Journal, January 10, 1977 AM

I am sitting on my Northwest jet, which has just begun its mechanical whine. I have had my last whiff of cold, fresh Wisconsin air for about a year. It felt entirely as refreshing as my first whiff December 10.

It has been an odyssey, this 30-day break in my foreign service. At times I have had to stop & carefully reassess my situation in order to reassure myself that what was going on around me was not only very real, but also logical & understandable given the people involved, the limits of their experience and perspectives, and so forth. Each of my family members, my friends or acquaintances is engrossed completely in a life which I have not been a part of for two years, and will not be a part of for another year. My visit was like being in a time warp. I was privileged to get a brief glimpse of changes in progress that will partially determine future events in the lives of my world of acquaintances.

I went to my cousin Rosemary Krejchik’s wedding on Saturday. It was a perfectly done, unpretentious, modern, religiously very proper Catholic wedding. She had a chorus with guitar accompaniment in the church, yet a simple, peasant-style wedding gown she made herself. She wore a crown of roses, and the brothers and sisters of the couple carried flowers to place in a basket on the altar. There were two priests on hand who took turns quoting scripture and calling for the ritual audience responses.

The Krejchik relatives come to weddings & funerals, and this was no exception. From Arkansas, Arizona, & of course Illinois & Wisconsin, they came to wish the last of Charles Krejchik’s children (and his only daughter) well on her wedding day.

The reception was a perfect lunch of excellent food, a little punch and lots of reminiscing among folks who hadn’t seen one another in 5, 10, 15 or more years. There was no alcohol and no need for any. The Krejchiks continue to be non-drinkers. I felt relaxed around them. They tend toward easygoing conservatism and impressive practical intelligence. Among them there is none of the tension and expectation of imminent personality clash you find in any gathering of the Jeffersons.

Rosemary’s husband (sister Donna reports) is a Californian who is a grad. student at U.W.-Madison {University of Wisconsin} and a math whiz who will soon go to Europe to show some folks a theory he’s developed. He doesn’t look his age. I felt a funny clairvoyant surge as he (name: James Wilson) and Rosemary stood before the altar. I interpreted it as a premonition that Rosemary would perhaps have some strong future influence in my life. After learning from Donna about James, I think perhaps I will come into contact with him in my academic future. I usually place no faith in such “rushes,” but now it is recorded in case anything comes of it.

I saw Bruce play basketball yesterday with his men’s league team. He is a player who has developed his limited abilities very well using his intelligence. (Bruce is extremely sharp. I am convinced he could be a 3.5 GPA student if he devoted his mind to that end.) Bruce hustles and plays intelligent ball; he is unselfish, yet a decent shooter. His team won handily. I hope he learns to do other things as systematically as he plays & manages his team. Like Mom & Dad, he tends to have “too many logs in the fire” consistently.

The skies are clearer now, you can make out features on the ground easily, and there is no snow. I hope we don’t get to Miami too late for me to make my connection. Atlanta GA is on our left, says the pilot, but I see only green country on the right.

Tonight (assuming the best!) I will drop into a whole other world of folks with expectations & obligations directed at me. <I hope Sofia has taken my absence well.> I received no word from her after my birthday card, & at that time she had received no word from me & was nerved up about my neglecting or even forgetting her. When will she learn to trust me?

I bought the canned asparagus for Doña Carmen’s mother in a market in Portage {WI} enroute to the wedding. I will be surprised if she is ever again well enough to enjoy it. Still it was an obligation.

<I have cheese & sausage to please the natives, & two big chocolate bars, plus special chocolates for Sofia.> If I make it through customs intact, it will be a pleasant “homecoming.”

I bought a shortwave radio / cassette recorder combination in Madison. <It will be entertainment for Sofia & I when we are on our own, and I expect I’ll be able to resell it when I leave Costa Rica.> I have a Carly Simon tape & a blank. I will try to buy some good material in Spanish to take back north with me.

We are passing over Plains, Georgia, home of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, & a brand new tourist attraction!

<I still feel basically right about my decision to marry Sofia.> It will be a tough first few years both financially & in terms of social adjustment, but she values honesty & fidelity as I do, & I think she’ll amaze everyone with her adaptability to new situations. My task will be always to point out the beautiful & interesting things, and keep her from getting uptight by giving her my faith & love.

Journal, January 6, 1977 PM

Oh, today I am in Madison {WI} visiting Jan and taking care of business. I drove down here yesterday via Edgerton and Stoughton, carrying my expired driver’s license. I dropped Donna off in her little small town world and hospital, a Peyton Place. Then I stopped in to see sister Mary, return some baby stuff of hers & say goodbye.

