famous actor {Robert De Niro}, star of “Taxi Driver” and “Godfather Part II”. She’s a PCV and says she finds it strange being related to a famous person.

I went to Conrad Ebish’s wedding. It was kind of sad, no music and only a local photographer. Dr. {Art} Eisenhower and his wife Lila were Padrinos {Godparents}, and ended up taxiing Conrad and Ana all over. Steve Pamperin and I were the only Peace Corps people attending, and we tagged along to the reception at Circulo Militar. A big meal was served which I couldn’t eat because I’d stuffed myself at John Jones’.

Journal, October 30, 1976 AM

Today is Halloween in the U.S., but they don’t celebrate that one here.

I’ve already been to see the rector {University chancellor or president} and dentist this morning. He struck a nerve in one drilling this morning, so today I’ll refrain from singing his virtues.

We had an office party yesterday. It was Joaquin Rodeno’s birthday and I don’t know what else, but it was quite a do. We began with pizza and a birthday cake at lunch hour, and then, after work, we had a real party at Joaquin’s family’s place on Lake Ilopango. (He’s from a rich family with a place on every major beach & lake in the country.) Mike {Shank} and I went early with the food and beer, and had time to smoke a joint (with Joaquin & Oscar Nuñez) and take a swim before anyone else arrived.

Sandra, the secretary, was in her glory at this party. When she started dancing there was no letup. The image of her trying to throw her small, well-formed breasts from side to side like a strip teaser lingers in my brain. As Mike put it, she is so reserved in the office that it really takes you aback to see her let go. She’s got the impishly sweet looks, bravado and vulnerability of a sixteen-year-old.

Francisco Avalos explained to me why the agrarian reform in El Salvador failed. He claims the crucial factor is that the industrial elite and the agrarian elite in this little country are the same people (or at least the same families). An independent industrial elite might back a reform as a road to increased internal demand for their products. But here, says Francisco, only the multinational companies with factories here (mostly U.S. corporations) stood to gain. {Salvadoran President} Molina tried, but only proved you can’t carry out a sweeping agrarian reform when your government is so dependent upon the landed class.

Journal, October 29, 1976 AM

Last night I finished James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small”. The book just ended with him T.B. {tuberculosis} testing cows on his honeymoon. Fitting I guess for a book about simple pleasures and the daily exhilarations of life, the fascination of experiences with people and animals. I remember the animals I have “doctored” with varying success. There was Rubber-legs, the calf we had to hold up to feed for weeks until we cured her with shots of vitamin A. There was the little Hampshire pig we wormed and gave antibiotics to, over and over, only to see him get skinnier, Razorback we called him. Then there was the only daughter of {a cow named} Cindy, our best milker, who injured a rear leg when very young, and became a scraggly, potbellied, unthrifty calf; I had to shoot her. Also there was {our best cow ever} Comet’s calf who was unthrifty and just dropped over one day. Finally there was Comet herself, who was 12 years old and down with milk fever {unable to stand up}, and Dad put her out of her misery. Herriot’s people brought back even more vivid memories. The Yorkshire Dales folk are not so different from the farmers of Adams County, not so very different.

I had my teeth drilled by the “rector” (chancellor or president) of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de El Salvador {National Autonomous University of El Salvador} at 2 PM. Dr. Alfaro Castillo is an impressive man. Of average height for a Salvadoran (about 5’ 5”), he is handsome, a natty dresser and speaks rapid, flowing, perfectly enunciated Spanish. I arrived early, and about 20 to two he was deposited in front of his office by a colleague, unlocked the door and invited me in. I overheard him on the phone saying he hadn’t had time to eat. The University is in turmoil these days. There have been student demonstrations protesting an increase in fees, cars overturned, windows broken, students wounded by police (fortunately no deaths yet). Without complaint or reference to the fact that I had been late for and missed my previous appointment, he led me into the operating room and did his usual lightning fast job of examining my teeth. He filled 2 cavities, took 2 X-rays and didn’t cut short the verbal niceties, but it seemed like I was in there for no more than 10 minutes. The actual time was about 20 minutes. He’s a superb dentist and rector of the University, a man of incredible energy.

