If you’re going to San Francisco

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Had an early flight from Newark Airport to San Fran, where Rohan and Savini came to the airport to get me which was very nice of them. Didn’t realise they were going to get the train there. Then went to Shailas, saw Viaan and I carried him for ages and he was laughing in my arms. What is it about babies that make you immediately happy and the world just a little bit better. Was nice spending the afternoon at home with everyone and hanging out and then went to Off the Grid with Rohan, Vivek, Savini, Sanjay and met up with some friends of theirs at Off The Grid. Was really cool – heaps of street food, different stalls and cuisines. Had a lobster hot dog, some other drink, and a bay breeze and some spiced wine which was really nice. Went to a couple of other bars and some guy at the bar started talking to me, said I was a ‘very cute Indian Kiwi hybrid girl’ which is the strangest but probably one of the most genuine compliments I’ve ever received, mostly because he was a bit drunk I think. Compliments are such a confidence boost whatever they are, not gonna complain lol. Went back to Shaila and Sunil’s place and were up talking for ages.

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Woke up early at 5:30am the next day – couldn’t sleep. Had to wait until 6:45 to get dressed and stuff was really bored. Rohan called me an Uber and I went into the city to Taylor Street to do my day trip tour. Went across the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped on the other side and took photos, then to Muir Woods and did a 45 minute walk through the Redwood Forests which was really cool. Loved the air in there. Stopped at Sausolito for lunch and I bought two dresses at a tiny little shop I found for $10 each which was a great find. Was a lot of confusion and got freaked out that I’d miss my ferry to Alcatraz because our bus going back broke down but I managed to go there and get a replacement ticket for the next ferry to Alcatraz. Met a bus driver called Miya Strong who was a Samoan from Compton (literally straight outta Compton) who drove me back to San Francisco by bus. I almost cried, thought I’d missed my ferry to Alcatraz and wouldn’t be able to go. Some people are blessings in disguise. He was so kind to me, just goes to show you shouldn’t judge people based on whether someone is suited up or covered in tatts.

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He drove me back to San Fran and I got the 3:15 bus Ferry out to Alcatraz. Was so incredibly happy. Did the Audio Tour which was really cool and walked through the Prison, saw the place where the inmates broke out of and the tunnel they dug. Great views of San Fran from Alcatraz at the top of the island. Then got the Ferry back and walked around Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Met Rohan, Vivek, Savini Sanjay and Jacob and went to Golden Gate Bridge Park. Drank a few small bottles of wine in the car on the way over and had a hilarious conversation that I don’t remember in the car. Thank God. Then went up to Golden Gate Bridge park and ran out of the car, jumped on Sanjay and started spinning around, was really fun. Went to Maccas and had chicken burgers, possibly. Walked into a glass door which accounts for the bruises the next day. Lets just say I had an early night : )

 

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Really grateful I have such nice cousins who looked after me even though I was a mess, and they haven’t seen me for 12 years.

Woke up late the next day feeling extremely sorry and guilty, bummed around at home and went to church with Rohan, Vivek and Savini after breakfast. Vivek left after lunch, and we went to a Korean BBQ place which was pretty good. Then came back home and played with Viaan, dressed him up in different outfits was really cute. Then after dinner, had fun hanging out with Sunil, Sanjay, Shails and Aunty Freeda. Sanjay was talking so fast it was like spidermans web shooting out with his hand.

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Spent the last day at home, went shopping for a couple of hours at Ross dress for less and picked up a dress, two pairs of shoes for work and some flats, a handbag, pjs, and some tops. Probably the most shopping I’ve done on this whole trip.

The end of my trip came fast and it was very hard to say goodbye to Viaan. He will be so much bigger the next time I see him. Said goodbye to Aunty Freeda and Shaila and then Sunil dropped me to the BART station and I got the BART to the Airport.

Definitely learnt a lot about myself on this trip, glad I got to have all these experiences, meet so many new people, and family as well. Looking forward to the next adventure!

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What Dreams are Made Of

I had been waiting for New York like a child waits for Christmas, with bright eyes willing myself to stay awake all night – only when I finally got there, I realised that a part of me had been waiting for New York or what it was a symbol for, my whole life. I have always been independent, even as a child, and over the years lost and gained confidence sporadically depending on what life hit me with, but I had some strange idea, that when I got to a city bursting with life, when I was finally doing it all on my own – it would all make sense and I would become exactly who I was meant to be. In actuality, that wasn’t New York – It was Melbourne. In Melbourne I grew a little bit more, made decisions more fearlessly, rounded out those angles and corners and redirected myself towards the path I always wanted to be on. For the first time in my life, I was an independent functioning adult, working and saving, planning holidays with friends and travelling alone, paying rent, grocery shopping and cooking and amidst budgeting and paying off my student loan. In a way I suppose Melbourne was my New York. It was what I needed to come into myself. But Melbourne only prepared me for New York itself.

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Saturday 5th September

On my first day in New York I woke up at 6am and my Aunty dropped me off to the bus stop and I got the New Jersey Transit bus to New York. I will never forget the confusion of the Times Square Station, the warren of tunnels leading from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to Times Square Station and the heat of the subway it was just above the earth’s core. I arrived in New York by 7.40am and walked to the Empire State Building which opened at 8am and skipped the steadily growing line to go up to the 86th Floor with my shiny New York Pass – shame suckers! Just kidding. Amazing views from the top of Empire State Building, walked up to the upper viewing deck as well and saw all of central park, the Statute of Liberty, Chrysler Building, and Brooklyn Bridge. Then did the Sky Ride which was also part of the New York Pass and it was shit.