I went to the daycare center where Jan works, & made a hit with the kids. They warmed to me immediately. It was fun for a half-day or so, but the attention-demanding little darlings would wreck my nerves in less than a week. Jan even talks about switching jobs.

I went up State Street to try to get some of my errands run, and bought a radio / tape recorder as I had thought of doing. I also made the first contact to try to get Mom & Dad into a Costa Rica tour that begins on the day of my wedding. I hope it works out.

Last evening there was a 3-hour NBC special on violence in America. As its example of rural crime, it featured my hometown & county. There have been a series of homicides there under unusual circumstances. They ignored the factor of a new federal prison in the county, dwelled upon the freak murder of an 18-yearold local girl by her flipped out boyfriend (reportedly, he is the incredibly spoiled son of the local banker), and concluded with the idea that local folks live in constant fear & tension. Jan described the grieving mother of the dead girl as a bleached blond aggressive gossip, who pushed her child to be the sex symbol she fantasized being. In today’s Capital Times {a Madison newspaper} the girl’s father got his lick in saying Friendship was the most vicious small town he had ever seen.

Funny, in 3 weeks I completely missed out on the paranoia! Perhaps a man is blindest to his own environment, but I didn’t see any good representatives of the old guard, solid citizens in the footage. NBC seemed to be talking to the types who told them what they wanted to hear. They came into Friendship with a thesis, & cut & narrated their film to support it.

Journal, January 6, 1977 AM

Yesterday I passed the quarter of a century mark, reaching 25 years of age. Today I feel old. Twenty-five years I’ve lived and done nothing to distinguish myself. I feel like a young man with “a great future in his past.” This phrase was given me by a former Rhodes Scholarship winner who was a U.W. {University of Wisconsin-Madison} administrative officer & on the Wisconsin Rhodes Scholarship selection committee when I competed for a scholarship. He said that was the classic description of a Rhodes Scholar, a man with a great future in his past. Everyone thought I had great potential when I was in high school & college. I still believe that I do.

Yesterday, moneymaking schemes were humming in my brain. Life would be so much less tension inspiring if I had some real money to play around with, like $10,000+. I still keep coming back to the imperative of writing newspaper articles or something for a magazine, and trying to sell it. The idea is lodged in my brain. Now if only I could raise myself to the action level. I’ll just have to hope for a prize in the Publishers’ Clearinghouse sweepstakes. I received an entry form & gambled the stamp to send it back. Everyone is looking for a free lunch, right?


Images, January 1977

{ View of the central valley from a hilltop in La Asunción de Belén, Heredia, Costa Rica. }


Journal, December 31, 1976 PM

<I wonder what Sofia is doing?> I feel a certain emptiness not being with her. I have no one I can really hold on to.

It just became 1977 in New York; Dick Clark gave the countdown in Times Square. What lonely people they must be, those that stand out in the cold in Times Square to welcome in another year. Of course they’d be drunk . . .

I remember some years ago when I watched “For Whom the Bell Tolls” on New Year’s {Eve}. I was the only one at home & they showed the movie without commercials. They just interrupted it at 12 to announce the new year. I had read the book, I loved Hemingway’s novels, and was completely engrossed in the movie.

<I remember last year with Sofia in my arms. We snuck off behind a pine tree to embrace and her older sister found us. We took lots of pictures and drank very little. Skip Baker said Sofia was “foxy.”> It was a great party at Ed Stoll’s.

I’m glad I didn’t go out this year. It would have been forced & hollow to get bombed. I think I’ll have a beer on top of my two brandy & 7-Ups, and listen to some more bubble gum music!

Journal, December 27, 1976 AM

Now that “Happy Days” is over I will attempt to write a few sentences. My time is not my own here, especially now that more of the family is here for the holidays. From the time I get up to go to the barn in the morning, until I go to bed, I figure in other people’s plans to the extent that I feel I have lost control of me. I must discipline myself better if I hope to get things done which I have set for myself as goals while home. I’ve already developed a singular dread of going to the Congregational Church to talk with a pastor I don’t know.

We went to Neenah {WI}, to Jaime’s patents’ farm. It couldn’t have gone much better or much more predictably. Mom & Dad found the Olsons extra-especially good folks, as I knew they would. Dad talked farming at his customary rapid rate, leaving poor Mr. Olson just a bit dazed I suspect. Mrs. Olson keeps a fine house, is a fine traditional wife, like I expect Pilar will be. My folks liked Pilar & were impressed with the way she is standing the cold & learning English.

