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Ripley bonfire 2008
Ripley bonfire 2008

Yesterday was Ripley Bonfire Night – one of the year’s biggest events in our neighbouring village where Dane goes to school. The entertainment starts with a procession of floats through the town. It’s not a very big town, so this year’s five floats were a record, I heard. Dane’s class at school were in charge of the school float. The chosen theme this year was to celebrate that the school has become a Primary School, so it was something with launch and rockets… The parents – some more than others (find me in the latter category) – worked hard on creating a spectacular float. Unfortunately we didn’t win the float competition. The girl scouts (called Brownies in this country) won with a float on the theme of the Narnia Chronicles.

The floats just finished - five hours before the procession.
The float's just finished - five hours before the procession.

There were around 10.000 people in Ripley, so there were a lot of spectators along the way. After the procession the bonfire was lit and then there was an impressive fireworks display. After that we were tired and went home for some tea and cheese sandwiches – with sore feat after hours of standing.

Dane with sweet teacher Mrs. G.

Today the weather has been really, really awful – although it’s cleared now and there’s the most spectacular sunset – so we’ve stayed in all day. First it was the usual – a couple of hours of Sunday Times. Dane has worked out the Catch up TV, so he spent the morning catching up on his favourite programmes on CBBC. Then we played Star Wars monopoly for I don’t know how many hours. Dane won – without cheating on anybody’s part. Now it’s time for me to get out of my chair and into my kitchen. The menu says Vietnamese prawn and cauliflower coconut curry. Hope it’ll turn out as nice as it sounds. Then it’ll be time for some serious TV watching – all the programmes we’ve recorded in the past week. First and foremost Merlin, a wonderful series for the whole family on BBC. We enjoy every minute of it!

The central cast in the tv series Merlin
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There’s still hope!

Here’s a very happy story from the real world:

When we were on our holiday on the south coast we spent a day in Portsmouth at the Historic Dock Yard. Unfortunately Dane forgot his purse with (too much) money in it, in one of the museum shops there. As we were deliberating our options at home, the phone rang. It was a nice lady from the Surrey Wildlife Trust. She had had a call from a police station in Portsmouth that a purse had been found with a membership card to the Surrey Wildlife Trust in it. On it was Dane’s name, so the lady went on to the membership register, found us and called. She had a name and a number for the PC at the police station. I called the number several times but couldn’t get through. In the meantime we were back home, so I sent an e-mail to the main police station in Portsmouth. I got a reply from another nice lady with the name and phone number for an other PC at the local police station. It turned out that this particular police station is under the MOD (ministry of defence) and thus can’t be found on the Internet or in the phone book. There I spoke to another lady who could confirm that the purse had been found with all contents still in it, but alas, there was no way she could send it by post – not even using some of the money in it. It would have to be picked up by us in person. Portsmouth is quite a distance from here, so I asked if it would still be there around Christmas time, when we were planning to be back. She confirmed that and I resigned myself to being happy that the purse was found at all. It means a lot to Dane – it was bought in the Blue Mountains in Australia and it had a picture of himself and his best friend from Denmark in it.

A few days later the nice lady from the Portsmouth central police station sent me another e-mail to ask if the problem had been solved. I told her yes, but that we’d have to go there and pick it up in person. She thought that was rather annoying and asked if I would mind if she went down there and picked it up herself and then sent it off to me? If I’d mind??? You gotta be kiddin’, I could not believe anybody would be that kind. As it turned out, she could not pick it up, because she wasn’t a PC. So what did this lovely woman do? She got one of the police officers at her station to go and pick it up for her! And then she sent it – registered mail – to us.

Dane was thrilled to bits! And so was I. Isn’t it lovely that there are still people who will go out of their way to do a little something for others?

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Music

When I was a child and a teenager I was seriously teased at school. It was a pain to go there and I can still recall the sense of relief every afternoon when I got off the bus and was finally away from my tormentors. Music was my relief. Since I was around 10-11 I played (first the violin, later the viola) in a youth symphony orchestra every week and often in the weekends as well. We also went on tours in Europe. Nobody teased me there and the fantastic feeling of creating the music together gave me a feeling I cannot put into words. But I’m certain that “music saved my life”.