Mauricio, Mike’s {Shank} Italian houseguest, began his stay with us last night. He is a small man, extremely handsome in the dark Italian manner. He speaks softly and too smoothly, but I’ve had little chance to make a study of him yet. He’s reputed to be a superb cook and did indeed bring his spices. Mike said he was a sociology professor who had taught in Italy and worked on a project in Mexico.

Letter, October 28, 1976

Hi folks,

I got a new set of emergency phone numbers in Washington for you to call when something grave happens, or when I haven’t written in two months or more {I included the phone numbers on a separate sheet of paper}.

Bruce wrote me that it snowed in Stevens Point {Wisconsin} around October 18 or 19 – that’s incredible. I hope it isn’t too hard of a winter, since I still hope to come home for Christmas. I have a new Peace Corps assignment in Costa Rica for a year, and will leave here for there November 13, but I also have made a plane reservation from Costa Rica to Madison {Wisconsin} for December 10. If I can work it out, I will take my 30 days special leave then. I have already talked with one of my new bosses, and he said he thought it could be arranged, so I am hopeful.

<Sofia and I will buy an engagement ring some time in the latter part of November.> That is if we don’t change our minds when we see each other again.

Right now I’m busy getting all my possessions together to fly down to Costa Rica the 13th. Yesterday afternoon I rode my bike from Peace Corps office out to where I live in Santa Tecla (about 13 kilometers) in rush-hour traffic. Two buses nearly ran me off the road. They don’t believe in watching out for the vulnerable one here, you watch out for yourself.

I want to give you my new Costa Rican address so you can send your next letter to me there:

    Dean Jefferson
    a/c Cuerpo de Paz
    Apartado Postal 1266
    San Jose, Costa Rica
    Centro America

The 26th {of October} I sent a package home by land mail with some books and Christmas gifts. You’ll know it when it arrives because I sent them in a big bamboo basket. Hope it arrives intact! I hope it makes it by Christmas this year; I sent it even earlier than last year. With luck I’ll be home when it gets there also.

The long dry season is starting here & it’s already too dusty for me. I’ll be glad to get down to Costa Rica where it is still raining.

A headline in today’s paper (not front page) said Ford was sure of winning the {United States presidential} election. He said he was going to do a “Truman”. I suppose you’ll know the winner when you get this. In the national papers here they tend to give Ford most of the coverage, considering him the official party candidate since he is the incumbent. Here the elections to be held next spring are already decided! General Carlos Humberto Romero of PCN {Partido de Conciliación Nacional or National Conciliation Party} will be duly elected unless there is a coup. The opposition parties have no candidate(s) yet.

As ever,


Journal, October 27, 1976 PM

Yes you meet some fine, fine people in Peace Corps. Today I was made aware once more of what exceptional people my two housemates are.

Mike {Shank} showed me a letter this morning. It was from a girl living in Honduras who had put an ad in Rolling Stone Magazine some time back inviting people to take part in an experiment. The experiment consisted of going out into the tropical wilds (somewhere in Honduras) and living off the land with only rudimentary hand tools. As she wrote to Mike, she got only 4 replies to the ad. One was from a businessman interested in investment opportunities. Another was from a Vietnam veteran who was in jail for I forget what crime. A third was from a Canadian physics major looking for a diversion before entering grad. school. And the fourth was from Mike. She had asked that each participant put up $2,000 toward the project. Only Mike had answered her follow-up letter describing the thing.

She’s a true believer in the Thoreau creed, simplify, simplify. Her integrity and dedication are very impressive. As Mike says, “She’s got her shit together.” She says she had a chance to carry out her project. Some guy she had been corresponding with wrote from Colombia that he had ripped off $10,000 from a Texan cocaine dealer. She told him to shove it; you see she doesn’t believe in breaking laws. Anyway, now she’s about given up the project, but she says she’ll be coming through El Salvador some time within the next few months, and she wants to meet Mike.

Mike’s an intense searcher, you see. He says there has to be a reason why we’re here, and he’s looking fort it. Writing to this chic with the communal living project was one manifestation. Going to live with Indians in the mountains of Mexico, and munch on peyote was another. Joining the British Sub Aqua Club (skin diving) was still another. And I have to add his use of the I Ching (Chinese book of changes). For all that intensity, Mike is a very gentle person. That makes him exceptional.