Bruce is sitting on the other end of the couch, checking out “The Odessa File,” and Tom is at my elbow in the lounge chair starting on “Walden.” Marcia brought a pile of books up with her from Nashville, including the {Lord of the Rings} trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. She arrived last night. We are a family of readers & investigators! Even Donna, who I used to think of as the least analytic, was impressing me yesterday with her powers of reasoning. We were driving back from Madison in the pickup after taking Jan some wood we’d chopped. She’s sharp in the business sense of that term. She can spot a fast-talking salesman or a charmer, & she has her own immediate future plans so well laid out as to put old “methodical Dean” to shame. She has the man she wants to marry, has known him for 5 years, and is satisfied with him. She plans to take driving lessons, get her license, & get a car this spring.

Donna’s very open, which makes her pleasant to be around, but her personality is still fragile. You have to be supportive, which I’m usually talented at, though being on her own has done absolute honest-to-gosh WONDERS.

Mary is the most disappointing to me, I guess. She’ll never learn to appreciate her youngest siblings as people / equals! Even Marcia claims she is treated like a child by her. Mary & David came with kids, stock & barrel on Christmas Eve & spent the night. The tension was so thick in this house at times it resembled the fog of Ken Kesey’s novel, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” However, not even Jan blew up when Mary said, “I thought I looked bad!” in response to Jan’s modeling of her new army pants, and it passed. Everyone but Dad thinks Mary & David should start their own Christmas at {their} home. They both do make overt (& unfunny) verbal jabs at the rest of us kids. It was painfully obvious this Christmas, but damned if it makes any sense.

Merna came for a night & a morning, and was OK, but what do you say to a smart, slick, good-lookin’, fine-dressin’ businesswoman in a sports car? The rest of us have so little in common with her & boyfriend Greg Friday. Warren Barnes, a local boy now living in Florida (former boyfriend of Marcia), is their friend, and provides the closest link to us. He is very down-home friendly.

I feel like one of the clan at home now, you will note. I even use “us.”

Journal, December 21, 1976 PM

I’m such a sentimentalist. I swear it’s involuntary or if socially learned it has penetrated deep! I’ll be listening to music & the combination of emotion-stimulating instrumental and direct-to-the-soul vocal will cause tears to well up in my eyes and my breathing rhythm to be broken. “When You’re a Free man Again” by Moody Blues did it to me, and an old Jim Croce tune . . .

I’m at home semi-vegetating today. Some folks claim they need pot to be able to do this. It only fogs up my mind or makes me yawn or puts me to sleep.

I read a bit about Lorenz, the physicist turned behaviorist, who was so controversial when I left the U.S. I think he got entirely too much attention. He’s looking for an ultimate solution to a perpetual problem, asocial people in society. How are we going to select out or otherwise “weed out” genetic defectives when we don’t know yet to what extent social behavior is dependent upon genetic factors as opposed to socialization factors? His work on goose imprinting was useful. His interpolations into human interrelationships are unsubstantiated speculation. He never says who will decide who is genetically defective, and seems to ignore the inherent political nature of such a decision. Enough!

I called up Jaime Olson in Neenah {WI} yesterday. He & Pilar made the trip in fine shape & will expect our visit tomorrow. I hope Mom & Dad don’t pull out at the last minute. They have been luke warm about the idea of going up there from the start.


Journal, December 20, 1976 AM

I’ve been delinquent again. Partly, my not writing more often is due to all the demands on my time here. I’m depended upon to do my share of the chores (like loading feed this morning), and I try to go to things, like the basketball game last Friday. However, I also recognize that I am slipping (all too comfortably) into my old “at home” attitude. Do the chores, B.S. with the family & plop yourself down in front of the T.V. to be entertained. Old habits come back easily, especially the bad ones!

Yesterday we (Mom, Dad & I) went to visit my sister Mary & her husband in Stoughton {WI}. We stopped by Jan’s in Madison to dump some stuff & arrived just in time for the football game. David is an avid fan, so our whole visit was centered around the big RCA color T.V. The two toughest teams, Pittsburg & Baltimore, were playing in a preliminary to “Super Bowl.” It was the best offense in the NFL against the best defense, the irresistible force meets the immovable object, etc., etc. So it was a must game for all real fans. We ate our ham, giant lima beans, jello, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie on tray tables while watching Pittsburg maul, stomp and otherwise brutalize outclassed Baltimore. Brian Olsen (1½ years) provided the most excitement as he sashayed around the room, causing much minor havoc & loads of laughs, in open defiance of the epic struggle on the screen.