Walked down to St. Paul’s Cathedral and had a look there before going to Rockefeller Centre and had some more jaw-dropping views. Unfortunately didn’t have time to do the Rockefeller centre tour which I heard a lot about, even though I got a ticket for it, was pretty bummed about that. Then went to Duffy Square which was cool, saw this kid being filmed and realised he was this little fat kid that was on Ellen – really obnoxious and loud – kinda like a male version of Honey Boo Boo but everyone thought he was cute. Meh. Walked up to Central Park and did my first walking tour which was the Central Park movie tour. Saw a lot of famous places from Gossip Girl, Bridesmaids, Enchanted, Harry Met Sally, etc. Also saw Strawberry Fields, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s apartment building, the Imagine memorial, the ‘Dairy’, and the temporary fair grounds that are converted into the famous skating rink in the winter. Never realised that this was where the Ice Skating scene in Love Story was filmed.

Then had a bit of a rest because I was really tired and hadn’t eaten all day except for a banana and walked to McGee’s Pub where I met the bus group for the second tour. Did the Uptown Movie Tour by bus and saw places from Friends, Seinfeld, You’ve got mail and lots of different movies like rosemary’s baby, and the hotel that had the infamous scene from Almost Famous. Also went to Café Lalo where You’ve got Mail was filmed, and saw some more scenes from Enchanted up around the top of Central Park. After the tour was over, finally got a sovlaki from one of those street food places, and was really looking forward to eating it. Was my first meal of the day at 5.30pm haha. But decided to walk to the Guggenheim first.

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My map of New York was a tourist map and only went up to halfway up central park so I ended up walking from 47nd street to 86th, eating my sovlaki somewhere along the way. When I got to the Guggenheim I was shocked at the length of the line going in but luckily I had my New York Pass so could skip the whole line and spent about an hour and a half there walking from top to bottom with my audio tour. Loved the Kandinsky exhibition.

$31 Metrocard was the best investment ever. I used it so much over that week, definitely got my money’s worth riding the subway everywhere. I took the subway down to Times Square and met up with Rohan, Savini and their friends. Had Pizza for dinner and then went to a rooftop bar in Little Italy that was really cool. Met another group of people randomly and hung out with them. Unfortunately by 2am when we left, I realised that I was sick. Suddenly got food poisoning from the souvlaki I had at 5:30 and spent the rest of the night doubled over in pain in line to the McDonalds Bathroom at 3am. It was like the scene from Bridesmaids – you know the one I’m talking about.

Went back with Rohan and his friends to the place they were staying in in Flushing, Queens. Fell asleep on the subway with my mouth hanging open and was sick as a dog the whole night. Finally crashed and slept at 4:30am so I guess all in all it was a pretty eventful first 23 hours non-stop in New York City.

Sunday 6th September

Woke up at 8am, slept for about 3 and a half hours but felt a lot better but still sick. Left at 10am and started walking towards a general direction of where I thought the subway might be. Found myself in freakin Chinatown or Korea town and tried to ask for directions but no one could speak English. Apparently my sign language for train (choo choo!) wasn’t as obvious as I thought it was because no one could understand me and just shook their head and walked past. Finally a nice man walked me to the subway, where I had to quickly say thank you and bye to him and make a dash for a nearby Burger King and use the bathroom again. I was starting to get terrified that I wouldn’t be able to make it back into Manhattan on the subway without having to stop multiple times to use the restroom but turns out I was okay after that, just very very tired and weak.

Took the subway to Times square and then changed lines and took th subway to Spring Street. Did the Soho, ChinaTown and Little Italy Walking tour which was really interesting – seeing the oldest Pizza Restaurant, oldest cheese restaurant, Cast Iron buildings, and mafia and mob streets in Chinatown – Dovers corner I think. It was the street where the real Gangs of New York happened, with the Irish Italians. There was this restaurant where a man got shot in the back by another gang which resulted in the phrase – never eat with your back to the door. Really interesting! Wish I had been well, could have had some gelato but didn’t want to risk it. Just got some rip off Gatorade from Chinatown for $1.50 and kept drinking that all day, was too scared to eat.

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Then went to Madison Square park and saw the Flat Iron Building and then to a near by museum where I spent a chouple of hours. Before taking the subway to Times Square and got the Bus back to New Jersey. Didn’t do as much as I planned to today but I think I learned by lesson after yesterday and decided to just take it easy – no more 22 hour days! Went back home and played with the kids. Aunty Preethi made some really amazing soup which was really sweet of her and I felt a lot better. And hungry! Which was amazing. Went to bed by 10:40pm

Monday 7th September

Woke up at 7:30 and had breakfast, played with the kids and left by 8:25am. Went to Times Square and bought a ticket for the Chicago Broadway show this evening so very very excited, as anyone who knows me that I was obsessed with the movie Chicago in my early teens. Then went down to Tribeca and walked around, home of Taylor Swift – half hoped I would see her just casually walking her cat or something but no such luck. Walked down to Chambers street and saw the Parliament Buildings, then did Brooklyn Bridge tour and walked across the Bridge which was really cool, amazing views of the whole city and the New York Skyline. I would love to live in Brooklyn, just across the bridge from Manhattan. Walked past Dan Humphrey’s apartment from Gossip Girl, saw some street art by Shepard Fairey, and cool old Warehouses and buildings. Just love the red brick and the oldness so drinkable like I could sniff it up like a library.