Steve {Pamperin} and I got to talking this evening, discussing where the world is headed. Steve is convinced that the industrialized countries will have to continue making concessions to the third world countries. He believes that, if the world is to reach a stable state by peaceful means, there will have to be economic leveling. I agree, but tend to believe it will have to be not just a change in relative wealth of countries, but also that of people within countries. Socialism is where the world is headed, though it can (and already does) exhibit many variations. Steve laments the imminent loss of some civil liberties, though he sees them compensated for by other “freedoms” (freedom to educate yourself, eat well, access to technological improvements). The rugged individualist will become extinct however, I’m afraid.

Steve is so thoughtful. He thinks deeply and on a world scope. He’s one of the meek who, if there indeed turns out to be ultimate justice, will inherit the earth. He’s also a very good economist and banker.

I rode my bike out here from Peace Corps Office after “work”. 2 buses nearly did me in, running me darn near onto the sidewalk. But all in all the trip was less nerve-wracking than I had anticipated.

Journal, October 27, 1976 AM

It’s remarkable how vivid a dream can be. I just awoke from one in which I was observing Gerald Ford move household items out of a big suburban house in the middle of a midwestern USA winter. After watching President Jerry go on down the road in a pickup, I found myself on a city block, shivering with a blanket round my shoulders, and saying goodbye to Mike Staigers. In a dream it can all seem so logical and appropriate too!

I sent my Christmas package off to the States yesterday morning. I hope it makes it in about 2 months. Last year I sent a package from San Salvador, and they had me fill out all the documentation very carefully. This time I sent it from here in Santa Tecla, and the guy took the blank form, said sign here & here, and without filling out anything but the value of the contents, he typed up my receipt and said, “Give me ten Colones and we’ll send it today.” He hadn’t put a stamp or anything on the package, so I was suspicious. I asked him about insurance, etc. but he didn’t listen to a word I said, obviously convinced he had a know-nothing, smart-assed Gringo {North American} on his hands. Rather doubtfully I forked over the ten pesos and stood around to see what he would do next. He typed up another receipt, for his office, and at length, feigning surprise at seeing me still there, said that was all. Mike Shank assured me later that that was standard procedure for Santa Tecla.

I went to the office yesterday, just to fill my chair I guess. I alternated reading my two books.

Brother Bruce sent me a letter. He implies that the folks aren’t too happy with the news that I’ll be staying an extra year in Peace Corps. He also says that Dad shoves a lot of work off on him when he’s home. Gert wrote one of her standard homey letters.

Journal, October 26, 1976 AM

I never went out to work today. Since I have nothing to do there, it really makes little difference, though it looks bad. I went to the Costarican Embassy. It appears they can wave the requirement of a ticket out of the country for entrance. I just have to go back to see them about a week before I leave.

I went shopping for Christmas gifts for my clan. One of the clear disadvantages of having a large family is that you have to buy so many Christmas presents that you can’t get something really nice for anybody. I copped out as usual and got the same thing for 5 of my 7 sisters. This year it is cloth to make themselves blouses or skirts. At least I got 5 different types of material.

I bought Jaime’s and Pilar’s wedding present, a beautiful Guatemalan blanket. I hope somebody buys me one some day. I doubt I ever get around to buying me one. For $24 U.S. you can get an exquisite hand-woven wool blanket. It’s more of a bargain than my cherished cowboy boots!

I have all my goodies packed away in a bamboo basket now, ready to send to the folks at home. It has become standard procedure for PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} here to send stuff home in these bamboo baskets with a “giant-weave” henequen bag (like they transport corn, melons, vegetables & pottery in here) around the outside. Land mail is cheap but slow. I’ll be fortunate if this basket gets home by Christmas. If I’m there, I’ll feel bad if it doesn’t.

I picked up a copy of Virgil’s (spelled Vergil on the cover) “Aeneid” today at Peace Corps Office. I plan to read it concurrently with “All Creatures Great & Small”. It should be an interesting duet. Thomas Jefferson believed in reading everything from the classics, through science, to novels to keep up his ongoing education.

