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2007 Winter in Kusadasi

by Trudy (1/6/2009)

2007 - Winter in Kusadasi

2007 – WINTER IN KU├×ADASI

 

Sunday December 31st

            With a stopover at my mum’s I travel to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Tomorrow early in the morning there is no public transport to the railway station. For the coming night I can’t make a reservation for a cab and just going at random is too risky. What if I can’t get a taxi or if it is not on time? Then maybe I will miss my plane. The only available hotel at the airport is the high-priced Sheraton for which I made a reservation through the internet. I become a member of the Starwood Privilege Program. Not that I intend to use a hotel like this very often but a customer card always gives some discount. While checking in, the receptionist wants to do me a favour; he upgrades my room from Deluxe (standard room that is) to a Club Room. It is more luxurious but non-smoking! Not one room in which smoking is allowed is available. That will be hard tonight and tomorrow morning. Happily for me there are plenty of restaurants at the airport where smoking is allowed, so with food, a drink and a good book I plump down on the couch at the Grand Plaza Café to spend some time.

            In the Run Away Café next to the hotel I read some newspapers and talk with four tourists who came to Amsterdam specially for New Years Eve. One of them, Nick from Texaaaaaaas, works at Chanel and he shows that very well: ‘Girl, what a fantastic chocolate brown nail polish you have. Is that Chanel? You are really a trendsetter!’ What rubbish, probably it is the beer talking not the guy himself. It is only eight o’clock but all of them are already quite drunk. I get my stuff for tomorrow morning and read for a while. I will not be aware of the turn of the year, I am going to sleep, I don’t want to arrive in Turkey exhausted. In the middle of the night I wake up because of the beeps of a sms: Turkish friend Abdullah wishes me a happy New Year in broken Dutch and asks when I will come home again.

 

Monday January 1st 2007

            At 5.20 my alarm goes off and still drowsy I make coffee before taking a shower. While packing my things I watch the news. The television even has an audio connection in the bathroom which I hear when I’m brushing my teeth so I do not have to miss a single word. Despite extra safety control of hand luggage, checking in is a piece of cake and I have breakfast until it is time to board. The Lufthansa aircraft to Munich (type CRJ 200 of the Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier) only has 50 seats. It is the smallest plane I have ever flown in but even now, with only 16 passengers, it is not fully booked. I like to travel and visit other countries but I absolutely do not like flying. I am not afraid but at the same time I am always happier after a safe landing. Also this time turbulence on my way to Izmir gives me a lot of knots in my stomach.

            Buying a new visa is not necessary. Even though the sticker in my passport says ‘1-month visa’, the officer in Izmir answers ‘Evet’ to my question as to whether my October visa is still valid. (He has to count the months on his fingers before answering…). Directly at the exit I hear someone call my name. There is Kerem, together with his cousin Emre waiting for me. Emre lives in Izmir and tonight he will go to Söke, Kerem’s home town, where his parents live and therefore Kerem offers him a ride. I do not really know Kerem yet. I ‘met’ him through www.turkishclass.com. Still he is not a complete stranger to me, we have chatted, mailed and exchanged sms for quite some weeks - very intense - and these conversations are sometimes very personal. I get two kisses on my cheek, it is New Years Day. By the way, Kerem is not the real name of the man I met in Ku├żadas├Ż, but to protect his privacy we together chose a nick for him.

            Driving to Ku├żadas├Ż Kerem and I do talk a lot. He is very concerned about me and only after I have assured him I will be fine on my own, is it okay. Emre does not speak English so Kerem has to translate. In Ku├żadas├Ż they take me to Liman Otel, a hotel I booked myself through the hotel website. The room looks fine, the missing towels are brought immediately. I give Kerem my present from Holland, a CD with Dutch and English songs. He said before that I should not bring anything, but hey, I’m stubborn!

            Kerem drops me off in the town centre and then goes to Söke together with Emre. I just wander around a bit, looking at stores and noticing that it is very touristy and as pricey as in Alanya. Also here prices are sometimes double the prices of those further east. Then I see a sign at Café Derici: salep. The national winter drink made of hot milk, sugar, vanilla, a flower extract and cinnamon I want to taste. It is delicious! In this café I figure out with the help of information leaflets which I brought with me and the Lonely Planet what I would like to do tomorrow. It will be Efes as in that area there are such wonderful things to visit. I send an sms to Kerem, as he asked. While in the café I hear several well known songs: Ismail YK, Yurtseven Kardesler, Nazonöncel, it sounds familiar.