Met up with Deanne at Brooklyn Bridge Park and had quesadillas for lunch, then walked around Brooklyn in the suburbs. Was surprised at how well everyone dresses, like it is constantly fashion week. I thought Brooklyn would be really indie and hipster, and I guess it is, but it is also very very upmarket in some areas. Saw some houses I would love to live in. Then got the subway back to Battery Park in Manhattan and Deanne and I went to the Jewish Heritage Musuem. Was really nice just walking and talking and seeing her after ages. Both of us liked the Jewish Heritage museum but were moved to tears a lot of the time. Really sad seeing the photos of children who were victims of the holocaust. Then Deanne came with me back to Times Square to pick up my ticket for Chicago, walked through Bryant park and we got banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery which was yum!

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Said bye to Deanne and then went to see Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre. Was amazing I loved it, a little bit disappointed with Velma’s character. I guess nothing could beat Catherine Zeta Jones as Velma Kelly. She just had that magnetic personality and the performance of ‘My sister and I’ was a little bit lacking in oomph. Had a good time anyway, though I felt very underdressed in sneakers, shorts and a singlet while there were people dressed in beautiful dresses and expensive shoes. Ah well. I am incredibly grateful that I got to go to a Broadway show in New York.

Got the bus back to New Jersey and Uncle Neil picked me up at 11:50 which was really nice of him.

Tuesday 8th September

Got up at 6:15 and had a quick shower, and Aunty Preethi made me a sandwich for breakfast and I ate it in the Financial District on my way to Battery Park. Had a quick look at the Bull on Wall Street, then got the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty and walked around for a while. Great views of the skyline again and again, it was humbling to be so close to such an iconic statue that has meant so much to so many people. Had a really nice lemonade at the Statue of Liberty.

Then got the Ferry back and decided not to go to the Museum at Ellis Island. Instead went to the Freedom Tower, and Highline Park up on the east side of Manhattan and walked it for a bit. High line was alright, not that amazing. Then had lunch and went to Hells Angels Flea Market which again was disappointing, and then rushed back to Financial District for my Wall Street Walks Walking tour. Saw the Charging Bull, Trump Tower, famous buildings like Delmonicos, the place where the first terrorist attack occurred in New York City, the old stock exchange building. Apparently it was called Wall Street because a Wall used to exist there and they traded stock over the wall.

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After that I went to the September 11 Musuem which was at Ground Zero, saw the twin tower memorial pools which are these huge pools in the footprint of the two towers, with the names of the victims on the walls around it. There are two waterfalls in each pool. The September 11 Museum affected me a lot more than I thought it would. As I wasn’t personally affected by 9/11, I didn’t think I would be as moved as I was, but it was really sad hearing families leaving messages for each other saying the loved them when they realised that the plane was hijacked and they might die, or messages saying please call me back so I know you weren’t in Manhattan that day.

After that bought chocolates for Tina/ Colin and took the bus to their place which was in Zone 3. Managed to find it pretty okay. Was nice to meet their family and the kids. Slept by 10pm.

Wednesday 9th September

Got up and went to the UN with Aunty Tina. Went looking for Andy Warhol Factory early in the morning before it opened to the public but I couldn’t find it. Walked around the block to kill time and saw parents walking their fat toddlers to school which was very cute. Finally got into the UN after huge issues with scanning my passport and printing me a pass. Then did the walking tour around the UN which was really cool. The UN has so much art that has been donated by countries across the world and it must be such an honour for them to have art from their country displayed at the UN. Saw the General Assembly Hall, meeting rooms, where the interpreters sit, was really cool, amazing art work as well.

Then went to Grand Central Terminal, did some of the audio Tour. But just walked around mostly. Got the subway to the Lincoln Centre and had a look around, then to the Museum of Natural History. Freaked out a little bit by the time it was closing cos my phone was dying but nice security guard charged it for me for a little bit. Saw almost the whole museum, all the stuff I really wanted to see anyway. Spent about 3 hours there was intense, really good, I would love to be able to take my kids there one day. It was really heart-warming seeing families there, parents with a young child with their nose pressed up against the glass staring at all the animals and dinosaurs.

Then got the subway to Harlem and went on a Harlem Walking Tour. I expected it to be a lot dirtier and more visible crime and drugs just based on the stereotypes – harlems reputation preceeds itself. But it was really beautiful, loved the buildings, the character, so many churches and history. Saw the house belonging to Alexander Hamilton. Really interesting backstory about the duel in which the Secretary of State was killed by the Vice President!

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Then went to the Brown House buildings, city college, Strivers Row – where people who strived to exceed their place in life lived. Finally ended up at a Gospel Church service where we had to all hug each other, and it was really upbeat and fun, definitely did some finger-snapping, clapping with the music.

Then went to Times square, picked up some chocolates for Trisha and took my favourite NJ bus to Binoy’s place and met him at the bus stop. Had dinner with Binoy and Nipa, was lovely spending the evening with them at their apartment and playing with Trisha who is very very cute. Then Binoy dropped me to Uncle Eugene and Aunty Tinas place and went to bed.

Thursday 10th September

Went into the city with Eugene and tina, was raining and yuck. Saw Marilyn Monroe’s subway grate (I think), and then got the subway to the Met and got someone to take a photo of me sitting on the steps, in the rain, like Blair Waldorf. Spent 2.5 hours at the Met but only saw the 1st floor and part of the second floor. It is so huge, and theres so much to see I could easily spend a couple of days there. Loved the Ancient Egypt wing!

Then went to Greenwich Village where I did my last walking tour. Saw Washington Square Park, Café Wha where Jimi Hendrix and Dylan Thomas played, NYU, amazing old buildings, site of the gay pride movement. Unfortunately it started raining halfway through which was horrible, more worried about my camera than anything else. Saw the Friends Building, very cool area. Big part of the gay movement, lots of gay bars and night clubs, first place that had black and white integrated bars as well, also the site of the Womens shirt waist factory fire which killed lots of women. Saw local fire pizza places.