Picture of Julian Lloyd Webber as a child – from DLWP.com

I was reminded of that when I read about a new initiative taken by Julian Lloyd Webber, the cellist (not the musical composer, that’s his brother). Read about it here. More here. It’s about taking music to deprived children in a project named In Harmony. It has been done with incredible success in Venezuela and other places in a project called El Sistema.

I wish the project best of luck – I’m sure it will help in getting some children off the streets and give them joy and maybe even a purpose in life.

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School buses

On our trip through America we often marvelled over the school bus system. Wherever we were, we saw school buses everywhere and we noticed how they enjoyed very special privileges over any other vehicles on the road. All traffic stops, when the school bus does. It is just so not done to overtake a school bus, no matter what the road conditions are like.

Picture taken in Mississippi, if I remember correctly. It’s a tired old bus this one.

Since coming here I’ve often wondered why they don’t use them. Except for very urban areas, the public transportation here isn’t that fantastic and even if there were a bus, you can’t send your primary school child on a public bus to school unless it stops in the actual school grounds or there are traffic wardens in place where they get off the bus. Where we live, there’s not a bus Dane can safely take to school. So like all the other parents at his school I dutifully drive him to and from school every day. Don’t get me wrong – I actually cherish the moments alone with him in the car. There are few places or occasions where you get a more free conversation with your child than in the car.

But I still think it would be wonderful with a school bus. For several reasons: The parents – it’s stressful to do the school run, there’s loads of traffic and you’re constantly worried about either being late for work in the morning or being late for pick-up in the afternoon. And there’s the cost of petrol and the wear and tear of the car – by now we’ve all learned that it’s the short trips that wear the car out and which are most expensive in petrol. Then there’s the general congestion. I don’t recall the number, but it’s an astonishing amount of cars that would not fill the roads, if school buses became generally used in this country. And not least, there’s the environment. There’s a lot of CO2 emissions saved on that account. And – for the children, there’s the not so small matter of security – it’s a lot safer to drive in a dedicated school bus with a certified school bus driver than to drive with stressed-out mum or dad. And it’s more fun too – you get to travel with all your mates.

So, as David Blunkett, the chairman of the Yellow school bus committee, said: It should be a no-brainer. But apparently the unions have complained that the children should much rather go by public transport. ‘Scuse me, but that’s the no-brainer here. If sufficient, safe and on-time public transportation was to be found, would everybody drive their kids to school? And besides, what about all the nice new members the union would get?

I’m writing about it today because it’s on the news. The above mentioned committee published their report yesterday.

Anyway, now it’s up to the politicians to figure out if we’re going to have school buses in this country. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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A little Obama and a lot of other stuff

Slate, New York Times, The American Prospect, Megan McArdle and a lot of sites that they’re linking to discuss the Obama speech. They seem to agree that it was a good speech, but not fantastic. He is an oratory master and has made so many good speeches during his brief career, that he’s made it difficult for himself. But see for yourself! While looking around all the politics sites, interesting news popped up – John McCain’s most unusual choice of veep candidate – the completely inexperienced, but young and female Sarah Palin. Check Wikipedia as the article is probably developing as we speak (or whatever it is we’re doing). Oh, how I love Wikipedia!

After one of my neighbours told me that I was not alone in experiencing faulty Internet here in our convent (thick, thick walls) and also was kind enough to tell me what he’d done to remedy it, I’ve become the very happy owner of three HomePlugs. OK, not exactly another step towards the wireless home – but oh, my Internet just works wonderfully – at full speed now. It’s like a big plug –  into the mains, one connects to the router with an ethernet cable and the others connect from the mains to my computer wherever I want to work. No installation whatsoever, just plug’n’play! Lovely, lovely, lovely!