Note: I am down on American football since a game I saw Saturday between New England and Oakland. New England dominated the game on the line of scrimmage all day, and was winning with about 4 minutes to go. They had the ball & were moving it. Then the referees missed the most blatant pass interference I have ever seen on a fourth down play, & Oakland got the ball. Later, with Oakland in a 3rd or 4th and 18 situation the refs called roughing the passer on New England when the defender was in the air jumping at the quarterback when he released the ball. He may have tipped it. Still Oakland couldn’t seem to score on their own. It took another penalty, which gave them the ball on the New England one. They scored on second down.

After all that I was more than half convinced that what was involved was not just referee incompetence. The fact is that betting on U.S. professional football is big, big business, and it is common knowledge that the Oakland vs. New England game was the bookmakers’ and betting houses’ sure thing. All the “experts” (old fuddy duddies who are so conservative it sometimes makes them blind) picked ‘perennial playoff team’ Oakland over the ‘Cinderella team’ New England by at least a touchdown. Perhaps I have been in El Salvador too long, but given that those betting places would lose a bundle in the event that New England won, it is not implausible that they would buy the referees for “insurance.” I can’t get the idea out of my head, & it disgusts me the more because I still have a passion for the first sport I took an interest in, American football!

Sister Mary said I was being very quiet & asked me about El . . . Rica. Everyone {here} confuses the countries, & no one can remember which one I spent 2 years in. I think I made a disclaimer and a few trivial remarks, and she was satisfied. David’s sows are having small litters & dead pigs, & they have a virus in the hogs. Their corn only yielded 42 bushels per acre. His mother broke her hand when she fell on their steps while bringing groceries to Mary. And so it goes.

We got a phone call in the fourth quarter. An old man, who has taken over as Donna’s surrogate father, called to say she was in the hospital. Donna had gotten hit by a driver who hadn’t seen her crossing the street. We went to see her. She’s all bruised up, but is in the same hospital where she works as a dietician, so she’s having no hassles. She has her little world of the hospital & small town all figured out. She has people who look out for her, like Vic, the old man. She has a boyfriend. She’s pretty content, & I’ll leave it at that.

Journal, December 16, 1976 AM

I was in Madison {WI} yesterday and got myself a new toy. I had intended to buy an electronic calculator while I was home, & the family got wind of it & decided to buy it for me. I picked out a Texas Instruments SR-40, and Jan wrote a check for it. I was in Madison to take Jan back, & we had hoped to go visit Mary also, but she wasn’t home.

The calculator is just what I wanted. It cost $42, but does sine and inverse sine functions, all roots & powers, logs & antilogs, etc. Ro get a more sophisticated one you have to pay about twice what I did (what the folks did!).

I’m being put to work here at the farm. My labor is being duly exploited, but I’m enjoying it for now. Yesterday morning I helped with the milking, helped load corn for Dad to grind feed, went with Jan to cut wood (I ran the chain saw, she carried wood.), and helped Dad unload the feed & clean the manure out of the barn. We use a mechanical barn cleaner. In the afternoon I took Jan back to Madison, & got back in time to take Dad’s place for the evening milking. He and Mom had a banquet to go to in Wisconsin Rapids. Who ever said life was slow paced down on the farm, has not been “down on the farm” lately. I’m newly amazed at how hard my parents work daily.

Mary Ann Carr, the former member of Peace Corps’ Costa Rica nursing program & friend of Diego Cox, sent me a Christmas card with a picture from the party we had at Charlie Mayer’s house in San Salvador. She’s so sweet.

Journal, December 13, 1976 AM

My days have been very full since I arrived in Madison {WI} Friday night. I have done nothing special, except get back together with the family and adjust myself to their pace. They are very energetic, active folks, every one. I had half forgotten.

I was the last standby passenger to get on the last flight out of Chicago on Friday. <I’m not yet ready to credit it to Sofia’s cross, but it was very fortunate.> Jan met me at the airport in a borrowed car. It turned out very fortunate that Mom & Dad did not come down to meet me. They’d have been waiting impatiently 3½ hours, or perhaps given up on me & gone home.