            Even on New Years Day, the shops are open until late so I look for postcards to send home. In a small bookstore next to the harbour – where I was only allowed in after a metal detector search – I find Turkish New Year cards. Very nice, though none of the people I send them to will understand the text about health, luck, happiness and love, but that’s a detail. In the hotel I talk a while with Hasan De├░irmenci, the owner of Liman Otel. He gives me some tips about nice bars. He is friendly but to say he fits in the profile the Lonely Planet gives that ‘he is more fun than a barrel of monkeys’, well, no!

 

Tuesday January 2nd 2007

            At exactly 10.00 AM Kerem is waiting for me and we head for Efes where we spend more than two hours walking in the precinct. Efes is a partly-Greek and partly-Roman ruin dating from several centuries before Christ. The then city was even the capital of New Asia. The antiquities I see are gorgeous, Ionic pillars, facades of old houses, temple complexes. I wish I had paid better attention in history class, and then I would have known all the names that are mentioned. They do look familiar to me now but I have forgotten the exact facts. I take many pictures, also a few of Kerem and he a few of me. Then we visit the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers, Yedi Uyuyunlar, I am not very impressed. Next to it is a gözleme garden, Askerin Yeri – The place of the soldier, where they have several kinds of gözleme. That we have to try! The gözleme are made by three traditionally dressed women sitting on the floor next to an open fire. It looks cosy. Again I am amazed that they can produce this so cheaply.

            What follows is one of my favourites I want to see: The House of Virgin Mary – Meryamhana. The building is small but well-kept. There is a nice statue of Mary and I light a candle for my deceased father. There is also a Christmas stable. Kerem does not know what that is and, whispering, I explain it to him. He also asks about me lighting that candle. At the local post office I hand over my New Year’s cards, they will get a nice Mary stamp. Then it is time to visit a mosque, the famous Isa Bey Camii. It seems that this mosque is typical Seljukian architecture but I think it is rather bare. At a Pastane in Selçuk we eat ke├żkul (milk pudding) before we go back to Ku├żadas├Ż.

            We look for a while for a nice restaurant. Due to the season many places are closed. We almost go inside a place until I see the sign ‘Het Limburgs Huis’. I don’t think so, no Dutch things these days. We eat at a more local restaurant ‘Seyhan’: tavuk ├Żzgara (grilled chicken) and köfte. I would have liked to go to a meyhane but Kerem objects to this, principally because of the alcohol they serve. A pity for me. We end the day with a cup of salep at café Derici. I ask for the ingredients and the waiter tells me but also says that one can buy instant in the supermarket. Well, sometimes I’m a bit lazy so that may be a nice souvenir. We talk about everything: travel, work, dreaming of the future. When I want to pay, my wallet is gone! Darn! Only money in it – about 150 lira – and no credit cards or passport but still. We walk back to the restaurant but they say they haven’t found anything. An unexpected and unwanted expense this holiday.

 

Wednesday January 3rd 2007

            It is raining cats and dogs when Kerem arrives at my hotel at 6.15 AM. We go to the bus company’s office and take the 7.00 o’clock bus to Izmir. At the otogar the service bus is waiting. First kahvalt├Ż, with nice sandwiches, lots of coffee and portakal suyu. Then we look for some time in book shops for the two study books I need. After 20 shops we stop. Some of the salesmen try to sell me a different title, but I don’t want it, these are not used in Kadir’s lessons.

            Konak Meydan├Ż is a big but well-ordered square. The clock tower – saat kalesi – from 1901 is absolutely worthy of a picture as are the beautiful blue Kütahiya tiles on the outside of the tiny Konak Camii from 1748. The little building is closed and when we check later it is praying time. An exhibition with pictures of An├Żtkab├Żr (Atatürk Mausoleum) in Ankara recalls memories. I see several pictures of places I have been to. Many groups of young men are walking in this square. According to Kerem they are all soldiers having a day off because of Kurban Bayrami. Soldiers? Some of these boys hardly look 16!

