Want to travel somewhere off the tourist path?
Consider a trip to Tulancingo, Mexico, with the Pleasanton-Tulancingo Sister City Association.
"It's a great way to travel and to get to know people in a non-touristy environment," said Jorge Victoria, president of the nonprofit organization.
The two cities exchange delegates every other year.
Next month the association will make a presentation at Stoneridge Creek to acquaint its senior residents with all the group has to offer.
But another way to learn more about the sister city organization is to attend its annual fundraising barbecue next Saturday (Aug. 17), a dinner dance at the Pleasanton Senior Center with Tony Macchiano's Lickety Spit team at the grill.
"This year we had a 25-member delegation visit Tulancingo in April," Victoria said. "At the barbecue we will have a slideshow of past visits, and it's a chance to visit with members first-hand -- and have a good dinner and go to a fun event."
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for a no-host bar, and the tri-tip dinner is at 7 p.m. Live and silent auctions will begin at 8, and from 8:30-11 p.m. there will be dancing to the big band, The Cool Tones. The cost is $55, or $60 at the door. Children ages 6-12 are $15.
Money raised goes toward maintaining the annual student exchange program, the Tulancingo delegation visit and outreach in the community.
The association is active in Pleasanton, taking part in the Hometown Holiday Parade, holding a Christmas Posada at the Veterans Memorial Building, and a Cinco de Mayo celebration. Next month, members will participate in a program for children at Museum on Main.
"Also we do anything we can to help our Spanish-speaking community," Victoria said. "People may need help with translations or blending into the community."
People and families of all ages are welcome to join. Victoria became involved years ago when his daughter was in high school and took part in the student exchange.
In years past, the association has held Spanish classes for members traveling to Tulancingo, something Victoria hopes to start again.
"We are looking into monthly conversational Spanish classes," he said. "Prior to our visits, it used to get people enthused about the trip and we would practice common phrases."
"Ninety percent are not fluent in Spanish, yet when we visit the sister city they are able to communicate with the few words they know," he added. "Likewise, the people from Tulancingo coming here are the same way."
"It is good to get to know our neighbors to the south," he continued. "People aren't very different."
Special sister city exchanges have included all types of organizations, from fire departments to high school staff.
"It is a great way to immerse yourself in another culture and to immerse others in ours," he said.
Victoria also visited Tulancingo in June with Rotary Club of Pleasanton when it distributed 280 wheelchairs for the elderly and disabled. And the organization works with the Lions Club to help deliver eyeglasses.
"When you see all the good it does for people in need, it is very heartwarming," Victoria said. "It is the least we can do to support our service clubs."
The Pleasanton-Tulancingo Sister City Association, which was started by Amador Valley High Spanish teacher Bob Athenour, is in its 36th year. A room next to the Pleasanton City Council chamber at City Hall contains artifacts gathered from visits.
"We get great support from our city leaders," Victoria said.
The group has about 120 members now, he noted, although some no longer travel to Tulancingo. Another way to learn more about the group, he suggested, is to attend Taco Tuesdays, which are held at 5:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at Fiesta Taco on Santa Rita Road.
"We get an average of about 12-15 people," Victoria said. "It is a good time to get together and talk to members in a very casual atmosphere."
For barbecue tickets or to learn more, go to ptsca.org or call 292-0104.