Jan took me to her place & we drank hot chocolate & talked with her roommate, smoked a joint and went to bed. In the morning we went down to the campus (of University of Wisconsin) and meandered about. I bought a Spanish-English dictionary at the bookstore and checked out electric calculator prices. There was one for $39 that has about what I want. I think it will be a good investment as I should be able to sell it when I leave Costa Rica at a small profit.

We went into a head shop so Jan could buy (Continued at 2:30 PM, after Dad got tired of discussing with me & went to sleep.) cigarette papers and I was confronted by something the U.S. has which Costa Rica and other Central American countries definitely don’t, a store totally and openly dedicated to selling all of the accessories needed (or that one might desire) to smoke marijuana and hashish. I picked up my lower jaw quickly so as not to be too conspicuous.

In Rennebolm’s {pharmacy} Jan & I had a hot chocolate, and were discussing Costa Rica & the business of learning a second language, when the woman sitting next to me put in that her husband was Mexican and told us about some of the problems he’d had trying to learn English. Jan says Milwaukee and Madison are becoming important centers for the Chicano movement, and that they have acquired significant Hispanic American populations.

Anyway, I saw Bruce about 1:30 when he showed up to take us home. Still, I was lost in thoughts of the past that kept swimming through my head. Everything I saw brought back an association from 2+ years back. My perceptive powers molded what was there to fit my memories surely, but also nothing radically unlike my past experience broke the mood. Bruce didn’t break it. The fact that he was driving a car I’d never seen before, the folks’ “new” Comet, didn’t alter it. Landmarks along the route from Madison to Friendship were largely unchanged. The house looked the same.

My first big jolt was lying on the couch in the living room as I strolled in. I had already greeted Carla. She was bigger, and showed physical signs of blossoming womanhood, but the voice & manner were unaltered. Anyway, as I walked into the living room, I noticed a young man lying on the couch. He saw me as well, and got up nimbly and came rapidly toward me, extending his hand and saying, “Dean, how you doing boy?” I was momentarily stunned. I took his hand and replied, “Good to see you, Tom.” But actually, I half expected to be told he was a neighbor or friend or . . . As I expressed those thoughts, everyone smiled & nodded knowingly. Yes, Tom had grown a lot, and his voice had changed. He had filled out some. I must have sounded like a broken record the rest of the day, talking about the new Tom. I still find myself kind of looking sideways at him and cautiously studying his movements, seemingly to reassure myself that I am dealing with one person in two time frames instead of separate people! Also, he is the most interesting family member to study in terms of personal development. I’ve always had high expectations for him, & it appears everyone else in the family does also.

Saturday night Bruce and I tipped a few beers at his favorite place. Bruce has become the responsible big brother of the family, smoothly and completely. He told me he could never bear to see the farm go out of the family’s hands, and that he expected that if something sudden happened to Dad, or if no one else took it over, that he would take over the farm. He’s matured almost more than I would have wished. But clearly my cutting myself off so completely from the folks & farm was the crucial factor in it. I’m both feeling a little guilty that I dumped on him the responsibility I had borne, and feeling very proud and satisfied with the way he has borne that responsibility. He’s even recognized that Jan has a major problem because she can’t sustain satisfying relationships with men. The younger kids are beginning to analyze and propose solutions for the problems of their elder brethren. It’s good; it’s very healthy. I must strive to avoid playing the overbearing older brother.

My parents also please me. Dad tends to dominate conversations as much as ever, but the breadth and depth of the things he is thinking about are impressive: tax laws, local& international politics, the importance of choosing a good woman, birth control, education, transferring the farm to the next generation. The farm remains firm as Gibraltar in the center of Dad’s universe. It was “the living” for his parents, his family, he & his wife, and for our family. We must keep it in the family. This is not a threat or an order directed at me, but a statement of unalterable belief & faith, even a kind of pleading, as he’s well aware that we the children will decide the fate of this piece of the Earth in which he has invested so much of his once boundless energy. Now at 55 he would like to be already started on transferring it to his heir. I sense that I’m still his choice, & that Tom ranks above Bruce. Bruce however is my bet to do it. He’s already told me he’s found the woman, & she’s "a lot like Mom."

Mother never says much, but she exudes moral & mental power. Dad admits she has always been the support & counsel he needed to do what they have. But he told me today, “She will never make a business decision, she always has left that to me. I have decided everything.”


Journal, December 10, 1976 PM

I’m in Chicago. If I’m not pretty lucky I may be in Chicago until tomorrow. My flight out of Guatemala today was held up an hour and a quarter while the Guatemalan Air Force demonstrated their proficiency by dropping smoke bombs on the runway! That’ll show those British!