            At candy store Kardelen I buy pi├żmaniye for my Japanese friends, together with Nazar key rings which I will send to them. I also buy pamuk ├żeker, a kind of candy floss. Haven’t eaten that for years, memories about fairs when I was a kid are popping up in my mind. Kerem has to laugh when he sees me eating that stuff while walking, it is more what children do, he says. For a nice view over Izmir and the bay we go by public elevator (from 1907 and restored in 1993), the Asansör, from a street at the foot of the hill to the top of it. We hear there is a synagogue in this area as well but, though guarded by policemen, it is closed.

            Then we go to the Ethnographic museum. One of the best things to see is the explanation of how Nazar is made and of course the different types of rooms, decorated as in earlier days: a bridal room, a living room, a circumcision room. Various types of rug are shown, but I didn’t see a kilim or a sumac like I have at home. The explanation is all in English, I know what I am looking at.

            Time to go back to the centre. On a bench at Konak Meydan├Ż we watch and comment on people for a while. We have walked a lot and our feet are burning. We go to the local bazaar, K├Żzlar A├░as├Ż Han├Ż, a smaller version of its big brother in Istanbul. A silver necklace with a dervish figure is now mine. As a negotiator I’m better than Kerem, apparently not every Turk knows how to ask for indirim…

            At the bus station we make a reservation for two seats back to Ku├żadas├Ż. The bus (the last one!) appears to be fully booked but after some phone calls they decided to put on an extra bus, happily for us and the other waiting passengers. If that extra bus had not been there, we would have arranged an overnight in Izmir. Not a big problem to me – Visa you can use anywhere – but I know Kerem would not have liked that. Next to the ticket office is a lokanta Erdo├░an Kebap where they have delicious Ezogelin Çorba.

            We arrive in Ku├żadas├Ż at 9.30 PM and though tired we are going to drink salep at cafe Derici. There we have a very personal conversation about marriage and relationships. I am really western in my opinion and Kerem is much more traditional to my point of view. I have no objections to premarital relations, Kerem - being a religious man - is absolutely against. I think going out with friends even when you have a relationship is okay, Kerem thinks not, especially not being a woman going out at night. At 23.30 it is time for bed, Kerem takes me to my hotel and once upstairs I almost immediately fall asleep. I saw so much today, I walked so many kilometres, I am exhausted.

 

Thursday January 4th 2007

            Sleep in! I only get up at 10.00 a.m. to have breakfast and at 11.00 Kerem arrives. He helps me with all the details in my diary including the Turkish names. It is a lazy and quiet day, we wander around a bit, we visit the karvanserai from 1618 that is now used as a hotel in the summer.. A hotel specialising in ‘authentic’ shows and that has in the courtyard many little shops – which are closed now. The building is originally an Ottoman fort, which was used to protect caravans and the sea trade. Imagine how that must have looked in earlier times when caravans arrived from the far East, India and even China, with their precious cargo of exotic products and their mysterious guides. Camels, horses, donkeys, carriages, drivers and of course the tradesmen themselves. Here they met the seamen from Europe. Here was the business, where also stories and experiences were exchanged. All hotel rooms nowadays have a name instead of a number. What would you think of staying in room ‘Hayat’ or ‘Dünya’? En route we inquire at some travel agencies about excursions. Pity, despite the inspiring texts on advertisement-boards, the season is over. At the end of April I am very welcome again. No problem, I will find myself things to do by bus.

            We have lunch at an authentic teahouse, Ender çay evi, filled with people who are very enthusiastically playing rummikub. In Turkey the name of this game is Okay. To my surprise there are also many women around, you do not see that very often at this kind of place, because an aile salonu is not available. It is also the ‘favourite pub’ of Kerem. The owner lived a couple of years in Holland and he still speaks a few words of Dutch. He has family living in Rotterdam and asks me if they live in my neighbourhood. According to the postal code I can see they don’t.

            We walk to Pigeon Island but we do not climb the hill with Atatürk’s statue. The sky is too clouded for really good pictures and the statue itself I find not so special. Back in the town centre I take a picture of the Ibrahim Sürücü Ç├Żplak, a fountain with beautiful blue tiles. I love those blue tiles I see at many places in Turkey. The Kaleici Camii is a bit bare, strange or I think a mosque is either extremely decorative or very bare – nothing in between. The Han├Żm Camii is in use by praying people.