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Then went down to the MOMA which I loved. Wish I could spend more time there – saw lots of Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Monet, Picasso, Seurat, cool photographs and exhibits. Then went back home and spent the evening with the kids.

Aunty Preethi cooked amazing food, dinner was awesome. Played with the kids and read to them before bed. Packed and slept.

Friday 11th September

Woke up early and Uncle Neil drove me to the Airport where I got my flight to San Francisco : )

4 days left before returning have to Auckland!

Top Deck: Toronto to Boston

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First full day in Toronto! Got up at 8 and had breakfast, then went to CN Tower with the group and did the sky pod as well. Amazing views. Wish I had done the Edge Walk – really regretting not doing it – ah well next time. I am sure I will go to Toronto once more in my life, or do something else that is as adrenaline-rushy somewhere else.

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Sky Pod was pretty cool though and the glass floor observation deck as well. Then went to the harbour and walked around, saw the Hockey Hall of Fame Building, City Hall, St Lawrence Market and then did a free tour of the legislative Parliament building. Walked around the University Campus, scoping out the jocks playing baseball situation a lil bit not gonna lie. Was another Hogwarts uni awesome stuff they seem to grow like weeds in the States and Europe. Only Hogwarts I’ve seen in the Southern Hemisphere is Sydney Uni. Also saw the Cathedral, St James. Then went back to the hotel and rested a lil bit. Unfortunate that I spent $11 on a day pass for the metro but I only used my pass 3 times so basically lost $2. Sigh. I shall have to stop walking so much and being lazy more hahah.

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Grabbed a Kale, avocado and chicken wrap for $6.77 from the supermarket near the hotel, awesome find. And then met up with Aunty Jackie, Uncle Colin and Carlisle, Cristiano and Jade. Had nibbles at a restaurant opposite the hotel hung out with them. So nice to meet cousins for the first time half way across the world and touching that they came all the way to meet me. They dropped me off to the Comedy Show at a Comedy club just north of the city after and I had a great evening with the others at the Comedy Show. Hilarious shit. Then got the metro back to the hotel, got a little bit lost when I got out of the train station and wasn’t sure where I was. Ended up walking the opposite direction from the city and then had to run all the way to the hotel when I realised I went the wrong way. Got back at 11pm and Papa’s sister Aunty Winnie and her daughter Aunty Jessica and Uncle Allan came to visit me at my hotel. Was really really nice of them and felt bad that they had to stay up so late and came to meet me at 11pm.

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I feel very loved and proud of this part of Indian culture, at the lengths that family go – even extended family – to meet each other and care about each other even when they’ve never met before. I hope that no matter what country I raise my kids in, or whatever cultural heritage they inherit from myself and whoever I end up marrying – I hope that they have a deep and sincere love of their family and extended family.

Drove to Ottawa the next day and stopped there for lunch. Saw the parliament buildings and markets.

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I saw a dog with dreads like a full on rasta was hilarious. Then drove on to Montreal and had Poutine tasting for dinner and wore my dress I bought from Rainbow in New Orleans. Had an amazing night once it finally got started. Went to a rooftop bar with three levels. Started off drinking at the bottom, I actually didn’t drink at all but had such an awesome night. Then there was karaoke and I really wanted to sing but everyone had like little cliques and pairs and I felt awkward after my last disastrous attempt at karaoke in Savannah haha.

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Went upstairs to the dance floor and there was Salsa music. In freakin Quebec. Dream come true. Awesome night dancing with random Brazilian girls who couldn’t understand me at all – I tried talking to them with my crap Spanish but then just gave up and smiled and danced. Loved the salsa, loved the attention, loved the hair whipping and guys that just grab you and dance with you without having to deal with the small talk.

The language barrier made for hilarious times though. I was searching for Kim (turns out shed already left) and I was walking up and down the three flights of stairs and finding myself lost in random rooms and landings and got stopped quite a few times by random guys who just straight away asked for my number, or one courageous kid who was like ‘What is your name’. I answer. ‘Can I kiss you?’. No. ‘Why no? I show you my country. You come to my house’. Hahahaha sorry mate think I’d see a lot more of your country than I bargained for at your house lol.

Like Thailand, I was a bit naively surprised that there are so many people who don’t speak English. Should have been a no brainer. This is French Canada. But still I somehow expected it to be easier. Parle vous anglais became the most common thing I said over those 4 days in Montreal and Quebec. Had another guy from the Salsa club upstairs follow me down to Karaoke later and came over to my table which was pretty awkward, with people from the rest of the tour group there. Cabbed back with the kids after and went to bed. Kim was up and worried that she had left without me which was very cute.

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Went into the city at Montreal the next day, walked around the streets and bought some cute coasters with scenes from Montreal painted on them. One of my few touristy purchases but I’m actually going to use it so I think it’s okay. Then grabbed early lunch and went to the Notre Dame with Ashley. Was such a beautiful Cathedral, I was literally in awe. I loved the colours, that almost lapis lazuli blue in the centre, the dark lighting and dimly lit gilded carvings. Beautiful stained glass windows. Went to the pier with Ashley and walked right up to the light house. Then the others went to do the speed boat thing and I went back up and walked through the tunnels in the underground city. Met this guy called Brian doing a socio major and he walked me around for a while. Was nice talking to someone my age who’s still a student and cares about stuff.

Also bought this beautiful Mother Mary and Baby Jesus chain from the Basilica, w as only $8 but I have to say right now it is my most prized material possession, excluding my laptop – which is kinda more a sentimental possession anyway, as its the stuff on the laptop that I care about losing not the laptop itself.

