It was before breakfast time last Friday when we got the news that we’ve been dreading for some time. June, a friend and former teammate residing in San Diego, California with her husband and two kids, had just passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. Our old team has a unique and close bond with each other throughout the years. Losing someone in our team meant losing a family member.
June’s passing away brought back memories of our time in San Diego with her, husband Gin and other friends. It was in 2006 that we and some members of our team from the Philippines ended up there. Three years. In southern California. It was to be our longest stint outside our home country. We’ve been all over Southeast Asia and beyond before but the longest time we’ve stayed in any one country was just two months.
Located near the Mexican border, San Diego County includes 18 cities and numerous charming neighborhoods. It is also home to various world-class family attractions. The latter includes Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and Legoland.
One of the things we liked most about San Diego is its Mediterranean climate. It’s reputed to have one of the best climates in the U.S. with pleasant weather all year round and an average daily temperature of 70ºF or 21º Celsius. Even during summer we would sometimes wear light jackets to the beach. San Diego’s weather was like that most of the time – not too hot nor too cold.
Looking for interesting marine life? Head to the Children’s Pool and see the California gray seals basking in the sun. Head further down south along the coast from December to March and you can observe huge California gray whales on their annual migratory trek to Mexico. Point Loma is one of the best places to observe these giant creatures.
Incidentally, Point Loma happens to be one of our favorite hangouts. When waiting in between appointments Leo would work on his laptop at one of its cafés. Located at the edge of San Diego Bay, the southernmost tip of Point Loma offers spectacular panoramic views of San Diego harbor, San Diego Bay, the San Diego skyline, Coronado (often mistakenly referred to as Coronado Island) and Tijuana, Mexico in the distance.
The Cabrillo National Monument, a statue commemorating explorer Juan Cabrillo’s landing in 1542 and the 150-year old Point Loma Lighthouse are the two most notable historical sites at Point Loma. Juan Cabrillo would claim the land for Spain (with a large existing population of Native Americans notwithstanding). The territory would eventually become California and a part of Mexico before being acquired by the U.S.
Point Loma is just one of the many historical sites in San Diego. Closer to downtown, in Mission Valley, is Old Town State Historical Park a collection of original and recreated ranch homes and shops that gives visitors a look into life during the 1820s to 1870s.
There are several notable Spanish missions across California and San Diego has a few of them. Also situated in Mission Valley near Qualcomm Stadium (former home of the San Diego – now Los Angeles – Chargers), the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá is the site where the first of the Spanish California missions was relocated. The first mission, established by Father Junipero Serra in 1769 was actually at Presidio Park overlooking Old Town. That mission is long gone and the site is now occupied by the Junipero Serra Museum, a Spanish mission-style building on a hill.
Our first impression of San Diego was actually that of a military town. The city and county is home to various US Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps facilities. Aircraft carriers and their escorting warships are often seen at San Diego Bay. A retired aircraft carrier converted into a floating museum – the USS Midway is anchored just off the downtown area. Nearby is the Maritime Museum and its superb collection of historic ships including the Star of India, the world’s oldest active ship.
Most of our work took us to downtown San Diego. When we needed a break or if we wanted to chill out after a hectic day we would often head towards the Seaport Village and the adjoining Embarcadero Marina Park and spend a couple of hours relaxing by the sea over a cup of coffee and enjoying a free outdoor concert. Sometimes our team would be in either location for a meeting or a picnic at the Embarcadero.
Further down south from the Embarcadero is the Coronado Bridge, a beautiful long-span structure across San Diego Bay that leads to the upscale city of Coronado. The long beach where historic Hotel Del Coronado is located is also one of the most famous beach fronts in California.
San Diego is a haven for the arts and culture. Proof are the 30 museums in the city with half of them in Balboa Park along with 9 theaters and centers for performing arts, making this location the city’s center for arts and culture. The San Diego Natural History Museum, the Timken Museum of Art, the Air & Space Museum and the San Diego Zoo are all located inside Balboa Park.
We once had a picnic at Balboa along with some of our teammates and visiting colleagues from Kazakhstan. We were able to salvage this photograph showing the ladies in our group along with our Kazakh friends. June is in the back row, left, with son Jade in the background.
We miss San Diego.
But what we miss most are our friends there. More than the place, the friendships and the shared experiences will stick in our collective memories for a long time.
We miss June.
Our former team leader and friend Fel spoke for all of us when he said, “There are no words… our hearts ache and grieve. Goodnight, dear June. We’ll see you in the morning.”