Journal, October 25, 1976 AM

I went to check on the dog that bit me last Thursday. The woman who owns it is a mile-a-minute talker. She showed me the culprits, 6 healthy pups, and explained how she had an extra claw at the knee joint, which she had been told was a characteristic of dogs who didn’t get rabies. The dog was out wandering when I came, but she assured me she always put it in the house when there were rabid dogs about. She talked with the assurance of much experience in the matter. I tried not to let her see that her reassurances were making me more nervous about the matter!

The dog came back and looked perfectly O.K. so I took my leave, telling her I’d be back the next Sunday to see it again.

Dave Quarles is a compulsive arguer. He refuses to let you agree with him when he is in the mood to argue a point, which is almost always. It’s exasperating! But another week of Dave is all I may have in my life. I’ll miss the crazy dude; he’s amazing! I wonder if he’ll spend his whole life being a super extensionist, selling his philosophy with the technological practices he recommends. He’s well qualified for that role. He says there’s an 80% chance he’ll be back in El Salvador working for A.I.D. in January. He’d stay 6 months.

Journal, October 24, 1976 PM (continued)

Steve almost worships Dave. He thinks the key to Dave’s personality is that he is always completely self-assured and confident, partly because he is exceptionally intelligent. Thus Dave never wastes time questioning if he is doing the most productive thing, or making optimum use of his time. He just decides what’s to be done and does it. He’s tremendously energetic, bold and frank, all of which mean he gets a lot done! He detests inefficiency, laziness and social injustice, but doesn’t waste much time fretting over them. He notes them as obstacles and gets on about the task. Dave is amazing, & Steve may be as remarkable though he’s thoughtful and cautious, where Dave is blunt and damn-the-torpedoes. Steve’s acute insight concerning Dave makes me think he’s going to prove himself a very exceptional human being somewhere along the road.

Salvador Ticas has trafficked in marijuana and cocaine in Colombia, and traveled around the world working on ships. He also was Diego Cox’s counterpart in El Sauce for a year, and knew virtually all of the pastures and forages group stationed in the eastern zone. We chatted over beer last evening. He did most of the talking, striving as many people here do, to impress me with his worldliness and his genuine affection for Gringos {North Americans}. He was interesting to listen to though for he was not a drunk hanger-on, but a razor sharp, streetwise type. I want to note a couple views he expressed. The fact that he has traveled extensively, and been on both sides of the law (mostly operating in the vast gray area of the shady with an intense pragmatic self-interest and a personal morality) made me take more note of them than I otherwise would have. Ticas dislikes his native culture. He says his people are blind, not knowing how to treat each other or foreigners among them. He says all politics is the realm of the Mafia or just like the Mafia. He’s had first-hand dealings with the Mafia in the Colombian drug trade. He is convinced socialism is the only answer, at least for El Salvador, but knows the military and the rich are in control now, and that overt opposition is suicide.

Journal, October 24, 1976 PM (Sunday)

I spent the night out at San Vicente with Dave Quarles and Steve Baker, so I am just now writing. Dave talked me into going out to Amapulapa with the special train rented by the American Society.

It was easily the smoothest and most pleasant train ride I have ever taken in this country. They had the train all painted up, & all of the windows in the 6 passenger cars worked. There were no women with huge baskets or smelly campesino {peasant farmer} men in filthy old clothes snuggling up as close to you as possible. However, it was an expensive ride. 5 Colones for Peace Corps, which was only half the rate charged the American Society members, but still twice what you would pay for the round trip on a public train. Pop & beer were also expensive, but very cold.

More interesting than the trip was meeting some of the folks Dave knows. We ate lunch with some women from San Vicente. One girl is the home economics agent for the area. Dave plays the role of the jolly, generous Gringo {North American} perfectly and effortlessly, and so of course he’s a favorite with everyone. I think his manner is a good defense mechanism too. He never gets real close to anyone, has never had a “novia {girlfriend}” out there. He doesn’t seem to need to get any closer.

Steve Baker and I were talking about Dave this morning.

