It’s All New Again

How strange it is, to visit this space after two not-so-long-years. So much has changed, and yet, so much is still the same.

The biggest change: I’m no longer in Sri Lanka. Our family has been living in Kyiv, Ukraine for one year now, and looking forward to a second year. Some challenges have remained the same, and others, inevitably, have changed. Still stay-at-home-mom of two kids? Check! Still struggling to remain fit, feel good and be productive? Check! Still trying to keep it together? Big, fat, CHECK.

New challenges: being away from friends and family; city life; smelly old lifts that get stuck; communication; new school for the kids; WINTER; no seatbelts. On the plus side, I have overall been quick to adapt, and survived my first Winter undaunted (Mother Nature was kind, bestowing a relatively mild one on me…).

A big change and major stress reliever: NO. MORE.DRIVING. Being smack in the centre of Kyiv, we decided not to get a car here. The kids take the school bus (Therefore they have gone from ‘always late’ to ‘never late’. Hurrah) and we just walk to most places.

Just a short one to get going again…I hope to explore some of my old pieces, both prose and poetry, which never made it here, alongside my new adventures!

 

 

Keeping your head above the fumes; trying to survive driving in Sri Lanka without sedatives or anti-depressants

If you’re anything like me (which you’re probably fervently hoping you’re not!), you might find it very difficult to deal with the sheer selfishness, ignorance and downright stupidity one may encounter while driving on a daily basis on the streets of Sri Lanka.

It may be because I live out in the sticks, and have to drive relatively longer; it may be because I try to practice patience so diligently in other aspects of my life, that it just refuses to extend to the idiocy I encounter while driving; it may be because I don’t like being patronised, especially by arrogant men who believe they have a right, for some reason, to be ahead of the queue, inconveniencing everyone else, or a right to intimidate me because I’m a girl. Or perhaps it’s because I have some utopian view of justice, or because I believe that the true nature of a people is depicted by how they behave on the street, or simply because I’ve got some form of OCD.

Whatever the reason may be, I’ve set myself some rules to follow while on the road, to prevent severe road rage, and bodily harm to those in my car and yours, and not mention pedestrian traffic.

The first realisation has to sadly be that when you’re driving in Sri Lanka, you shouldn’t expect sense, courtesy or any form of forward thinking from other drivers or pedestrians. So, it has to be YOU!

(In the same breath I must say however that if someone’s idiocy has indeed caused an accident, everyone plus a viewing gallery will come to your aid).

Here are but a few examples of joys you should expect instead:

  • A massive horde of pedestrians to cross the road in front of you at the traffic light, as soon as it turns GREEN and the little man turns RED (wonder what they think the little man is really…), at major intersections
  • Vehicles to overtake at very tight, very narrow BLIND bends; this includes ALL types of vehicles from motor bikes to fully fledged buses and tipper trucks that will not hesitate to crush you to death
  • Motorbike and tuk tuk swarm-invasions in even a tiny square inch of space left between you and the car ahead/behind, alongside
  • Motorbikes and tuk tuks to overtake from left and right, regardless of whether you have your signal on to either side
  • No signaling whatsoever, or permanent signaling, which is probably why no one puts any stock in signaling at all!
  • Someone who was driving at snail’s pace for 2km to speed up significantly, violently and unskillfully when you decide it’s time to pass them
  • Vehicles to veer suddenly in either direction to avoid potholes, change direction, or overtake; same behavior to be expected from pedestrians!
  • Dream-walking pedestrians, flirting pedestrians, three-four abreast pedestrians (including families, preggies, infants), tea-drinking, beetle chewing or smoking pedestrians who think the street is the pavement, phone-talking, swaying pedestrians, OBLIVIOUS kite-flying CHILD pedestrians, slow-motion pedestrians, walk-in-front-of-moving-car pedestrians, walk-BEHIND-reversing-car pedestrians etc. etc.
  • The farce of road lanes; why do we have lanes on the streets of SL? No one uses them; I doubt they even know what they’re for. Oh right – decorative purposes!!
  • The confusion of which side of the road we actually drive on in SL!
  • Vehicles to brake violently to save the lives of animals; cats, dogs, cattle, and even snakes; you may do this yourself
  • Phone-talking drivers; beetle-chewing, beetle juice spitting drivers; drunk drivers; especially bus drivers.
  • Leery bus conductors hanging off the footboard asking to be knocked off; but don’t do it because…
  • Murderous suicidal bus drivers who are exempt from all road rules; they are above the rules; they will not get persecuted if they kill you or total your vehicle. In fact, they probably won’t even stop. DO NOT GOAD THEM. Even I don’t (well, I TRY not to…).
  • Imbecilic behaviour when trying to negotiate narrow streets. Example: two vehicles cannot pass each other on a narrow road; however, there is a space where you can pull up a bit on the side of the road, to allow an oncoming vehicle to pass. YET, aforementioned oncoming vehicle, to prove its strength, power, importance and the fact that it will not wait for anyone, proceeds right into your face, thus preventing you from making it to the space where you WOULD’VE pulled over SO HE COULD’VE PASSED! By this time, vehicles have gathered on both sides, all with great bravado pulling up so close that no one can move an inch. Is that what you call “gridlocked”????