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Went to O. Noir for dinner which was amazing. Got the surprise meal for dinner and chose crème brulee for dessert. Was a really interesting experience eating completely in the dark and not being able to feel where my fork and knife was, buttering my hand instead of my bread lol, and having no idea what I was eating for the main course. I thought it was pork, someone else thought it was chicken. Turns out it was duck. Its funny how because we couldn’t see we tried to compensate for it by being really loud. It felt kinda illicit being blind and just having to feel for people in the dark. I guess everything always feels more sensual in the dark because we can usually see, but for a blind person it would just be normal.

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Drove to Quebec the next day, did some writing on the bus.

Spent the afternoon walking around the shops, went to the oldest road which was this beautiful cobble-stone road down the bottom of these steps by the Funicular. Had beef stew for lunch at a local place Nick took us to, was really good. Then went to the markets, where there was lots of fresh food and veggies etc. Then went and checked into the hotel, had dinner and did the Quebec Ghost Tour which was really cool.

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Really interesting learning about the murders and ghosts in the area. Especially the guy who killed his wife and then the one who got chopped up into bits. Had a long day, tiring walk all over Quebec. Really hilly and picturesque. Beautiful place, loved the colourful houses, cobblestone streets and baskets of flowers growing in shop windows and hanging off the roofs.

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Spent the next day walking around Quebec. Went to the citadel in the morning and saw the changing of the guards, the nhad lunch at a cute little palce and took the bus with simone and Bethany to the Montmorency Waterfalls. Was a long walk up and down 22 flights of stairs. Trust me I counted. Then went back to the city and checked out some churches. Had Maccas for dinner and then went out with Nick, Amy, George, Jason, Erin and Meg. Met up with Alicia, Caitlin, Shannon and Erica and had a couple of drinks. Was a fun night, and good seeing the girls from the last tour. Cabbed back with Nick and grabbed some Maccas. Had an interesting night to say the least. Went to bed at 2:40am.

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Drove to Boston the next day and had some pizza and breezers for dinner at the hotel, then went bowling with the others and had a good night. Really interesting listening to what people say about things, what they have opinions about and what they think nothing about. Scary how opinionated some people are – I think I can be as well. But I think the opinions I have and things I feel strongly about are things that the world has largely accepted. I guess I am more passionate about them than the norm or the average but I think that’s okay. But yeaaah interesting hearing people defend their non-pc opinions about social issues and do so vehemently. Had an early night after bowling which I was okay at – pretty good considering I had 3 tropical punch breezers haha.

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Last full day on the tour – went into the city in the morning and did the freedom trail historic tour which was really interesting guide was really passionate about it. Saw some amazing buildings, historic sites and places that shaped the history of America. Took the subway to Harvard and had a look around for an hour or so before coming back. Harvard was huge. Such a student city, kinda like Oxford or Cambridge I guess. Came back to the city and went to the Cheers Bar which was in a very upmarket area. Had a cider which was really good, such a hot day. Random couple were talking about me and Danielle from across the bar I think they thought we were a couple and were laughing about it. I had fun staring them down and then they left. Fun fun.

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Went to Quincy markets and had a look around there was pretty cute. Had clam chowder and scampi for dinner which was good and then went to Victoria’s secret with Simone and then went to this really cool Comic bookshop kinda place where they had T shirts with classic books on them. I bought a Lolita T shirt which is my second favourite book. Really wanted one with On the Road on it and also a Catcher in the Rye T shirt but they only had Boys versions of it so sad. Went to Black Rose, an Irish bar for drinks after. Had an interesting night holding someone’s head back as she threw up out of our uber, flash back to uni days haha. Went back to our room and talked with Kim and Simone for a while before packing and going to bed.

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Spent our last day on tour driving to New York. Bought the alcohol and cards for Nick and Chris and said a few words on the bus. Stopped at Yale for lunch and walked around the area. Reached New York by 3pm. Was really nice saying goodbye to some people, like warm and heartfelt. Others not so much. Got picked up by Uncle Neil and we walked to the Bus Terminal and took the bus to New Jersey. The kids were waiting at the window making little monkey chimp/bird kind of noises as we arrived – too cute! Played with the kids, had a shower and did laundry. And fed the bebitos dinner. Slept by 12:15.

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I fell asleep excited but worried. New York seems a lot bigger than any of the cities I’ve been in so far. And im completely on my own. Scared I’ll screw up and everyone will say I told you so. We’re not in Kansas any more.

A Reflection on ‘Letter to my Daughter’ by Maya Angelou

A collection of short essays and anecdotes, poems and advise from this celebrated poet, author, singer, director and teacher, Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou is everything she would say to the daughter she never had, and as a result, to all the daughters in this world. I am grateful for her candid honesty and the wisdom she offers to anyone who will listen.

Growing up in segregation and Southern humiliation, it is heartbreaking to read of how devalued she felt as a child and the ways in which Northern racism still existed, albeit more insidiously. More than anything, Letter to my Daughter portrays amazing models of female leadership and strength in Maya Angelou, her mother Vivien and her grandmother. I hope every girl is fortunate enough to have strong female role models in their life, whether real or fictional, in real life or someone they have only read of. I hope everyone has someone to model resilience, strength, gratitude and love.

I love very freely and easily and I believe I can be strong and courageous but resilience in the face of a threat or disaster, and gratitude for the miracle of simply being alive are some things I do struggle with. Reading about women of colour creating hope, despite the odds, and building futures for themselves, for their children, is both empowering and also intimidating. They are big shoes to fill and leave a legacy of pain in their wake. Yet we can only hope to take on the challenge and build better futures for ourselves so our daughters may not have the same struggles. They will have struggles of their own I’m sure, but if I can help it – my daughter will not face the same struggles I had or my mother had.