Journal, October 22, 1976 PM

Work was a completely unprecedented drag today. I read the new York Times and then my book, and that was all. Thank God I had an excuse to leave early! I had to see Dr. Zavaleta to show him my T.B. and another test. The T.B. was negative, but the other thing itches like crazy. It is a test for some kind of a yeast which settles in the lungs. I tested positive on it as have Jaime Olson, Ed Shiffer, Dale Cox and who knows who else. Dr. Zavaleta says 80% of the people in this country test positive for it. They don’t give us any treatment, but I’d still rather know I’ve been exposed to something than not know. It gives me something to worry about.

Dave Quarles talked me into going out to Amapulapa (a swimming resort) tomorrow with the American Society. It’ll be a trip to go on one of their outings before I leave. Dave’s here tonight, as is Gary Forest. Both are getting ready to terminate. What complete finality that Peace Corps term implies!

Journal, October 21, 1976 PM

The Cincinnati Reds won the 1976 World Series in 4 straight games. Tonight they took the final game 7-2, riding on two homers by Johnny Bench. Thurman Munson went 4 for 4 for the losing Yankees, making him an incredible 9 of 17 for the series. Bench went 8 of 15 for the series, so it may go down in history as the slug-it-out of two huge and talented catchers.

Baseball is a great sport for the casual observer. You can see 2 games all year and become a rabid and knowledgeable fan by the second one. The two Series games they aired down here are the only two baseball games I’ve seen since last year’s exciting Series.

A dog bit me today, a good hard one, above the top of my cowboy boot. I talked to the owner, and she said it was vaccinated last year. I hope I don’t have to get rabies shots. I can go back to check on the dog.

Letter, October 21, 1976

Hi everybody,

I got my absentee ballot yesterday, thanks Mom! I was worried that I wasn’t going to get to vote. I hope it gets there on time, I sent it today through the Embassy {United States Embassy in San Salvador}. I didn’t know who the guy was who was running for D.A. {District Attorney for Adams County, Wisconsin} so I left it blank. Some volunteers from other states have really complex ballots – they punch holes in computer cards and get a whole book of instructions with it!

I’m definitely going to be in Peace Corps in Costa Rica for at least another year. They have confirmed it. I’ll be leaving El Salvador November 13th for there. My address after that will be:

    Dean Jefferson
    a/c Cuero de Paz
    Apartado Postal 1266
    San Jose, Costa Rica
    Centro America

This morning I talked with one of the professors from the research center at the University of Costa Rica where I’ll be working. He said that he thought it could be arranged so that I could take my 30 days special leave at Christmas and go home. Since he’ll be one of my bosses, that makes me confident Peace Corps will let me go at that time. Today I plan to make a reservation to fly from San Jose {Costa Rica} to Madison {Wisconsin} for December 10 or 11. It’s hard to get reservations at Christmas time so I’ll try to make it now. That way if they let me go, I’ll be ready. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone up there.

Don’t bother to send me any more information from U.W. {University of Wisconsin – Madison}. Now that I’m sure I’ll be in Costa Rica for a year there’s no need. It’ll be a while before I get back to school now.

My new job sounds interesting. I’ll be traveling a good deal, seeing a lot of Costa Rica. Since I’ll be working out of the University {of Costa Rica} I may be able to sit in on some classes in the interest of keeping my mind sharp for when I want to return to school. Hang onto those “Scientific American” magazines, I’ll look at them when I get home and perhaps take some back down here with me.

I had my 2 year physical exam yesterday and the doctor said I was healthy. Some friends have had malaria, intestinal parasites and lingering chest colds, so I’m pleased to be pronounced healthy!

Looks like the dry season is here now. This morning it was cool and windy. When the north wind starts blowing, it usually means the rains are over with.

<I called Sofia on the phone last night.> She’s in good spirits & very busy with school. In about 3 weeks I’ll be down there with her.

Take care everybody,


Journal, October 20, 1976 PM

I may never see Edward Shiffer again. He left for Colombia this morning. It was an emotional scene. There were perhaps a hundred people at the airport to see him off. He had tears in his eyes when he finally broke out of the crowd, grasped his carryon bag and passed through the gate to board. It was the end of more than 4 ½ years of work with the urban poor of San Salvador. The mothers, the matrons who are closely associated with CREFAC class him with the most fabled saints of the Catholic Church. He is amazing.