Here are some of my OWN rules, justifications and reminders to deal with this onslaught of traffic anarchy.

From my frequent updates on social media about how driving in Sri Lanka infuriates me, some of you may come to the conclusion that I’m a reckless, bad driver. On the contrary, what drives me to madness is in fact TRYING to stick to some semblance of sanity amidst the madness.

This may be the thing that gets me in the end, but I ALWAYS try to stick to the official rule…to begin with at least…but there are days when sheer exasperation makes me drive like all those whom I criticise daily!

Some that I often battle with:

  • If the obstruction is on your side, the right of way should belong to the person coming towards you. This means that you may be stuck behind a selfishly parked vehicle for up to half an hour, with your right signal hopelessly flicking as the minutes tick by, while hundreds upon hundreds of equally selfish vehicles just keep coming relentlessly. You may be lucky and one nice person will stop and let you go; you might give in to the rage, horn violently, block everyone and make your way out (try not to do this), particularly if the row of vehicles stuck behind you is oblivious to this right-of-way-rule and think you’re an incompetent fool for NOT honking your way violently out of the situation; the final eventuality could be that you may be stuck there until the selfish (SU)vehicle in front of you has finished buying their hoppers through the car window and decides to take off at a leisurely pace. Just try and be the bigger person. Even if your car is almost a tuk tuk itself. And that other car is a massive off-road SUV (which we really NEED in Sri Lanka by the way)
  • Choose your lane, and STICK TO IT. You wouldn’t even imagine how difficult this simple task can become. Just try it ONCE and tell me how you feel! Try it for one day of driving. Make sure you leave really early on the day you decide to try this!
  • In fact, try and leave early all the time, in order to accommodate all possible eventualities. At the same time, remember if it’s a choice between being alive and being on time, there’s a clear winner there.
  • Never overtake unless it’s a broken line; no matter how angry, how stuck or how frustrated you may be. Expect others to overtake, even at double lines!
  • Drive sanely at LEAST when your kids are in the car; use a CAR SEAT FOR YOUR SMALL CHILD. If you can AFFORD A CAR IN SRI LANKA, YOU CAN AFFORD A CAR SEAT. FOR GOD’S SAKE. Don’t have your kids bouncing around the car while you drive. It’s seriously a choice between life and death; an accident is an unplanned event. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZFMmNqCvbc
  • ALWAYS signal.
  • Don’t engage in arguments with tuk tuk drivers or bus drivers (see above); don’t race with tuk tuk drivers or bus drivers who are trying to ‘teach you a lesson.’ Don’t expect tuk tuks or buses to behave rationally. In fact, this applies to ALL vehicles; especially those driven by people with power issues.
  • This is not Europe; or America; or Canada. USE YOUR HORN AND USE IT LIBERALLY. Don’t expect a single person to check their mirrors or even spare a passing glance when they’re taking off from a parked position. Don’t expect them to signal that they’re moving from a parked position. Sometimes, even if they do and observe someone coming towards them at speed, THEY WILL NOT STOP. Ergo, use your horn. A polite toot will most likely get you nowhere. A more staccato type beeping pattern will probably suit you best. I have adopted almost a little tune for every bend, passing every by-road and every parked vehicle.
  • If I can help it, I only stop for pedestrians at a crossing
  • If someone has their signal on, I might let them poke in front of me
  • I try to be the polite one; let others pass, give way to oncoming traffic, and if there is a miraculous nice person, always ALWAYS thank them and then proceed to pass forward the gesture and choose to be nice to someone else on the road.
  • No matter how ridiculous that species called ‘pedestrians’ is, they have to be given precedence. As much as you’d like to knock them over instead, just for their stupidity.
  • Don’t try and horn cattle/buffalo off the street; they don’t take it well! Nor do some pedestrians…