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Reading these honest heartfelt memoirs of Oprah and Maya Angelou, there have been many times when I have felt a lump in my throat at the subtleties of human compassion and the varying degrees of feelings we experience as humans. There were things that I have felt in my short life that I have thought about but never felt compelled to enunciate or talk about and it is confronting and liberating to read of these strong famous women speak of these feelings so articulately and feel that mirroring. That I too have felt that. That it is okay to feel that and recognise these feelings.

Perhaps what is most liberating in voicing these thoughts out loud is that recognition of ourselves we see in the mirroring in another. In recognising a part of ourselves in someone else, we accept our common humanity, and define ourselves through the eyes of the other. We learn ways to define and confront our view of ourselves through that ‘Other’ lens, and when it so accurately mirrors what we have thought and felt but were not able to vocalise, the realisation of this common human experience and our unity, is touchingly poignant.

Angelou talks of loss of a loved one and what she asks herself as she is dealing with her grief:

What legacy was left which can help me in the art of living a good life?

Did I learn to be kinder,
To be more patient
And more generous
More loving,
More ready to laugh,
And more easy to accept honest tears?
If I accept those legacies of my departed beloveds, I am able to say, Thank you to them for their love and Thank you to God for their lives.

I read this passage quickly and didn’t at first realise it was about losing a loved one. Which made it all the more applicable to every aspect of our lives. I believe it’s something we can ask ourselves all the time. Am I learning, to be more patient with others, am I learning to be kinder, more tolerant and thoughtful.

I am glad that I am reading this now, and not years later. I am glad that while these are qualities that take a life time to learn and keep trying to hone and perfect, that I have the opportunity to read of strong women who have modelled this to others, and as young as I am, I have the opportunity to try and learn them now.

I do not want to wait for years of life experience to teach me by accident, what I could be trying to actively learn on purpose.

A Reflection on “What I know for sure” by Oprah Winfrey

3/11/2015

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I just finished the book ‘What I know for sure’ by Oprah Winfrey, which I’ve been reading at work during my lunch break over the last couple of weeks and while this is not an ideal place to be reading a truly inspirational book – in a lunchroom where most people are gossiping and reading women’s day magazines, I found that when I was able to really tune out and get immersed in what I was reading, it automatically recharged my batteries, I felt like my energy and been renewed, my soul food replenished, and I could go back to work feeling ready for whatever the afternoon was going to throw at me.

Split into the sections Joy, Resilience, Connection, Gratitude, Possibility, Awe and Clarity, each section is a collection of thoughts, stories and empowering philosophies about how to live your life to the fullest, how to be accountable for who you are in this world and make the most out of your time in it. There are sections I will probably go back and re-read again, with things that I need to work on personally. But what I liked most about the book was the honesty that rang true in it. As someone who makes a living connecting with people and being a good listener and communicator, Oprah’s own vulnerability spills out of her like the love she so obviously has for all living things, and the generosity she is famous for.

It is amazing that after having been through such a hard childhood – knowing that you are the result of a one night stand and that you were unwanted, that you had a mother who hid her pregnancy until the last minute because she was ashamed of you, – coping with the feelings of unworthiness and inability to draw boundaries later as an adult due to the sexual abuse you experienced from the age of 10 – 14, and resulting pregnancy at 14 – how do you live through all of that and still have such a positive outlook on the world? It would be so so hard and indeed, Oprah admits to all these things and the years it took her to come to terms with her past, and know that she had a right to be there, just because she was born, know that she is not her body, that she had to give herself the love she never received as a child.

I think the most powerful thing I have taken away from this book is that I am responsible for my own happiness. No one else can make me happy or complete me or whatever huffpost 20 something year olds are writing these days, but unless I truly love myself and continue to see myself as a child who needs love and attention and tenderness, I will not be happy at the core of who I am and I cannot expect anyone else to fill a void I created. There is a tendency among many of us, to blame our families, our friends, or a lack of resources or a difficult childhood, for the troubles we are facing in our present or our dreams for the future. And unless of course, you have a mental illness, which is not something you can control at all, there comes a point when you have to let go of the baggage that you’re carrying, that chip on your shoulder, and hold yourself responsible for your future from that point on. Think ‘What is the best that I can do with what I have right now?’ and then go do it. It is our job to love ourselves and give ourselves the tenderness we hope to receive from others, and the rest will follow.

Another important lesson I learnt from this book was resilience. I know a lot of strong courageous women, my mother and grandmother are two of them, as cliché as it is, because everyone names their own mother as a female role model. But I actually have friends my age who I truly admire for everything they have been through and their resilience in standing up against everything the world throws at them and making do with what they have. And I think that’s the best that any of us can hope for – is to stand up and make do. Oprah illustrates this really well in some of her anecdotes on resilience, and especially considering everything that she went through as a child, I can only draw inspiration from her strength and hope that I will be as strong against all the trials that I face in life.

I find myself walking away from this book feeling like I need to revisit it in a couple of years, when between working and paying rent and cooking food to feed myself, life has somehow happened and two years have gone by. I hope that by the end of those two years I can look back and say, yes I was resilient, or yes I gave myself the love I needed from others and I filled my soul with affection and tenderness and gave it the strength to be who it is today. I find myself taking baby steps towards achieving these goals. I am doing a lot more reflection on what matters to me, more asking ‘What is my intention’ in approaching a situation – what do I really want from this? Do I want to be fulfilled or do I want – whatever it is I am trying to tell myself I want.

I hope the next two years are a time for me to fill myself with positive energy and give the best of myself to the world in everything that I do, and hopefully what I give will come back to me.

