San Jose State alumni reunions bind
generations after 25 years
By Kathy Chin Leong
We started as a five-member motley crew in 1979. Working as tutors to aid fellow students with their courses at San Jose State University, Mike Osterman, Jean Machida, Dave Salinero, Steve Chinn, and I simply found each other’s warped sense of humor and sense of fun a magnetic force.
This mysterious gravitational pull of differing personalities led us to celebrate birthdays and holidays together. Then there were the college summers where the group wanted to simply "hang out" – hurl Frisbees at the beach, barrel down waterslides where Steve worked, trample through the Santa Clara County fair, again where Steve worked. Even after graduation, our clan known as the EOP gang stayed connected, joined through the invisible filament of friendship. EOP stands for Equal Opportunity Program where we toiled, helping underprivileged students get a handle on subjects such as English 1A, economics, calculus, and whatever subjects ailed them.
After graduation, we veered off into our respective professions- I became a journalist, Steve turned to podiatry, Mike worked in marketing as did Jean, and Dave found his calling as an engineer at IBM Corp, where he still works today.
Meanwhile, the treadmill of life seemed to get turned up on "turbo charge." Joint birthday celebrations faded into the sunset, but then those were replaced by wedding celebrations. Mike married Jean. The rest of us tied the knot with non-EOPers. Steve found Joni, I found Frank, and Dave found Lisa. In later years, we would send birth announcements to each other and invite the EOP kids to a birthday parties for our children.
THE ANNUAL TRIPS
Sometime in 1989, while I was pregnant with my daughter, Steve called us up to ask if we were interested in spending a weekend at his family’s cabin in Lake Tahoe. Would we? Would we? Of course! The whole married EOP gang arrived. Mike and Jean had married one another, and they brought their one daughter, Laura, who was just 18 months old. (This year she graduated from high school.)
We were now creating new memories as married couples. They happily etched into our heart like a stonecutters carvings into marble. No longer the carefree college students, we were homeowners with mortgages, planning for families, saving for the future. After the first EOP outing in South Lake Tahoe, each couple started taking turns in planning the annual weekend, usually a Thursday to Sunday. We have swapped recipes, updated each other on the latest offerings at Costco, laughed uproariously over silly things while playing board games or watching a video.
Over the course of 15 adventures, each trip has carried with it news of life changes. One year I was pregnant. The next year I had a child. One year Jean had lost her mom. The next year she lost her father. Other couples in our EOP clan have also experienced the tragedy of a fallen parent. Pregnancies, miscarriages, births, deaths of pets, children’s graduations, driver’s license announcements. We have yet to attend our kids’ weddings!
One of the biggest changes among our group of Silicon Valley dwellers was Mike and Jean’s announcement that they were moving to Washington state in 1996. What would this do to the EOP gang? It stretched us, but kept our group strong. That simply meant we would go to even more interesting places in the Pacific Northwest for our excursions.
Conversations through the course of our vacation friendship has stemmed from stories about our times in college to Little League baseball games, where we go to church, how our ailing parents are doing, and whether or not to color our hair (or to continue coloring it).
Words such as "fun, family, friendship, memories, and lasting relationships" come to Jean’s mind when I ask her what these trip mean to her.
Steve echoes similar sentiments when he says the EOP trip is "a summer tradition that is full of adventure, surprises, and memories."
WHERE WE’VE GONE
We have made the annual EOP weekend to the following locales:
1989: South Lake Tahoe . We stay in Steve and Joni’s cabin. Jean and Mike’s daughter Laura is only 18 months old.
1990: Yosemite in the town of Fish Camp . We squish our bodies into 3-bedrooms at a friend’s small cabin. Gwen Leong, my daugther, is only 6 months old.
1991: Sea Ranch near Mendocino. We stay at two adjacent cabins. This time we bring Susan, our Swiss nanny along with us to watch the kids.
1992: Carmel . The Asadi residence is a sprawling ranch-style home on the 17-mile Drive. Joni, myself, and Lisa are each a few months along in our respective pregnancies.
1993: ? (Whoops, a senior moment. No one else remembers, either.)
1994: South Lake Tahoe . More kids abound with Dave and Lisa who have two children, Joni and Steve with two, and ourselves with two as well.
1995: Pinecrest Lake. Jean and Mike join the Leongs.
1996: No trip this year as everyone is so busy with their young families.
1997: Seattle . We all go up to visit Jean and Mike's new house in Kent.
1998: Pinecrest Lake, again . We all gather, and the little boys drive the boats.
1999: Coos Bay, Oregon . We stay in a single cabin along the water.
2000: San Diego. Steve and Joni plan trip with excursions to Legoland and SeaWorld.
2001: Napa Valley. We stay at the Fairfield Hampton Inn visiting the Jelly Belly factory and Bale Grist Mill in sweltering weather.
2002: South Lake Tahoe. Heavenly Valley is a great place to wolf down a seafood buffet dinner and enjoy one another. This year Laura brings her buddy Laura from school.
2003: Whistler, Canada . Jean and Mike plan this fabulous weekend with bike riding and lots of food and fun.
2004: Millbrae . Steve and Joni plan this low-key Labor Day in their home together.
2005: Santa Rosa. We stay at the retro-Flamingo Inn, visit Charlie Brown’s home and the famous Gravenstein Apple Fair.
Over the years, we have passed the baton, each couple planning our annual outings. Ideas start percolating early spring, and we usually nail something down by late spring for a late summer adventure.
As I fondly linger over our escapades throughout California, Washington, and Oregon, every flight and drive has been worth its weight in proverbial gold. I’m amazed at how God has caused our friendship to blossom after over a quarter of a century, and how our five SJSU alumni has expanded from five to fifteen. Like the Mastercard commercial, the memories are priceless.
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