It’s when I try all of this, and it all fails, that the road rage sets in; and violent behaviour presents. If you’ve ever encountered me as such on the road, I must apologise, but KNOW that I have tried very hard before reaching that state.


Thiru’s Quotes

“Blessed are ye who have limited peripheral vision, for you have had side mirrors bestowed upon you! May you find founts of eternal joy on every occasion you either choose not to use them, or are blissfully unaware of their existence!

May you never have to exert your precious energy, borne of a mountainous rice and curry and ten sugary cups of tea (with full cream milk powder, or Milkmaid), in using your neck and moving your oily head to see whom you have sent careening off the path (into pedestrians, ruts and oncoming traffic), and likewise, may you never hear the echo of their blaring horns, screeching tyres, and screaming voices, cursing you into the depths of hell!”

“Worry not ye joyful pedestrians who walk four-abreast along narrow streets, steadfast and unyielding, immovable in the face of car, van and tipper truck, for three of you shall be spared! Blessed is the jocund pedestrian who walks, laughingly furthest from the ‘sidewalk’ (rut on the side of the road) for he shall take the impact for you all!

Foolish is he who walks in single file by the roadside, for he knows not the joy of spreading oneself and ones cohorts (and innards) across the street in festivity!”

“Signal not, oh ye of little dexterity, for having opposable thumbs (along with the aptitude to use them), hand-eye coordination and the forethought to know where you are going are pursuits too trivial for your consideration!”

“Dear Porche SUV (oxymoron as you may be),

  1. There is a continuous single line on some parts of Parliament Road because, if you overtake in those areas, YOU ARE LIKELY TO DIE. Considering how trivial you find this, I don’t particularly care if you do. However, I would not be at all happy if you TAKE ME WITH YOU.
  2. Doing this while you are ON THE PHONE, will increase your chances of death further. However, as mentioned above, this would mean little to me, except for the fact that IT WOULD ALSO INCREASE THE CHANCES OF MY OWN DEATH.
  3. Therefore, I would greatly appreciate it if you would STOP TRYING TO KILL ME, YOU SUICIDAL MANIAC.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Thiru”

“Dear spacial-awareness and depth-perception challenged Mr. Fancy Pants:

If you just stick to your lane (which is on the LEFT here in Sri Lanka) while taking narrow blind bends, instead of cruising at 60 in the very middle of the street, you wouldn’t have to swerve violently to either side to avoid oncoming traffic or killing pedestrians. Swerving violently in a panic is not cool; even if you have reflective sunglasses, loud music blaring, and are driving with one hand (just FYI).”

Week 5: School Holidays, Flu and the Fish Market

The plan went a little bit awry this week, but managed to get things quickly back on track.

The weekend (thanks to good old hormones, plus a fabulous kiddie party) saw a minor binge, nipped in the bud come Sunday night (phew! With me these things could go on indefinitely!).