            Walking through Ku├żadas├Ż I see many shops are closed. The oh-so-famous Bar Street – Bahar Sokak – is deserted, only two Irish pubs are open. I see a Chinese restaurant and I suggest to Kerem to have something to eat there. No, he doesn’t want that, he doesn’t like Chinese food. When I ask him if he has ever eaten it, he says no. Strange guys, those Turks…. When I say this to Kerem he has to laugh. He shows me his working place and also takes me to his room, which he shares with three other men. A room of at most 10 square meters and a shared bathroom. Free, because all four men work for the same employer which owns this building. I cannot imagine living like this, absolutely no privacy, not even a private closet. Kerem’s clothes are in a sports bag which he takes to his parents’ house every weekend. He admits it is an option for now but when he has another job, he would like to have some more private space.

            At a quarter to six Kerem takes me to my hotel, he has to work later this evening. He has, as usual for him, night shift from 22.00 PM until 08.00 AM the next morning. We agree to meet again at 10.00 AM tomorrow to go on an excursion to Priene and more. In the hotel I search through the internet for the Turkish study books. I cannot find them. At home I will look again. I ask Hasan what the best option is for me to go to Izmir Airport on Monday. He says that is not easy, there are no direct buses from Izmir town to the airport. He gives me two complicated routes, one with a change in Izmir and one by Selçuk with a point at the highway where I should get off. In both cases I still need a taxi, he says. I cannot imagine there is no public transport to an airport, I will ask at the otogar. Hasan can arrange a taxi for me, the price he says is high. When Kerem hears this later, he offers to take me to the airport by car, how sweet.

            To my idea all the nice and good Turkish restaurants are closed so I choose China Garden, where I have a Beef Szechuan, no appetite for Dutch croquettes with French fries. It is definitely not because of the food’s quality that after fifteen minutes I am the only guest in the restaurant, the streets are deserted as well. At café Rigolo next to hotel Atinç I take coffee and cake. Here they do not serve salep or delicious Turkish tatl├Ż. This place is more specialised in coffee and lattes with different flavours and tiramisu or banana split. I ask about the hammam in this hotel but the absolutely non-Turkish prices make me think I will not go here. Hey, a five-star hotel, normally fully booked with package-deal travellers, what am I talking about?

 

Friday January 5th 2007

            Ten o’clock and no Kerem. I wait half an hour and then I send him an sms, was I mistaken in the time of our appointment? Almost immediately after that Kerem comes in, several times saying he is sorry, he just overslept. On our way to Priene we first stop in the village of Güllübahçe where the Aziz Nikolaos Kilise (St. Nicholas Church) is. A text on a sign next to the church says: ‘The church has been built on another church ruins by Greeks in 1821 presented for St. Nicholas who is one of the most important of saints. Outside measurement of the church 25,9 x 12,85 metre. It has a rectangular plan along to east-west route, two apses, two naves, on-front narthex and a bell tower on this narthex.’ The building is much neglected, the frescos are hardly visible anymore.

            Moving on to Priene, a marvellous Greek ruin with high pillars, temples and buildings for several purposes. The then city dates from 300 years before Christ and one of the most important things one can see nowadays is the temple of Apollo but also the theatre and the gymnasium are worth looking at. After lunch we go on to Miletus, in earlier days a much more important city but to me less beautiful than Priene. In what used to be the hammam we see the remains of mosaics. A staff member proudly shows them to us, obviously unaware of the fact that litter, sand and weeds make the mosaics not as beautiful as they can be. A broom is very necessary here. Kerem says he is sometimes a bit ashamed and he does not understand why they don’t look after these historical buildings. Practically he says that more maintenance will make more tourists visit these places and that means more money. The last stop in this list of historical places is at Didyma, a stunning Greek temple dedicated to Apollo and an oracle, almost as important as the oracle of Delphi in Greece. From the first moment I see them I am in love: these wonderful and beautiful enormous Ionic pillars and those nice sculptures. This ruin really is in the middle of the village. Strange to see daily 21 century life pass by on every side. Kerem has never been here, he only saw Didyma from outside the gate when he was a child. Well, then being my guide is also useful for him. On our way back Kerem asks if I am very disappointed if we do not visit his parents in Söke. He is too tired because he has not had enough sleep. No, I would have loved to meet his parents but I understand his tiredness completely.