Top Deck: Savannah to Niagara Falls

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It’s funny how I spent the last night swimming at cocoa beach where pre-teen boys threw sand at me and told me I looked like the Starbucks girl (?) and today I’m on a bus heading to the Deep South! When I think of Savannah I think of Scarlet O’Hara, of Mamie and Rhett and of course Bonnie – little Bonnie Blue Butler.

Woke up a bit earlier in the morning to go to the beach and take photos on the pier with Ellie before driving to the mission at St Augustine. Didn’t go to the Fountain of Youth archaeological excavation site seemed a bit of a waste of money, so instead Ellie and I walked around the area and found some cool gardens, a church and had subway for the first time in the states. Discovered that subway is pretty much the same price as the shitty sandwiches we’ve been buying for lunch from the 7-11 so will definitely be getting it more often!

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Watched Chef on the Bus in the morning which was a really cool movie and then Almost Famous in the afternoon.

Got to Savannah in the afternoon and went for a walk with Ellie before dinner. Had dinner at Paula Deen’s restaurant which is supposed to be like a southern version of Nigella Lawson I think – just good southern comfort food, was pretty good but not amazing. Went to a rooftop bar afterwards near the markets and fell in love with the guy playing the guitar there. Serious eye contact going on while he played my jam – Ignition by R Kelly. Wish I’d stayed longer, he announced he was gonna take a break and then I had to leave with Emma and Bec. Sigh. What could have been….

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Went back to the hotel and played Cards against Humanity with Emma, Bec, Paddy, Ellie and Erin. The next day had breakfast at the hotel which was awesome and went out with Ellie and Erin to River Street, The city market, Baptist church, and explored all the squares. Saw a church which was part of the Underground Railroad and I got goosebumps. I love how Savannah is laid out with 9 city squares remaining, it’s a grid system but it still retains its quaint southern charm. Went to the Cathedral, Museum, and got subway for lunch. Walked around by myself after lunch and checked out some more squares, found a xylophone in the park and I played Are you sleeping Brother John on it and got a few compliments for my efforts…aw shucks thanks gois.

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Tried on some hats at the Savannah Museum lol

Had dinner with Ellie at Panera, got a random salad and wild rice woup which was amazeballs. Did the Ghost Tour with the others after dinner, and was very disappointed. We got taken to several ‘haunted houses’ where he played recordings of sounds he captured supposedly form there. Basically just sounded like chuckys voice, wouldn’t be surprised if he stole it from the movie. Then went to a Karaoke Bar after and I sang The Gambler with Lauren, really really badly. Note to self- next time you decide to do a song at Karaoke, pick a song where you remember the tune. Idiot. There were these twin men there which was uber cute and one of them sang Wagon Wheel (swa-ooon). Southern men are so charming, and twins singing country music playing the guitar are just…too much déjà vu for one night. Went to bed at 2am, talking to Ellie.

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Spent the next day driving to Charlotte in North Carolina which was really boring and did some writing in the bus.

Cute couple getting married in Charlotte

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There was a nice park oppposite the convention centre as well with a literary theme

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Spent the afternoon around Charlotte, just walking around, went to the markets and found ourselves up on the 18th floor of some random building where I walked into someones office to take a photo of the view. Thought the floor was empty, the had a fight or flight (flight) moment where someone tried to stop us and I ran.

Had dinner at the hotel in Charlotte and walked around at night with Alicia. Had salted caramel dessert at TGI Fridays.

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Left in the morning for Washington DC. Went for a short walk around before dinner, after which we did the Illumination Walk of the White House, Washington Monument, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, WWII Memorial and Reflecting Pool. Would have loved to see it all again during the day but no time. Finished late at 11:45 and went to bed. Got bitten by heaps of mosquitos – but really liked the WWII memorial. Each state has its own pillar.

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Took the hotel shuttle the next day to the Capitol building and had a look at it. The not the Supreme Court building, library of congress and the national archives where Ellie and I saw the Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Amazing that there is so much history in that one room.

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Loved the architecture of the buildings as well. I can see why they had to start from scratch and create DC. Its so well planned out, love the streets, the buildings, the culture. Would not mind living here one day.

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Then did the National Art Gallery with Ellie which was very confusing, walked up the Ford Theatre where Lincoln was killed and then did the Natural History Museum which was really cool. Had hotdogs for lunch and then did the American Indian Museum, the White House again by day, the Holocaust Museum and went to the Union Station and bought a dress for $5 from H&M before going back to the hotel.

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Was a really hot day in Washington, I keep losing maps. I think that is my thing. I have lost so many maps already. Maybe its because I only had a tiny shoulder bag and I was holding so much in my hands. Had McDonalds for dinner with Ellie which was my first time eating mcDonalds on this whole trip and then went to the Baseball game with the crew – Washington Nationals vs Milwakee Brewers. Good game. Didn’t really get it. Awesome atmosphere though like so much fun just sitting in the stands seeing other people get really into it.

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Went to a bar after the game but left soon after and had apple pie at Maccas, and then went back to the hotel and slept.

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Left Washington the next day and drove to Philadelphia where we saw the Rocky Statue and the steps. Did an epic run up the Rocky steps was so much fun! Had a Philly Cheesesteak from the markets which was yum, saved half of it for breakfast the next day, it was 16 inches I couldn’t finish it. 16 inches wtf. I don’t even eat a subway footlong. Watched Catch me if you can and Rounders on the bus which were really good movies. Then arrived in New York, checked in and went and picked up my New York Pass. Was sad saying goodbye to everyone from the Tour especially Ellie.