Sri Lanka won the T20 World Cup! Congrats and well earned! But just to pose a thought (at the risk of rotten veggies/eggs being thrown at me) not sure if it’s such a big deal…it’s not like the real Cricket World Cup is it? How come there are TWO World Cups – one of them must count more… hey, I’m no cricket expert.

The week was a busy one with Easter and Avurudu (Sinhala and Tamil New Year) celebrations at school. Archchi’s (grandma – i.e: my mom’s)biscuits were wrapped up prettily in 40 bags and handed over in a basket. This is my never ending attempt at keeping things healthy with the kids, while at the same time trying to drill poor old archchi into going into business with her biscuits.

There’s nothing like them out there! In the sense that they are simple – not cookies, but biscuits – they’re not rich; they’re not double chocolate chip or peanut butter; they’re just chocolate biscuits, currant biscuits, cheese biscuits, almond biscuits…you get my drift! Everyone who’s tasted them thinks they’re something special. Even my Italian mother-in-law, who’s not the easiest to please, absolutely loves them! My husband’s British colleague called them Garibaldi’s! Why oh why won’t she make something of it? Sigh.

Squeaks and Ya Ya were a bit snotty, but I took them in to school anyway…it was just too much of a build up to disappoint –  the Easter Egg Hunt, getting dressed up for Avurudu etc. It had nothing to do with me wanting two more mornings to myself before the onslaught of the school holidays…nothing at all! Besides, they both had a ball.

This (possibly selfish) move gifted me with two flu-ridden, cranky kids starting the very first day of the holidays! Cold, cough, fever and weird oozy eyes to add to the mix; two nights in a row of coughing fits ending in projectile vomiting! Poor things, and even if I do say so myself, poor me! I just can’t bring myself to wake my live-in maid up in the wee hours of the night to clean up my kids’ vomit, despite her insisting that I do.

Well, what can I say, you reap what you sow, particularly being as stubborn as I can be. BUT kids are very resilient – Squeaks and Ya Ya are back in fighting form again today, fever free and wreaking havoc. They mustered up the energy to beat each other up with the rolling pin and later on, repeatedly gang up on me, which is a clear sign of recovery.

Being on the verge of catching this nasty flu myself, I’ve been stuffing myself with vitamin B complex, Samahan, kotthamalli, and bees honey and lime mixes. So far holding forth!

Missed a day of working out this week as felt truly grim; restarted today again!

Have been alternating between Jillian Michaels’ ‘Level 3 of the 30 Day Shred’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWzQj7Be7zI and her Cardio kick-box https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9avonsRVok . Intense. Did one aerobics class!


BEWARE THE FISH MARKET AUNTIES!

In preparation for the arrival of the husband early tomorrow morning, I visited the fish market today. The fish market that we frequent is not a real fish market – although there’s yelling and a fair bit of slapping fish around, you don’t have to go in wielding a bucket with your gumboots on. However, it’s not exactly ‘Fresh Fish’ in Colombo 07 either. It is ‘Sirilak Seafood’ in Battaramulla (I’ve just discovered they have their own Facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sirilak-Super-Sea-Foods/428421013898589).

Anyway, I go here often, and the fish is fantastic; sometimes the place is crowded (being a fish market after all!), but never unmanageable. What I didn’t take into consideration today was the Avurudu rush. As a result, I didn’t so much find myself in a fish market as caught up in a maniacal throng of crazy people each hell bent on their own fishy endeavours.

I have discovered that THE AUNTIES are the worst; they are the bane of all other unsuspecting fish buyers out there; they are a force to be reckoned with. They come in various ages, shapes and sizes. They’re recognisable by their usually floral skirts and self-coloured blouses (or vice versa), sometimes looking meek, other times looking menacing with an unhealthy gleam in their eyes, generally carrying a shopping bag and a hand bag and sometimes an umbrella.

They WILL poke in front of you or somehow burrow their way in next to you; they WILL NOT hesitate to elbow you or shove you out of the way; they WILL keep moving forward regardless of who or what may be in their paths; they WILL NOT entertain any argument or protest at their behaviour.

