On Saturday we camped at Joseph D. Grant County Park east of San Jose with Casey and Kyle. It was probably the coldest weather we’ve ever camped in—I’m pretty sure it got below freezing during night. Inside my sleeping bag I was wearing wool socks with heating packets, jeans, boxers, a tshirt, a fleece pullover, a hoodie, a winter jacket, and fleece gloves! It was not the most technical garb, and I probably should have been better prepared, but we’d only planned to camp for a single night. We were down there because one of Kyle’s coworkers had invited us to help pick olives at his wife’s family’s home in the nearby countryside.
A few weeks ago we had some friends over to help warm our new home. I didn’t expect to take any photos, but after Jonathan picked up the Leica, I ended up snapping a few shots as well, including this tranquil scene of hands and wine glasses and pissaladières—the French pizzas topped with caramelized onions, anchovies, and olives.
I sometimes wondered what it was like for those of you who followed my dispatches from our travels over the last year. If they were even half as interesting as Terrie’s updates from her Peace Corps training in Ghana, I can rest easy. Access to Terrie’s blog is restricted to friends and family, but I wanted to share one small slice of life that made me smile:
My favorite meal so far, and maybe my new favorite food…fried red plantain with beans…it was like caramelized sweet potatoes that you scoop up with baked beans…amazing! It was so good it made me teary and homesick for Thanksgiving.
A little over three months after saying our final goodbyes to Jeoffrey from the Cap Cleveland we met him and his fiancee Fatima at the Iloilo City Airport on January 18th. He had taken care of all the arrangements during our stay, so we prepared ourselves for a whirlwind final week in the Philippines.
At first we had to attend to some immediate needs: a much overdue haircut, probably one of the best I’ve ever had—and for only 70 pesos (or about $1.50), the cheapest. [Editor’s Note: For the record, I’ve been reminded that the cheapest haircut I’ve ever had was at “Salon de Soleil”. I stand corrected.]
That night we went to a bar in the Smallville district that prided itself on having an extensive selection of beers from around the world. It was certainly the most we’ve seen so far outside the US. I treated myself to a Rogue Dead Guy and a Stone IPA, Steph had a Boont Amber Ale. We felt right at home. I wanted to order some homemade chicharon (fried pork skins), but they were out. So Jeoffrey ordered some chicharon bulaklak (literally, “flower chicharon”) and wouldn’t tell us what they were till after we tried them: deep-fried pig intestines. Chewy, but pretty tasty.
Afterwards we went searching for some lechon, which several Filipino friends back home had suggested after our babi guling experience in Bali, but we had trouble finding. Eventually we drove out to Tatoy’s and got our fix, along with some tasty kinilaw, a sort of local ceviche, and barbecued pork belly, which seems to come with every meal.
Sunday morning, we packed up the rental car, crossed the threshold for the last time, took a deep breath, and slid the key under the door. We were on the road at 11, heading towards Los Angeles to meet up with Stephanie’s Uncle Peter and his partner Steve.
I-5 was not new ground for us, so we motored through it, getting to their place in “the Valley” by 5:30. I’d only been as far south as Santa Clarita before, so Peter and Steve took us on a personal driving tour of LA, covering NoHo, Universal Studios, the Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood Boulevard, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, and UCLA.
They were getting ready to take Sunset all the way to the beach, but after touring around for nearly an hour and a half, we were getting hungry, so we went back to their place for dinner. Stephanie and Peter caught each other up on various bits of family news, and Steve wowed us with tales of their favorite places around the world (they’re accomplished travelers). We didn’t get to bed until midnight.
We slipped out around 9 on Monday morning to meet up with some friends at Leona and Phil’s new loft downtown. Marcia was in town, working on the photography for her upcoming book, as was another Glitter Pony-alum, Chris Salvano and his girlfriend Ashley, both recent graduates of UCLA’s Library Science program, so they joined in the fun as well. As a bonus, the loft had direct roof access, so we threw together a little picnic-brunch up there with a stunning view of the downtown LA skyline.
Around noon everyone had things to go do so we said our goodbyes and hit the road again, heading west on I-10 towards Phoenix (and eventually Tucson).