            Dinner we have at Ada Köfte Salonu where I discover a - to me - new dessert: Kabak Tatl├Żs├Ż (pumpkin with walnuts). Delicious enough to have two portions for me alone…. Kerem says that even a small lokanta like this is like a meyhane for him because they serve rak├Ż. Do I understand that? Eh, no, I do respect his ideas that he does not drink alcohol himself – and out of that same respect I didn’t drink alcohol in his presence – but that it is so difficult for him to see that people at tables around us drink alcohol, I do not get. Kerem is going home, taking a nap before his nightshift starts in two hours. Tomorrow he will go as usual on Saturday to his parents and on Sunday he has a course in Izmir. This weekend I will be alone. No problem, plenty of things to do. We agree we will meet again on Monday morning at 11.00 AM so he can take me to the airport. He urges me to be careful and asks me to keep him posted of my experiences by sms.

            Also tonight when I come back everyone in the lobby is watching one of the many Turkish soaps on television. As far as I can see there is not much difference between ‘The Bold & The Beautiful’, ‘As the World turns’ and ‘Doktorlar’ or Maçolar’.

 

Saturday January 6th 2007

            During breakfast I talk with Chris and Lorraine from Cornwall, the only two other guests in the hotel. The family-in-law of their daughter lives here and they are visiting them for 3 weeks.

            By dolmus I go to Selçuk and change directions there for Tire. The distance is only 38 kilometres but it is still almost an hour´s drive. In Tire I have lunch in a small lokanta, Alipa├ża Köfte ve Çorba Salonu, where only men are sitting at long tables. Immediately they put a table aside specially for me. They treat me with all possible respect. It feels great to be treated as if I am some kind of a princess! Tire has many narrow streets filled with small shops and I stay there for some time. I like to visit some mosques too, most of the mosques in Tire are 15-centuries mosques and the Yeni Camii must have a beautiful marble mimber. I am unlucky again, they are all closed. Back to Selçuk where I visit the market, buy salep powder and watch people. When I see some women in clothes with different patterns, colours and designs I wonder why ‘we’ in the west always make such a fuss about our clothes, always asking ‘does it go together? These women may not be beautifully dressed by Dior-standards, however they are proud and they appear very positive.

            In Ku├żadas├Ż I bring some stuff to my hotel room and I have a chat for sometime with Mehmet, an employee. For the next month he is ‘the boss’ because owner Hasan left this morning for his home town Trabzon. Until dinner time I also chat for an hour with a friend from Ankara – who turned out to be not a friend – and with a virtual kiss on my cheek I go to Adi Meyhane. A meyhane is a simple restaurant with mezes and drinks, you could say it is the Turkish equivalent of a Spanish tapas bar. At first I cannot find the place but a nice pedestrian takes me to the meyhane. Not many people inside, only four tables (out of 10) are occupied but there is live music. To be honest, not really the music I like most in the broad variety of Turkish music. Maybe because the musicians are sitting very close to my table? It makes the music sounds extra loud. Two musicians are almost sitting on my lap (and no, they are not my type…). They play with a drum, a clarinet, two violins and a kanon – a triangular stringed instrument – and they sing. From the many mezes I choose some of my favourites: sigara böre├░i, aç├Żl├Ż esme and çaç├Żk. Together with a glass of rak├Ż is tastes great. I sms my visit here to Kerem, just teasing him a bit and I get an sms back in which he says I should be careful. He would rather I drink salep…. The meyhane will not get rich from my drinking, I do not drink that much but I just wanted to be in a place like this once. It is not really the kind of place to go to by yourself, as other places are fine to do that - like a ‘normal’ bar or café.

 

Sunday January 7th 2007

            Again to Selçuk today to visit the museum. Yesterday I didn´t have time for that. In the rooms and in the garden are fantastic Roman and Greek statues to look at. Taking pictures is allowed, I am happy with that. In the garden, on the top side of the façade, is a gorgeous carved Frieze, it is almost completely intact. The statues of two Roman Emperors who with a cross on their forehead have been evangelised are very special and so is the row of headless marble statues of Greek origin. According to my travel book there are also statues of Priapos, being a real tourist I want to see them of course. When I ask the custodian he shows me – with a big grin on his face - two little statues. The pictures I take of them are quite okay, now just waiting for all the people blushing and the comment from my friends. Viagra is not really necessary here… I will not upload these pictures to this site, the moderators will get a heart attack….