Today I saw grown men (the usual breakers) quake and be shoved out of the queue with not the courage to utter but a minor complaint under their breaths; I saw children flying in fear of being squished by THE AUNTIES. I had a half a mind to walk right out and buy some fish from the supermarket! But the thought of poor hubby so looking forward to some fresh seafood after arriving from hell, along with the challenge of THE AUNTIES, drove me on.

To be honest, the only reason I managed to get some fish was that a malli (little brother) behind the counter saw me drowning beneath a swarm of aunties and took it upon himself to ask what I wanted. If not for him, I may still be there, being shunted from one end of the counter to the other, flailing my arms wildly trying to get someone’s attention (uncle uncle, aney uncle! Malli! Aiyo, MALLI!).

I actually got yelled at by one aunty for asking if there was Gal Maalu (white mullet) today; ‘gal maalu thiyenne ara patthe, methane nemey! Methane isso vitharai!!!’ (the white mullet is over there, not here! Here there are only prawns!)…apparently you’re not allowed to ask the malli to choose your fish for you, you have to go right over to it and point it out (aunties’ rule number 535 in the handbook). I’m proud to say I held my own, ‘ne, kamak ne, me malli mata ethanin aran denawa’ (no, it’s ok, this malli will get it for me from there)…and very silently to myself, ‘BUHAHAHAHAHAHA, SCR*W YOU AUNTY!’ I left very satisfied and my coffers full with Gal Maalu and Isso.


A chaotic week comes to a close with the arrival of “Papa’”after a month and a half! All very excited; better get some z’s in or will be so excited will faint on his arrival, or rather on the arrival of the driver to pick up the car before that, at 4am!

Ciao and happy weekend!

 

 

Week 4, Day 25: Still Going Strong

So I’ve managed almost a month of this!

And it’s going well. It’s becoming part of my life now, which is the whole idea really.

I think that once I feel settled in certain aspects of the Lifestyle Change, I will focus on other, somewhat neglected parts (see below); then little by little start incorporating new challenges.

  • The kids are now among the early-comers at school! This gives them more time to settle in, and more time to play with their friends from other age groups
  • Have been continuing with Jillian Michael’s Level 2 of the 30 Day Shred (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi5mdHCN81c); I have discovered that the fitter you get, the harder this Level gets! Because you have the capacity to push harder, you end up more dead each time! At some point she says “I WANT YOU TO FEEL LIKE YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.” Yes, Jillian, I’ve had near death experiences almost every time I’ve done this Level. Thanks! Got one aerobics step class in to mix it up too (http://mumsibles.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/lets-take-a-step/) Looking forward to a mix of Level 2 and 3 next week…
  • Clothes seem like they MAY be fitting better!!
  • Have been controlling diet well except for just a little while ago, when I couldn’t resist my friend’s fresh home baked bread in the evening…
  • Household necessities have been somewhat neglected…sigh. This will be my focus next week –putting the dreaded HOUSE FILE in order (shudder).

In some good news, the husband will be returning soon for a 2 week break. Hurrah! Before that are Easter and Avurudu at school, which are loads of fun, especially since Archchi (grandma) will be preparing the treats and I’ll be doing the fun part of packaging (er…not everyone finds this fun; but I do; I’m weird like that). Will let you know how that goes…


Happy weekend all! Enjoy the cricket.

If you feel like challenging yourself  and attempting a change, check out my new pages, and watch out for upcoming pages on diet and exercise:

https://thiruworld.wordpress.com/getting-in-shape/

https://thiruworld.wordpress.com/getting-in-shape/general-points/

 

 

 

 

Sunny Saturday, Family Picnic

An active and happy weekend presented itself in the form of the annual school Family Picnic.

With an entire pre-planned Saturday dedicated to this, that’s one less day of a husband-less weekend, where a day of activities must be planned to avoid meltdowns by small people.

