SANTA CRUZ -- When Ruth Kesselring Royal's friend Beryl A. Brinkman died in 2007, she decided to finally conquer a project the two had talked about since the 1960s: compile letters they exchanged while involved in the Peace Corps.
"It was a process that sort of evolved over a number of years," said Royal, a Santa Cruz resident.
Royal sifted through approximately 450 pages of letters, selecting her favorites to create "Never Gonna Cease My Wanderin': Letters Between Friends" (Peace Corps Writers, September 2012; 280 pages; $15). The collection of correspondences is available for purchase at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Capitola Book Cafe and amazon.com.
The Peace Corps, a volunteer program founded in March 1961, places people around the world to provide technical assistance and help people in other countries. The book provides insight into the Peace Corps when it first began, the Philippines in the 1960s, and the developing friendship between the two women.
The two met while attending North Central College in Naperville, Ill. Royal graduated before Brinkman and went to the Philippines with the Peace Corps in 1961 (Brinkman joined a few years later). The two began exchanging letters while Royal was in the Philippines, continuing the tradition throughout the 1960s.
While Royal corresponded with other classmates, she and Brinkman wrote to each other most frequently, which ultimately strengthened their friendship, Brinkman said.
To Royal, living in the Philippines and adapting to the culture was thrilling yet overwhelming at times.
"I joined the Peace Corps during the very first year it was in existence, so in many ways, they didn't quite know what to do with us," Royal said. "Now the Peace Corps does a lot better training volunteers with the languages, and the jobs people do are better defined."
Despite a few language barriers and occasional difficulties teaching English, Royal said the experience was ultimately rewarding.
"I think that the idea of person-to-person contact with people from a different culture than your own is one of the best ways of there being advancement toward peace," Royal said. "I'm very against the idea of, 'We make peace by going to war.' That doesn't make any sense to me."
After the Peace Corps, Royal worked in education and at the Santa Cruz Public Library. She also raised two kids, instilling in them her sense of adventure. Her son David Royal recalls hearing about his mother's travels with his father Nick Royal.
"We were pretty involved in the garden at our house; you know, planting stuff from when I was really little," David Royal said. "I think that kind of experience was something that was fostered -- just getting yourself and your hands dirty, getting immersed in things."
Royal continues to maintain an adventurous spirit. When asked about the book's title, she sparked up, saying it was the lyrics to one of her favorite traditional folk songs, "Wandering."
"The song goes, 'I've been wandering early and late, New York City to the Golden Gate, and it looks like I'm never gonna cease my wandering,' " Royal said.
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