He’s one of those who found themselves, their roles, their niches, in Peace Corps. I don’t think he was ever as close to people, that he ever felt emotion so intensely, back in the conservative, reserved society of Pennsylvania. He became a messiah, a pied piper of the poor and neglected, and they repaid him a million times over with their boundless love.

He didn’t ride a white horse though! Ed exhibits a hard-boiled, wise guy attitude on the surface, and when a situation calls for it he is all business. He’s no advocate of liberal largesse, but a pragmatic conservative. He’s justly proud of having wrenched CREFAC’s purse strings from a few “do-gooders” and given it a good steady source of financing. Of course under his hard shell he is as soft as combed cotton. But only his friends know it.

I’m going to meet tomorrow with Dr. Roland Echandi of the University of Costa Rica. I finally made contact with him today by phone. It seems he is one of the people I’ll be working with for the next year. He works with the Grain and Seed Research Center.

Dr. Zavaleta says I’m healthy. I had my final Physical in Peace Corps El Salvador today. I’m a little fat is all. I need to get more exercise to feel A-1.

<My second phone call to Sofia went a lot smoother than the first.> I had more good news for one thing, that I’ll be there November 13 at 11:30 AM, for one thing. She’s wholly immersed in her studies. I get momentarily blown away by that, but quickly recall that I was worse! She’s into some kind of hassle with Pilar. Pilar wants her to go to the wedding with some friend of Pilar’s since I have to go with the maid of honor, Nuria. <Sofia for some reason just doesn’t like the idea.> I had to reign myself in to keep out of it. I’m sure I don’t know (or care to know) the half of it. Get ye behind me Peyton Place!

Journal, October 20, 1976 AM

There are days so full of living they leave no time or desire for the time for telling or recording. Jaime {Olson} and Ed {Shiffer} leave El Salvador later this morning. I have toasted to them and must sleep a few hours.

Journal, October 18, 1976 PM

November 13th looks like the big day. The day I leave El Salvador behind me and begin my year’s stint in Costa Rica. {Peace Corps El Salvador Director} John Jones said that leaving the 13th seemed reasonable, and said he would start on the paperwork. I’ve started my physical with Dr. Zavaleta.

Tomorrow I have to call Dr. Echandi from Costa Rica. Chico {Rodriguez, Peace Corps Agriculture Program Director} says he knows him. He works with the Costa Rica Ministry of Agriculture. I hope he brings me info. from Juan Coward {Peace Corps Costa Rica Agriculture Program Director}.

I’m reading “All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriot. I polished off a couple chapters at work this morning before heading over to Peace Corps Office in the afternoon. It is pleasant, engrossing reading, but just entertaining, not profound. Amazingly, Herriot’s first employer (another veterinarian only several years his senior) had two old cars, a Hillman and an Austin, just like Profy Gomez had at El Maizal! Profy’s {Hillman} had to be a little newer, but precious little I assure you, even as I assure you they were at least as unreliable!

Journal, October 17, 1976 PM

Dave Quarles is here again tonight, after staying last night and then leaving early for Sonsonate. He asked me tonight why I joined Peace Corps. “Because I didn’t like the other options I had at the time, and to give me time to think about what I wanted to do with my life,” I replied. Dave had been planning to go into Peace Corps or another international volunteer program since his sophomore year in college. He says he even didn’t let himself get seriously involved with some nice girls because he planned to go into Peace Corps! Dave, living in Virginia, visited Peace Corps Washington {D.C.} and cased the whole operation before he applied. Dave is systematic! Still, he ended up switching from the pastures & forages program into multicultivos {multiple cropping} at the last minute, when already trained for pastures & forages.

I unloaded a bombshell later in the same conversation. At least Steve Pamperin thought it was a bombshell. I said as it turned out I would probably spend three years in Peace Corps, get marriage out of the way, and be able to settle down to something permanent when I got back. I guess my cavalier treatment of marriage was a bit much for Steve. Sometimes I can write it off like that. After all, objectively, a woman-shy guy like me just has it too hard being single, torn between forgetting about women entirely and devoting all energy to study, and putting in the time with a woman who is also rather reserved (bossy women scare me to death) to get some decent loving! A guy like me ought to marry a nice, rather conservative chic and get about studying or doing whatever other activity he thinks might make him a useful human being.