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Met Uncle Neil, Aunty Preethi, Mama Maisy, Papa Stany and the kids after that and they picked me up from the Hotel and we went to Central Park and had a picnic which was really nice. So cool seeing the kids after ages and hearing them talk. Played Eye Spy with them in the car which was hilarious cause they kept changing what the object was. Got locked in central park after and we had to climb a fence to get out. Exciting times!

Then went back to the hotel and had a shower, couldn’t sleep. Did squats at 1am and listened to country music.

Met the new group the next day and drove back to Philly where I had a subway for lunch and walked around. Went to lots of old churches, Penn’s landing and saw the Customs House. Had a group dinner in Washington and then cabbed back and tried to sort out graduation stuff using the hotel computer. Had some of the coconut water Aunty Preethi gave me which was really good.

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Woke up at 7am and had breakfast and took a day pass from Rosslyn Metro, headed out to Arlington Cemetry. Was really excited about the day as it was my first day on my own in a while and I think I needed that just to feel a bit independent again and just do my own stuff. Saw the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unkown soldier and the eternal flame at JFK’s grave. Then took train to pentagon which was a bit of a disappointment. Got chills up my spine at JFK’s grave. I lie I really didn’t. loved the quotes all around his tomb though and that him and Jackie are buried next to each other. It was only when I saw his quote ‘Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’ that I realised that Robbie in Dirty Dancing was2015-08-24 12.10.42 actually using a JFK quote when he says to Baby ‘Ask not what you can do for your waiter but what your waiter can do for you’. Lol crack up. I had no idea. This entire time.

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After Pentagon went back to the city and stopped at the Smithsonian Museums. Saw African American museum which was amazing. Loved the Divine Comedy Exhibition and also the Bill Cosby Room with all the art in there. Particularly the painting of children in fields, turns into cotton fields though as you look further and you realise they are not picking flowers but cotton. Chills up my spine. This time for real. Was by Walter…? someone. The Hell and Purgatory Section was really really cool. Probably my favourite museum by far. Apart from creepy many who started talking to me and followed me through the entire museum trying to discuss art with me. Ugh.

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Also loved the Peacock Room at the Freer Art Gallery and the mirror opposite room that was created to conflict with the perfection of the Peacock Room. Incredible Whistler paintings as well. Went to the Air and Space Museum which I didn’t really like – was a bit of a repetition after NASA. Then went into the Smithsonian Castle, and the American History Museum. That was actually really cool. Saw the Ruby Slippers that Dorothy wore in the Wizard of Oz, the first ever Kermit the Frog, Muhhamad Ali’s boxing gloves, James freakin Brown’s purple cloak. Sigh. Was pretty damn amazing. Also saw the first flag of the united states that was patched together with bits of flats from all over the country. There was also a collection of the First Lady’s dresses. Loved Jackie Kennedy’s dress and Michelle Obamas.

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Met up with Holly for dinner at Shake Shack which had awesome chocolate milkshake and then walked to the Kennedy Centre which had an amazing view. Also saw the Watergate Hotel where the Watergate Scandal happened. So much history. Just really really overwhelming that I’m walking on the streets where these things happened. Really cute houses on the way down like each of the identical but all painted different colours.

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Was pouring by the time I got off the Metro at Rosslyn and made friends with some people at the train station while I was waiting for the rain to stop. Didn’t want my camera to get wet and I didn’t have anything to cover it. Had a good last night chilling at the hotel and went to bed.

Woke up early the next day and went to the Amish community in Pennsylvania (Lancaster County) for lunch. It was really interesting walking through their houses and school room replica etc but I wish I could have gone into the actual community and talked with children who lived there. Went to the Amish restaurant and loved the apply cobbler. Was very disappointed and shocked at the cultural insensitivity of some of the people on the tour and the way they felt the need to mock another persons culture.

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Checked into hotel and had dinner and went to a local bar, played Cornhole. I am da bomb. Evidently I am a natural at cornhole.

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Got up, had breakfast and watched the Wedding Crashers on the bus the next day and Drove to Niagara Falls the next day. Also watched 22 Jump Street. Only scenes I like is ‘My Name is Jeff’ and the scene where Channing Tatum is losing it going ‘You fucked the Captain’s daughter’ hahaha so funny. Had amazing Buffalo Wings at Buffalso before we drove crossed the border into Canada. I lie they were average. Not spicy enough for me. Didn’t stop me from having like 12 anyway though.

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Then drove to Hotel and had a shower before going to the Skylon Tower and got amazing views of Niagara Falls from the Canadian side. Had dinner at an Indian restaurant and then walked back to the Falls with Danielle and saw them lit up at night. Was really cool. Then cabbed back to the hotel with her. Seeing the Falls was pretty cool but nothing can compete with the Grand Canyon for me so far. Was an amazing moment though.

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Walked across to the USA side of the bridge and paid the 50 cents to get across lol, did the Maid of the Mist Boat ride which was amazing like just feeling the force of the water from the falls hitting your face, got completely drenched and got some good pics. Water falling at 35km per hour wtf that’s like my mum driving. you would die if you fell down that. Apparently an 8 year old boy went over the falls though and he survived. Then drove to Wine Tasting place after seeing the view from Bridge Observation Dekc. Had ice wine slushi which was good and walked through some vineyards.

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Drove on to Toronto and stopped at the Kensington Markets which was really cool. Love the dirt, love the graffiti, the op shops, the drugs on the streets. Such a real place. A guy tried to get me to go into a shop and ended up rapping/ singing a song about me as I was walking was such a cute moment. Was late going back to the bus which was embarrassing. Then went to the hotel, had dinner at a Pizza/ Pasta place which was really good. Then went to a bar – shit music. Had some random fruit cider which was nice.

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Looking forward to first full day in Toronto tomorrow, doing CN Tower and going to a comedy show.

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