So naturally I’ve been surfing around all day long and found lots of lovely stuff out there:

On happiness I’ve found a couple of good posts. They are both lists of things to do to be happier and not exactly groundbreaking science. But I still think they’re good and absolutely worth reading and maybe even memorizing. It’s Gretchen from The Happiness Project, but writing on another blog. And it’s from Pick the Brain about happy people’s habits. Btw Gretchen has a post on how to spot when you’re boring people…

On the TED blog I had to pick a few or the rest of the day would go with watching all these incredible people tell about their dreams and achievements. So this Indian guy with his hole-in-the-wall project took pride of place – he has put computers (with Internet) in holes-in-walls in remote places in India and discovered that any child between 5 – 14 can teach him- or herself and loads of other kids to use a computer in a few months. They even teach themselves basic English to do so. He quotes someone for saying “if a teacher can be replaced by a computer – replace him”. True! If the teacher can’t be better and more emphatic and inspiring than a computer, why have one?

When I started my origami craze I had no idea that it had somehow become “modern“. But clearly it has and I find that quite funny. Here’s a math professor who’s taken origami to a whole new sphere – using his math skills to do so. It’s downright incredible!

On the Long Now blog there’s a post by Brian Eno, who’s new album with David Byrne is on my to-buy list. It’s got absolutely raving reviews in the papers here and I am looking forward to hearing it. The post is about what happens to a society when it’s united in and committed to a very long-term project.

Jeff Jarvis writes about Paulo Coelho’s online presence. I must admit, I didn’t know about it and I’ve never read a book of his, although it’s probably about time that I read The Alchemist, which has apparently inspired many people. I’ve certainly noticed his books in prominent places in the bookshops. His website is very professional and informative and – where he differs from most other authors – there’s lots to read and download for free.

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A family holiday in pictures

We only had weather like this one whole day. Trust me that we enjoyed it from breakfast on the terrace till stargazing on the beach at night. This picture is taken from the front door of the family summer house, just to give you an idea. We’re in Pagham, Sussex.

 

David caught a mackerel and ate it!

Linda is showing off her wellies! Low tide and high winds.

 

Notice the “door steps”. When the tide is high, it really is. The road along the harbour is flooded on a daily basis! This is Bosham, Sussex.

Hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows is just the cure for a rainy day!

We went to Portsmouth and toured the Victory, Admiral Nelson’s ship at the battle of Trafalgar.

 

The plaque commemorating that Nelson fell here on this exact spot and a view heavenward, where you can get an idea of the weather conditions!  We can really recommend Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for a day or two out – also when the weather is good! We had a great time!

And here’s what we did when it just poured with rain (there wasn’t room for anything as prosaic as playing cards in this picture, but we did play a lot of Canasta and Estimation Whist):

(don’t bother burgling us – we always sleep with our Iphones and most of the gear isn’t ours anyway…)

 

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Will the sight of a boy in a tree become a rarity?

It’s Dane up there in the trees!

The Times and quite a few other media have the story today about a study made by GE Money Bank. The study shows how we spend much more money on boys than on girls. The boys’ sports gear and electronics cost a lot more than the odd bangle, pink mobile phone or black-black eye-liner. A reader comments quite sensibly that we’re still treating boys and girls differently in ways that we shouldn’t (will come back to the ways that we should): Namely for instance by choosing to call a girl’s tennis lessons or music lessons “luxury” while a boy’s football lessons are “necessary”.

The Times then links to an article that so much speaks my heart. How boys just can’t handle sitting down for hours on end and how we’ve become scared of our own shadows and won’t let children out to climb trees and play with the neighbours the way children used to. I agree, traffic is a lot worse than it used to be. But it seems to me that many parents fear the big media beast “the male abductor” even more. Although he’s less prevalent now than he ever was. Also, I so often hear how just about everything is dangerous, the children could fall and hurt themselves. Yes, that’s true. But if we overprotect them throughout their childhoods and never let them experience the consequences of  this and that in relatively safe surroundings, then how will they get along when they grow older and have to?

When I was a little girl – and my parents were very protective of me – I was still allowed to take the bus on my own to school every day. Jaws would have dropped if any of the children had been driven by their daddies to school. Today I think the jaw dropping has reversed. If you don’t drive your child to school in your big gas-guzzling “safe” 4WD, you’re just not doing right by him or her. I walked on my own to violin lessons once a week, right through the neighbourhood where another little girl had just been gruesomely killed. But my mother reasoned that as long as I didn’t stray and didn’t go with strangers – and I had to solemnly promise this many, many times – I would be fine! And I was.