As a result I missed my connecting flights to Chicago & Madison. I got another flight here, but there is only one more flight to Madison tonight (North Central {airline} - 10 PM), and they don’t know if they have space. I’m on standby. I hope to heck my folks didn’t come all the way down from Friendship {WI} to meet me. I was supposed to be there at 7:35 and when I wasn’t on the flight, they surely were worried as all get out. My present plan is that if I get to Madison late and no one is there, I’ll take a cab to DTS {fraternity} and spend the night there. I don’t know Jan’s or Merna’s phone numbers to call them.

<Sofia didn’t cry this morning.> She played it just right. You’re going, but you’re coming back. <A sister and nephew also saw me off.>

I had interesting conversations on each flight:

San Jose to Guatemala City - I sat next to a guy from Riverside, California who is working with the national planning office in Costa Rica. He’s a technocrat economist, but a guy concerned about people, a very intelligent guy. We traded impressions of Central America.

Guatemala City to Miami - (There were 2) (1) A friendly, conventional Guatemalan school teacher who said I looked like her son, & paid my Spanish the complement of asking if I was Guatemalan. (2) A Borden Company executive who works out of New York, travels extensively to Europe & Latin America, lived 10 years in Venezuela and is from Minnesota. In a word, he was fascinating to talk to. Among other tidbits he said the Minister of Agriculture of El Salvador is a great guy, knows nothing about agriculture, but is a great guy. He talked some about the things corporations do routinely to get contracts in Latin America. Wining and dining the military is standard procedure in countries like El Salvador. He’s a pragmatist & a cynic. He doesn’t like it all, but it’s business. We discussed the world milk market, & the relative utility of education & land reform as methods of spreading the benefit of development. He’s for education & against land reform. He makes a strong case. Apparently even petty airline employees will help you for a price in Central America, according to one remark he made. I freely admit that I don’t know how to react to basically good, right-minded, intelligent, but (a la vez {at the same time}) cynically pragmatic people like him. I find the same cold, calculating sentiment in me. I do sense that it’s dangerous & must be carefully controlled if one wants to be a moral human being.

Miami to Chicago - A lab equipment salesman for southern Michigan & northern Indiana, who was very friendly & decent. He was coming back from a company short course & all fired up about it. He was in the army in Germany & could sympathize with many of my Peace Corps experiences. His friend, a Chicago native, helped me find the baggage claim area. Nice guys, but very much content to be company men & put any excess energy into their private lives.

You meet interesting people traveling, & there is a certain sense of comradeship. Today I was fortunate in that respect.

Journal, December 9, 1976 PM

{some text not transcribed} We had a great trip to Turrialba yesterday. It’s a 2-hour ride in bus one way, but the journey is picturesque, with dairy farms, some forest, mountain streams & {sugar} cane & banana plantations. <Two of Sofia’s sisters and a nephew went along and made it quite a family affair.> It was like my family, all women!

The “balneario” (Las Americas) in Turrialba was just a good-sized pool with swings & other apparatus around it, plus a big dance salon. Still, it wasn’t crowded & the water was agreeable. <The nephew provided entertainment for all.> First, he wouldn’t go near the water, but with much coaching & coaxing he was persuaded to enter the kiddy pool. Then of course when we were ready to leave, he wanted to stay, & I had to carry him out of the pool.

{some text not transcribed}

<Sofia says I have 4,500 Colones invested in her. She announced that over beer at “El Ranchito” in Santo Domingo de Heredia (One sister & a boyfriend invited us.).> She’s as bad as Jaime {Olson} as a price dropper, & it upsets me a bit. I’m not trying to buy a wife!

Journal, December 7, 1976 PM

<I ran into Sofia and her older sister on the 5:10 bus from San Jose.> They had been buying material for the wedding dress & were pretty bushed. <The dress is coming out expensive, but It’ll be what Sofia wants and surely become a family heirloom.> I just hope I can come up with enough money to do the wedding like I want to. Well, there’ll never be enough money, can’t be, but hopefully we’ll pull the thing off and make a good party of it.

I’ve been writing Christmas cards, que pereza {what a drag}! I have to get the ones for El Salvador done to send Thursday. The U.S. ones I’ll send from home.

<Sofia, her sister & I are going to Turrialba tomorrow, to a swimming place there.> I hope it doesn’t cost much. I gave her nearly all of my money for the dress, and I’m down to less than 70 Colones.