Journal, October 17, 1976 AM (Sunday)

With cleanup from the party last night and the after-party session with some of the folks, I am just getting to my diary at 25 to 2.

It was the kind of bash that had to happen before Ed’s {Shiffer} departure. It lasted from about 3:30 ‘til after midnight here at Steve’s {Pamperin} apartment, and I don’t think anyone got any sleep at Ed’s. 12 or 13 cases of beer were consumed, plus a little hard liquor. Ed wore out several partners dancing the Latin dances like a teenager. Finally at about 10:30 it began to rain hard, but Ed didn’t go inside. He and some of his drunken buddies from among the CREFAC teenagers formed a line and went goose-stepping through puddles singing popular Spanish songs.

There were so many fireworks, at one point I was trying to set off a “volcano” and had to retreat inside under fire! Things got out of hand.

So many kids came off the street to join the festivities, that they ate most of our hamburgers and hot dogs. Many invited guests got little or nothing to eat. I was cooking the hot dogs, and they would just crowd around so close I couldn’t move without touching someone. I can’t take much of that. I feel trapped & get upset.

Thank God it’s over. Now only the crying remains before Ed leaves. He’ll probably even cry himself. Being around these emotional people almost 5 years, he’s come to feel emotion very strongly too. I sometimes wonder if he might have adapted to the culture of the people he works with. He drinks too much, and finds his release in a wild time just like they do. Those teenagers that he should be setting a mature & responsible example for were drunk to the point of belligerency last night. And so it goes.

<I sent Sofia a telegram yesterday.> I’ll call her the 20th. I should know when I’ll fly down by then & where I’ll be staying. Maybe I’ll even have my reservation.

Journal, October 16, 1976 AM

“Today’s the day you hear the mice say, today is the day of the great mouse ball.”

Actually today is the day of the “despedida {farewell party}” for Jaime Olson, David Quarles and Edward Shiffer. I will have good reason to celebrate too. Yesterday I received a telegram from Costa Rica (through the embassy, U.S. State Department, unclassified) saying they want me down there by November 15th. John Jones {Peace Corps El Salvador Director} has seen it too, so it looks like all systems are go! They also want me to talk to some professor who is coming here the 19th or 20th of this month, about what I don’t know.

Right now, I just moved Twitchel, Steve Hays’ “Lora” (large parakeet), off my clothes rack and outside. He was starting to chew on one of Jaime Olson’s shirts! I moved him out onto a ladder, but he’s flown down, and now is pestering me, trying to bite my bare toes. He can say a few words already (he’s young though full-grown), like burra, lorita, culero and carbon (the last two of which are Spanish vulgarities).

We played basketball again yesterday, losing by either one or two points in a brutal, completely uncontrolled game. The team we played has absolutely no sense of sportsmanship. I saw one guy punch Mike Shank (a clear-cut boxing punch), and then when Mike got upset he turned and played the innocent babe, only self-righteously indignant of being falsely accused! I shouldn’t play in games like that; it upsets me too much. I even got into the game end argument a bit and it’s not my custom. I can’t believe that grown men (most in their late 20’s and early 30’s) could be such general pricks. In a league that is just for fun, no prizes, in every little action on the court, they try to antagonize. They knock the ball away after they make a shot. They play with the ball and then set it down where it is or bounce it off their head in your general direction when a foul or turnover is called on them. They systematically beat on anyone who drives the bucket or gets a pass inside. Even in American football you can’t get away with punching, slapping and elbowing like that. And then they go bitching to the referee every time you turn around it seems. I’m simply not going to play with that bunch again. As Mike says, it brings out our bad side too. I’ve gotten worked up again just writing about it. Twitchel is going through his entire repertoire of words and whistles.

There was a “pregnant party” for Holly & Mark Roddy last night. I was in the mood for a few drinks & had them, plus great food. There are lots of good cooks in Peace Corps El Salvador.

<Sofia wrote too.> We’ve got our signals crossed. She says she’s expecting my phone call the 20th. Actually that would be better. I’ll be about to talk to that professor (or whatever he may be) from Costa Rica by then.