In my child’s preschool (in Denmark) we several times experienced what I found to be weird and very irrational uproars from parents. Once was when a boy fell off the climbing structure and broke his leg. A cry for the instant demolition of the climbing structure. Luckily the school didn’t fall for it. Picture a playground without a climbing structure! YAWN!!! Another time was when my son fell and hit his head on the edge of one of the milk crates they played with endlessly. He had TWO stitches and was perfectly OK the next day. But instantly a cry from some parent to have the milk crates removed. Playground with no climbing structure and no stacking of milk crates. Double YAWN!!! And in a fluke accident with another preschool, a little boy was killed when a tourbus he was a passenger on collided with a tractor. A terrible accident. My heart goes out to everyone involved. But it was the type of accident you can only avoid if you stay in bed for the rest of your life. But some parents instantly said that they would never let their child be transported by bus ever again. Despite the fact that all statistics show that the most dangerous means of transportation on the Globe is daddy’s car…

Oh well, those articles really got me going. Time to cook some supper!

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Days in and days out

My oldest son Emil and his girlfriend Ida are spending some time with us this week. Where we’ve hardly been up to London since we got here, obviously the two youngsters didn’t want to miss out on the big city. And they wanted me and Dane to come along (David was away on business). So we all took the train from Woking to Waterloo. It only takes 20 minutes, so it’s really not such a big deal.

Also our friends Lotte and David were in town with their son, Dane’s best friend, Adam.

We trotted around a bit without any particular aim, but then Ida wanted SHOPPING and Dane wanted HAMLEY’S… So Emil let himself be dragged round crowded clothes shops (sale’s on!) and I let myself be dragged round Hamley’s – five floors of toys. Only the the girlie-floor can be avoided… Anyway, Dane was quite good about it and I got off lightly…

We met up with our friends and spent the afternoon together. We had dinner in an Iraqi restaurant on Edgware road. After dinner we tried to find a place to have a cup of coffee, that wasn’t completely crowded and also would accommodate our two little boys. All the Neros, the Starbucks and the Costas were either crowded or with only inside seating, so we just trotted on and on. In the end we were rewarded – we found a little French Café, the French Bakery, in James Street (off Oxford Street) where we had lovely coffee, good sweets and great service. From Waterloo we made it home in exactly 34 minutes (including taxi from Woking – Dane was too tired to walk – it was after all 11 pm).

We tried to make the most of Emil’s and Ida’s stay, so the next day we did a barbecue with David’s cousin Karen and her two boys Robert and Max. We sat out all evening and enjoyed the rare balmy night.

 

In the weekend we took a longer trip to the CLA Game Fair in Oxfordshire at Blenheim Palace. Emil just absolutely had to visit the app. 50 suppliers of fishing equipment all present in one spot. His hands were practically shaking… (maybe I haven’t told you, but he’s an avid fisherman and has recently started fly-fishing). David is also rather mad about fishing, so Ida and I just tagged along, knowing that there would be lots of other things to look at. Although an extremely hot day, it was still nice and even Dane had a good time.

  

With two new fly-fishing rods aquired the obvious next step was of course going fishing.

No way that Ida, Dane and I wanted to stare at those two throwing their lines all day, so we spent the hot, hot day at Hampton Court Palace. We enjoyed it very much – Ida is a real castle & museum kind of girl, bless her! And Dane was at his very best behaviour, curiously interested in furniture, four poster beds and tapestries. He’s rather fascinated with Henry VIII. But then, he is a most fascinating character, isn’t he?

Now we’ve sent Ida and Emil home and are by ourselves again. David has spent three days doing our tax returns for both Denmark and England. An absolutely horrifying enterprise! All three of us are very happy that it’s done now!