Doña Carmen’s mother will undergo an operation at 9 AM Friday. Whatever the outcome, I’m glad I won’t be here for the immediate aftermath. Doña Carmen has the ability to upset everyone around her when she is upset.

My rat poison claimed its first visible victim. Doña Carmen found a large dead rat under my bed today. One for the good side!

Journal, December 7, 1976 Noon

<Sofia took her first look at my journal this morning.> She read a bit from the first part of this volume & more than anything else was disappointed to not find herself mentioned. Meanwhile, I was wondering what I would do if she stumbled upon last Sunday’s entry. She didn’t, but she was looking at the diary as we sat in front of the priest’s home waiting for him to open up for office hours, and I was in the middle of explaining to her an entry discussing the principal character’s befriending of a prostitute in {the movie} “Taxi Driver” when the office door opened and the priest walked out. <We never resumed our discussion of the diary, except that Sofia said she was going to translate it into Spanish & publish it!>

The priest is a very polite & proper fellow, but I was hoping for more depth of character. He asks nothing of us except the proper papers to make his task routine. He showed me Jaime’s letter from his church and said something like that would be fine. I couldn’t bring myself to begin a philosophical discussion of why I didn’t consider myself associated with any church or desire to be so affiliated. It seemed we were discussing a purely administrative matter. He would have to request a dispensation from the bishop, which takes 15 days, and we would need witnesses and certification of birth & being single, etc., etc. I guess I’ll see if I can get some sort of paper from my childhood church. I don’t think I was ever baptized, though I held a near perfect attendance record in Sunday School for 11 years.

Work goes on. We went to the university experimental farm this morning, & we are measuring percentage of broken kernels in rice samples. I got all of my documents & my ticket for the flight {home} at Peace Corps Office this morning. Looks like nothing can hold me back now. <Sofia goes completely silent whenever I mention the trip home.> She doesn’t like it much, but seems to have made up her mind to accept it & leave it at that.

Journal, December 6, 1976 PM

{some text not transcribed}

Anyway, it was a mellow day at the “balneario {swimming place}” of the “Country Club” in Alajuela, and I got time to write a couple letters, & make my list for Christmas cards between swimming trip & evening mass. We had no luck talking with the “Padre {Priest}.” He was in La Rivera for a special “fiesta patronal {patron saint festival}” mass, and another guy substituted. Now D-day is tomorrow. <At 07:35 AM Sofia & I will meet in front of the Padre’s {Priest’s} home to see what can be accomplished.> Both of us are about as eager to talk to him as a young child is to visit the dentist, but it is important we do it before I leave.

<No beer last night, Sofia has a big exam tonight, and I haven’t let her study much.> So I get today off to run my errands, etc. However, Doña Carmen has already buttonholed me to help son Orlando with his math. Obligations, obligations!

My boss at CIGRAS may have me order him some lab equipment while I’m in the U.S. If all I have to do is make a phone call when I pass through Chicago it’ll be no hassle, but little favors can grow.

Journal, December 5, 1976 AM (Sunday)

I used to say and believe, I guess, that people with less education or even those with less innate intelligence were happier than those (of us) who know & comprehend more. I was very wrong. Doña Carmen is a person of very limited education, but her desires and aspirations reach to the very sky, and she can’t even seem to resign herself to the most basic fact of life (i.e. death). Her mother is dying (no ifs, ands or buts), but I would not dare tell her that. She’d probably kick me out of the house! She takes hope from every little reassurance the doctors give her. She lets it upset her so, that she yells at everybody (me excepted) and talks a mile a minute.

I can think of other examples in support of my reversal on the idea that the ignorant are the happiest. {Thomas} Jefferson said, "Knowledge is happiness." He must have considered the question and arrived at the conclusion I have. Knowing is the basis for a realistic happiness & contentedness. The person who comprehends the limits of his existence is better prepared to direct his energies to what he can improve, accepting what he can’t, though always probing around the frontier between the “possible” and the “impossible” to see if those limits can’t be expanded.

{some text not transcribed}


Journal, December 4, 1976 PM

Poor Doña Carmen, her mother is very bad. She is going crazy from the strain. Last night she paid a special mass to be said for her mother, on the occasion of them taking her to the hospital to undergo an operation. There’s no question the woman (Carmen’s mother) is dying. It’s only a matter of time. Jan & I saw the lady when we were here last February, and Jan commented then that she looked like death warmed over. It’s terrible to say, but I hope she dies while I’m home for Christmas. Doña Carmen is already to the point where I can’t count on her to wash or iron my clothes or anything. When her mother dies she may lose complete hold of herself. I should talk. I’m far from ready to lose a parent yet.

