Reunited in California

Joining the Peace Corps we received warnings that this would be “the toughest job we’ve ever loved.” We mentally prepared ourselves to live without toilet paper, to try strange foods like the odorous durian fruit, and to adjust to new customs, like singing karaoke in a foreign language. But in fulfilling our two years of service we also created lifelong bonds both within our communities and among our fellow Peace Corps volunteers. And there are no other friends like Peace Corps friends!

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Clockwise from back left: Drew, John, Loren, and SJ on the beach in Santa Cruz Thanksgiving 2017. The water was frigid!

Over Thanksgiving this year John and I flew out to California and were reunited with my batchmates Loren and Drew. They even greeted us in the airport wearing our Romblon Crew basketball jerseys.

Our 5-day excursion included Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing and almost more pies than people. We may have dominated the dinner table conversation with Loren’s tales of killing her own turkey in the Philippines and cooking a duck the year following. Thanks Loren for making all the food in 2015!

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Our 25-person Thanksgiving dinner table

Zack’s family Thanksgiving traditions include a post-meal, pre-dessert walk and games in the park. Our Thanksgiving spikeball battle was just as fierce as games at Binocot Beach in the Philippines.

On Black Friday, we opted outside for a 5-mile hike at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, where I kissed a banana slug for good luck and we stood inside a redwood tree!

Our trip also included whale watching at the beach, a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a tour of UC Santa Cruz, an NFL football game, and a tour of Alcatraz Island prison.

We even sat down for a Filipino meal at the local Filipino restaurant Tapsilog Bistro. Calamansi juice, longsilog, tortang talong, and Red Horse beer on tap.

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In an amazing coincidence, our trip to California aligned with our batchmate Paloma’s return to America. Paloma chose to extend her service for a third year and arrived fresh off the plane from the Philippines to a stateside reunion with her fellow volunteers. Welcome Back Paloma!

After 5 days in San Jose, I am convinced that we should move to California in the future (mostly for the amazing bike lanes).

Mag-ingat sa mga kaibigan!