Saturday, November 21, 2015

Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song and I'll try not to sing out of key

This is basically just a big old love letter to my Peace Corps friends. It is self-indulgent, with way too many photos.

I haven't said it perfectly, but I've done the best I can.
We love you, Rhonda!
I owe giant thanks to my friend Rhonda for turning 50, for inviting me to her birthday party, for pulling such an incredible group together in Austin.
Birthday lady!
I have many, many things to say about Austin, but this post is about reconnecting with friends from the long-ago, far-away past. 
The bakery misspelled Rhonda. When I told my friends there was no H, Ralph said, "They spelled it Appy Birthday?"
So. Here's the story.

My Peace Corps friend Rhonda was turning 50 and wanted a destination birthday party.
Kombucha and birthday button and new boots!
She invited a bunch of other Peace Corps friends--all of whom she has kept up with over the years. She and I just reconnected a year ago. I last saw all the others 20 years ago in Ecuador.

I was excited but also nervous. Twenty years is a long time.

How would it feel seeing old friends after such a long absence?
And here we are again.
It felt like sunshine and giant hugs and love and awesome memories and laughing until it hurts, all wrapped in rainbows and sprinkled with pixie dust and unicorn kisses. Oh, and then doused liberally  with Moscow Mules made with Tito's vodka.

Is approximately how it felt.
Rich is the Moscow Mule master.
My god, it was amazing. These are people we struggled with, laughed and cried with, had truly crazy adventures with, and loved. We remembered things that were in each other's hearts, way back then.

And that's what it all comes down to, every time: love.

I had the same feeling as I do with my high school friends, which prior to the weekend I'd have said I have with nobody else. And in fact, my worlds collided seamlessly when my dear Delhi friend Nicole, who drove me to Austin from Dallas, took me to hook up with my Peace Corps friends.

They all met, Carissa liked Nicole's boots, and Nicole immediately set about hooking her up on Poshmark.
We just met and we're busy.
There was a feeling of magic, of suspended time and reality, of complete acceptance, of unmitigated joy.
Women of Omnibus 70!
It was both extraordinary and so utterly normal. Instead of beer and nachos in Austin, we could easily have been chatting over beer and chifles in Tumbaco or Quito.
Mas cerveza, por favor.
For me it is gratifyingly deep and soul-affirming to reconnect with people who lived through particular and unusual circumstances and time together.

There was much remember-when-ing all weekend. We are still the same people. Older, with more life experience. But the same.
That Suzy look!
I have a vivid memory of buying sliced watermelon on the street in a hot, grimy coastal city. When the vendor asked which pieces we wanted, Carissa said, "The one no flies have walked on."

Remember when: we took overnight buses and hitched rides in the back of pickup trucks to go visit Suzy at the beach? When Janet and I hiked through the rain forest to visit with another volunteer's community and were immediately offered banana chicha (a beverage made by masticating bananas, spitting them into a vessel, and waiting for it to ferment)? Remember that priest at Eric's site who used to take us night swimming at hot springs and turned out to have two secret families?

The remember-whens all swirled together with who-we-are-nows.

People are married, have kids, have jobs with huge responsibilities, coach football, grow crops, make soap, run an Airbnb in the Galapagos...  
Hello, Carissa!
Oh, hi, Pearl!
We're all older but still so much the same, in the best possible way.
Aww, Ralph and Juan Carlos!
When we went out in a group to drink, eat, dance, we were kind of like a swarm of bees. You know how they're all individual entities, but together, they have a particular energy, and they hum? Our hums were uproarious laughter, and our product, rather than honey, was inanity and chaos. And we were having such a good time together you could see the energy shift around us.
No, nobody else was doing this. But they wanted to!
We danced so ridiculously to 80s songs in a non-dancing bar that people actually joined in. Or looked like they wanted to, but were afraid of being judged.

Carissa and Rich and Alex and Pearl had rented a charming house, and the last night, a bunch of us crashed in the living room. I was the only one short enough to fit on the couch. I knew from Peace Corps days that it was bound to be a snorey, if brief, night.
To sleep, perchance to dream..
I tiptoed out in the morning, giving these guys a little kiss on the head, in the same way I kiss my kids. Everyone else was still asleep but Carissa, who'd made coffee, bless her.

I  left Austin exhausted, with no voice, and my body 98% nachos and Titos. My face was sore from laughing, and my heart was full to bursting.
Cheeks hurt!
I meant what I said. It always comes down to love.
And also maybe try to choose the one that no flies have walked on.

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