            When I drove with the dolmus to Tire yesterday I saw a sign giving direction to ‘Belevi Mausoleum’. My travel book keeps blank about this and people who I ask about it do know of its existence but not for whom the mausoleum was built. They shrug, no idea. The dolmus brings me to the junction, about 14 kilometres from Selçuk. A gravel road leads me to this place and then…. it is closed! I can take a picture and I write down the information on the sign next to the entrance. The sign says: ‘Belevi Mausoleum is one of the most important grave monuments of early Hellenistic time (beginning 3rd century before Christ) and was presumably built as a tomb for Lysimachus who refounded Ephesus. The site was excavated and investigated in two phases: 1931-1935 and 1974-1978’. Because I have no idea when the dolmus back to Selçuk will arrive I start walking towards Belevi village. Within two minutes a car driver stops to offer me a ride. No thank you sir, you are probably very nice but I prefer to walk. After about one kilometre walking the dolmus arrives and I can lean back lazily.

            The next stop is in ├×irince, a small village of only 750 people at a height of 330 meter. The road to this village is narrow and goes with hairpins through orchards and vineyards. I can easy imagine that it is beautiful here in spring when all the trees blossom. Half of ├×irince seem to consist of small wine factories, alcohol is no problem here. The many souvenir shops sell not only the usual tourist crap also silk products and olive soap. With permission I take a picture of a woman making gözleme next to an open fire. In this lokanta no one has an email address so I cannot send the picture to them.

            It is my last day and I surely want to visit a hammam. The Belediye hammam is closed for women after 6 PM and the only other one here in town – at this time of year - is the hammam of hotel Atinç. Expensive but it is my holiday. The masseur is a fat bellied very sweaty man of about 45 years. He absolutely knows his job, I can feel that because I recognise some of the things of my own massage course ten years ago. Still, I do not feel completely comfortable. He is a few times ‘on the edge’ of what is okay and the secretly moved bra strings I actually do not like. I think I would be less suspicious in a sauna where everyone is naked, that is much more in the open. After the scrub and soap massage I get a full body massage, a facemask and a facial massage. A complete package, I am soft as silk again.

 

Monday January 8th 2007

            Early in the morning I am awake and as usual for me on a travel day like this, I am a bit nervous. I repack my backpack and notice not everything fits in! I did not buy that many things. Quickly into town to buy a sports bag because only when everything is ready will I rest. A last chat with Chris and Lorraine. Suddenly a man comes into the hotel, he gives Loraine a parcel and three English pounds and the request to post this parcel in England. It is a parcel from a friend of her daughter he says. Loraine is a bit flabbergasted but says yes and when I ask her if she knows this man, she denies. Chris joins us again and like me he is a bit suspicious. Taking a parcel from someone we don’t know and not knowing what is in it? No, says Chris, we don’t. He asks Mehmet for tape and scissors and starts opening the parcel. Mehmet laughs but meanwhile walks away from the table… The content is innocent, a CD. Okay, says Chris, now we know what is in it so if customs ask we can answer. Quickly I take a few pictures, the last, and then I go together with Kerem to Adnan Menderes, the airport of Izmir.

            Kerem asks if I am sad or happy to leave. Both, I answer, I will miss Turkey but home sweet home. Halfway we stop for a quick lunch. Choosing between an authentic Turkish place and a Burger King is not very difficult, is it? I give my present to Kerem and tell him he is only allowed to open it when he is home. Early enough we arrive at the airport, checking in and a last drink until Kerem says goodbye. He can now have a few hours sleep before he starts working tonight. I pass customs and look around at the duty free shops. A bottle of raki is winking at me. During my transfer in Munich this bottle causes some trouble. I have to check it in or customs will keep it. Consequence of the new strict EU-regulations. Well, I check it in but I still find it strange you can buy but cannot take it with you. Exactly on time I arrive at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. There everything also goes smoothly, my connecting train to Rotterdam arrives within a few minutes and at 22.30 I open my front door. I had a great week: Kerem, thank you for your friendship, your company and being my guide!

 





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