What’s left now is to plan our holiday. You may laugh at this – planning your holiday after August 1st, but it was only in March we came back from six months of fantastic holiday and we’ve decided to go very low key and local this summer. We’ll spend some time with David’s sister and her family at the summer house on the coast in Sussex and then we’ll go and visit David’s older brother in North Wales. Dane has another five weeks left of his summer holidays, so we’ll also make some day trips to get to know this bit of England better.

More pictures with captions (see Emil’s three beautiful salmon trouts) on Flickr.

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No Europeans/Americans seem to be suffering…

… so I keep my money in my pocket; or what else is the reason for the missing donations towards the disaster in Burma???

I can see that the excuse is that the regime isn’t letting the help through. And of course that’s horrible. But some of the international aid organisations like Save the Children are already inside Burma and they are litterally pleading for more donations. So why don’t you donate some of your surplus right now!

I was thinking about the not-exactly-necessary things I’ve bought within the last couple of weeks. I won’t tell you all of it, because, frankly, it’s pretty embarrassing, but I’ve bought some handkies for my husband, a wall calendar to keep up with school holidays etc., white tea to satisfy my spoilt tastebuds, a cute shirt for Dane, Vanity Fair and eh, probably a lot more. So donating a few pounds towards people in real need hasn’t exactly bankrupted me! Nor will it bankrupt you, I suspect…

The next issue of course is what to do about that awful regime down there?!? Handing Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi the Nobel peace prize didn’t exactly do the trick, did it? And the international pressure seems to be making no impression on the generals whatsoever. Small wonder, when the bulk of “international pressure” seems to be directed towards the “evil regimes” in the middle east (and then there’s North Korea). China, who is the Burmese regime’s primary protector, is probably at the core of the problem here. Because the world leaders seem to be more than reluctant to put any kind of pressure on the Chinese, no matter if it’s about their oppressive regime at home or the protection of others’. Did you know that a good deal of the war in Iraq is actually financed by China? Well, it is, because China is lending money to the US on an scale hitherto unheard of. Read here and here. And now China has to deal with it’s own catastrophe, the earthquake. The timing couldn’t be worse!

On a favourite American news site of mine, Slate, they argue for a REAL “coalition of the willing”. Namely countries who are willing to intervene on behalf of the Burmese people against their leaders. France & Germany – have another go, please! And Britain – join a coalition that’ll do the world some good for a change. That goes for you too, Denmark…

Pictures from the New York Times

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England

I know I’ve been a bit secretive as to what’s going to happen now. A reason for that could be that we weren’t entirely sure ourselves…

But – now we’ve decided, we’re going to settle down here in England, my husbands home country, which he’s been away from for almost thirty years. We have our eyes fixed on a lovely flat in Woking, Surrey. That’s south-west of London, a 20 minutes journey by train to Waterloo. Almost all the family is in Surrey, so we’ll be close to baby-sitting opportunities ;-) The deal is not done yet, so cross your fingers, please.

We’ve got ourselves a bank account – sounds easy-peasy doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t! You have to produce evidence of residence – e.g. an electricity bill with your name on it. That’s not easy when you’ve just arrived in the country! AND you have to be on the electoral register, which is only updated every three months… Well, I wont go into details about how we got all of this fixed, but we did and now have a joint account with Natwest. The bank manager was all apologies over these new rules – you can try a wild guess as to why they’ve been implemented…

We’ve also bought a car – that was a lot easier than getting a bank account. You just go to the car dealer, choose a car, pay with your credit card and sign on the dotted line and Yippeee, you’ve got a car! Ours is a slightly battered eleven year old Audi A6 stationcar. It’s a lovely car, although a bit of a hassle to park. And it was dirt cheap, compared to Danish prices.

Until we’ve cleared it with the flat we’re staying with David’s sister and her family. Dane is having a fantastic time with his cousins Avi, 11 and Simmie, 9 and all their friends. He has really been missing other children on our trip, so this is just great. The family is most gracious, letting us stay, lending us all sorts of things that we need, giving us advice on schools (that’s a BIG deal over here!), public transport, parking, shopping etc. etc. Families can be really useful, you know!