Oh what do I want to go & get married for? Married people can’t get anything done quickly, and neither (partner) can just go & do something on a whim without explaining himself or herself at length, begging permission (indulgence), and then going off feeling guilty for doing it!

<I got away from Sofia for a night.> I enjoy being with her, but we can never just break off & go get something done that we’d like to. At least I just can’t say “so long” or when I do she doesn’t want to let me. Call it love or call it foolishness. How it turns out will tell the tale I suppose.

Journal, December 3, 1976 PM

<Sofia was into playing her girlish games last night.> I accomplished nothing in my trip to Peace Corps Office this morning. Manuel said to come back Tuesday for my ticket. We’re analyzing rice today and it’s a bore.

For all of that I don’t feel too bad. At tourism they gave me a map this morning & said there was a pension {small hotel} with cabins about 10 kilometers from Volcán Irazu, a possible honeymoon spot. I need a mind stimulator, like an issue of “Scientific American,” to get me back to 100%. Today it’s just “regular {OK}.”

Journal, December 2, 1976 PM

I’m a lackey, there’s no doubt about it. I have my semi-worthwhile, semi-interesting job. I leave the house at 6:40 or 7:00 in the morning & get back at 6 PM if I don’t go to see the girlfriend. I say that it’s only temporary, & that after one more year I’ll get started on the road to a truly fruitful career. But how many lackeys have justified themselves that way? How many times have I heard similar words? My mind flashes back to Andy Newell, sitting on a barstool in the basement at Delta Theta Sigma {fraternity}, mooching beer & saying, "I’m fucked up right now, but I’m going to get it together . . ."

Jamie {Olson} eats up the lackey life, getting completely into whatever trivial task he’s involved in. <I may be more of a lackey, because I know I’m just diddling around, but tell myself it’s OK, it’s temporary, it’s for Sofia, etc.>

Perhaps there’s nothing really worthwhile one can do in this life. Or at least there’s nothing that one can be sure is worth his intellect, time & effort. There is so much shooting in the dark. Most of our living time is spent: “passing the time of day” or “paseando”, “shooting the breeze” or “choteando”, “having a good time” or “divertiendose”, or thinking up new things to do or places to go to entertain ourselves. The Spanish word entretenerse says it more “up front” than the English entertain.

Last night I made popcorn, & helped Jaime & Pilar, and others “entretenerse.” I watched a soccer game. Today I read about aflatoxins (perhaps semi-useful) & B.S.’ed with Renán {Molina}. <He says he may be related to Sofia.>

Does anyone really know what is worth doing? Or is it just having the self-discipline to convince yourself that what you’re doing is useful enough (or the blindness to accept whatever you’re doing as useful enough)?

Journal, December 1, 1976 PM

Yesterday afternoon they called me from Peace Corps Office and said my ticket should be ready Friday. I think I’m going to make it home, only delays in getting my visa & permission to leave can hold me back. I got letters from {sister} Mary & from Ron & Nancy Shiflet. They were at Peace Corps Office yesterday. I also got paid. The salary is 1,953 Colonies. {At the time the exchange rate was 8.5 Costarican Colonies per U.S. Dollar.} <That’s what Sofia & I will have to live on starting in March.> “You knew the job was tough when you took it Fred,” said Super Chicken, famously.

We did some moisture tests on rice in the lab yesterday, and today we are husking & polishing rice for home consumption, for lack of other work. I’ll be interested to see who is going to take it home. Renán {Molina} gave a little to the “ordenanza” or cleanup man.

<Sofia served me up a banquet last evening.> We had rice with tuna & vegetables, beans with various spices added, platanos {plantains}, lettuce & tomatoes, cold milk, curtido (They pickle a whole combination of vegetables including broccoli, green beans, cucumber, carrots & others.) and a tortilla de elote {fresh corn tortilla} complete with a thick cream they call natilla here. {some text not transcribed}

<Sofia gave me more tamales.> Two regular ones wrapped in banana leaves & a piece of a large loaf-like one they make out of corn “masa {dough}” with spices & sugar added. The damn rats at Doña Carmen’s ate a hole in my shoulder bag & ate some of the “loaf” tamal. Now it is war. I’ll buy some rat poison today, if possible, warfarin if I can find it. Doña Carmen says they’ve tried everything to kill those rats. We’ll see what happens.