We’ve been driving around the southern English countryside and – oh, it’s just so beautiful! It’s so much more hilly and wooded than the Danish countryside and villages seem to live on, in spite of the spreading suburbia and the huge supermarkets everywhere. We’ve heard from a number of sources that the preservation of villages is a cause that has captured many Englishmen’s hearts, besides the ones owning the ailing village shops. I’ve borrowed the picture from this page.

Oh, and on another note – my travel blog, still this one, just being transmogriffed into a different kind of blog (with some kind of purpose, don’t know which yet), has been nominated to an award. I’m very honoured, but can’t quite do what I’m supposed to do yet, since I haven’t had time to look at many blogs lately. Hope it’s ok for me to get back to my duties later. Thank you to Capac for thinking of me and promoting me this way!

If you only stumbled over my blog today, just click the travel category and you’ll get all the posts from our travels. There are quite a few, we travelled for six months and have only been home for about two weeks.

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Lying a bit low

We’ve been lying low for a couple of days, because Dane has been ill. As usual we have no idea what hit him, but he went down with a fever and an upset tummy. He then slept 16 hours non stop, and that was that.

We visited the Saturday morning market in Chinatown (before he got really ill). Chinatown is almost next door to our motel. Among the stands was a book stand. And would you believe it, the guy sold only good books! Took ages to browse through his boxes – which were in perfect order, naturally, just like a library

Afternoon and evening were spent with our books and the telly, watching Dane sleep off the fever. This morning we took it easy, but then Dane insisted we went out. And he really was well again. We went for a walk in the Brisbane Botanical Garden, cruising along the river. And then we went to the movies and saw Alvin and the Chipmunks. It was great fun – Dane thought it was hilarious, his jaws were sore from laughing. I thought it was pretty funny too – loved the record company executive ;-)

(picture from IMDB)

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Laid back paradise

Again I’m on a porch to catch the feeble signal from a router in an office. Last time I was freezing off a certain body part, this time I’m wiping the sweat off my brow.

We’ve left the lovely Capitan Suizo and moved less than a 100 km. south. Mind you, the journey took five hours… It’s much greener here, because they get more rain, but still the roads are so dusty that people wear dust masks when they ride their bikes, motorbikes and dirt-bikes on the roads – or what passes for roads around here.

This hotel – or lodge really – is very different from the Capitan, but also very nice. It consists of a number of small cabins or huts with little porches in front. Each cabin has a nice large room with a half partition, so the beds are separated. Centrally on the property is the open air restaurant (almost all restaurants here are open air – a steep roof on pillars and a kitchen in the back) and the swimming pool. We don’t use the pool as much here as in the other place, because this one is very deep and not as big. Besides, the sea is 25 meters from our cabin.

The Pacific is even wilder here than in Tamarindo. At high tide the waves are awesome! Which is why we only let Dane surf at low tide. The waves are still pretty wild then, but more manageable.

This is another surfer’s paradise, but these surfers are a lot different from the bums at Tamarindo. These guys – and some girls – live for surfing. Their lives revolve around that board. They are mostly young, but there are also quite a few in their thirties and maybe even older. They have lean, muscular bodies with tans worth dying for, big and generally very beautiful tattoos, long sun-bleached hair, wear long shorts and washed out t-shirts. It seems that the only things they spend money on is surf-gear and sunglasses. Very fashionable sunglasses they all have! They surf from the early morning just at sunrise, which is around 6:30 till they have to go to work. The good(looking) ones teach surfing school, the less fortunate tend bars and work in surf shops. The girls are almost all very, very pretty and the predominant fashion is tiny mini-shorts that almost cover their buttocks and skimpy little tank tops. They are also tattooed. The surfers come from all over the world to surf these fantastic waves.

Life is very laid back here. Apart from the surfers, there aren’t many tourists. And some of them are clearly parents, who’ve come to visit their straying offspring. You only have to walk a few steps along the beach to have it more or less to yourself. Only time you see crowds are the obligatory sunset half-hour. At 5:30 everybody is at his or her favoured spot on the beach (not too far down, because the tide comes in with surprising speed at this time) with drink in hand to watch the sun set over the Pacific. And what a sight it is!

More tropical pictures here, if you can bear to see them…

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