We have a house with a garden and pets; the activities are endless; and yet, they never seem enough during a weekend. Surprisingly, making breakfast (with child involvement – this takes twice the usual time), bathing the dogs, dancing to jingly Tamil music in dress-up, 5 art projects (including crayons, paints and cutting) will just about take up half a day, or indeed, just a few hours! You may feel like a whole week has passed; but you would be sadly mistaken.

In any case, I decided that the Family Picnic at a beach house with a pool would be a good day out for all of us (and besides, there would be teachers there! Surely I’d manage some time to myself in the fray).

The pool has always been a challenge for me with one toddler and an almost-child, both minus any floating devices. My husband, who is of the swimming orientation, has decided that they will not learn to swim with floaties, floaters, bloaters, or any such buoyant contraption (unfortunately for me).

Admittedly, this has greatly sped up Squeaks’ swimming ability. However, when I’m with both of them in the pool, it really is like a circus (I’m not joking – it includes but is not limited to – acrobatics, trapeze acts and possible partial nudity):

  • They have no fear of water or being submerged, and find leaping into the pool with little (or no) warning the best game ever! ‘Facciamo un tuffo!’and you find them hurtling into the water from various directions, at different times, and I’m expected to catch them to avoid their drowning!
  • They both want to go on my back at the same time (tantrums and beating each other up in the water are not fun)
  • They think that clinging on to my swimsuit might save their lives, or get me to do more water-related tricks, when in fact it renders me in need of a third hand to try and keep unwanted bits from popping out and being on display for all and sundry to view
  • There is screaming; theirs (of joy) and mine (of horror)

So, an extended period of pool time managed to tire us all out and certainly dealt with my aches and pains of the week’s various exercise routines, the catch phrase I would use here being ‘work through the pain.’

There was music and dancing, which I managed to witness in between being drowned by the kids (who were dancing in the water, on me); there was plenty to eat (which I happily didn’t binge on – was actually hungry on reaching home), there was good company, and camaraderie among all present. We got some beach time in with friends at the start of the day (when everyone enjoys themselves the most). Alcohol was on offer; none of which I consumed because of the overwhelming feeling of responsibility one finds when parenting (albeit temporarily) alone.

A good time was had by all, followed by (hallelujah!) a total collapse borne of sheer exhaustion.

 

Week 3, Day 16: Blouse and Glouse

I have always prided myself on being good at understanding people. By this I mean that I understand what they’re saying.

To elaborate, I can usually break through unfathomable accents of varying origin, broken English, no English at all, hand gestures and facial movements, and even written material that appears to mean nothing.

So this was a very unusual incident.

The live-in maid, who seems alright (as far as having a stranger sharing the same space as you goes…) today randomly asked me:

 ‘Ane madam, mata blouse dekak aran dennako…’

(‘madam, can you get me two blouses…’)

Pause…

Me: ‘mokadda?’

(what?!).

Maid:  ‘Ane, mata blouse dekak aran dennako Madam

(‘can you get me two blouses madam?’)

Pause…

Me: ‘ne, mama e vage dewal denne ne, padiya hambuwenne ekata neda?

(‘no, I don’t provide such things…you get a salary for that don’t you?’)

Maid: ‘…ah ha ha

(‘ok, ok’)

This left me seething; WHAT?!?! She gets paid very well by most standards, plus meals, plus days off and holidays, and loads of free time, and now she asks me for this?? Not one but two, BLOUSES?? BLOUSES? I hardly shop for myself or the kids and she wants me to go out and buy her BLOUSES? TWO BLOUSES??! Her recent bereavement seems to have unhinged her. I thought she was OK, but she really is NOT. I may have considered gifting her some clothes at some point, but definitely not anymore!!

How can I live with this person who wants me to buy her blouses?!

So I consumed the hot lunch she had made with an uncommon chill, while she hovered around (in my then opinion) trying to overcompensate for requesting (previously undiscussed) blouses from her employer.

The day continued, and at some point she approached me tentatively in the kitchen and said:

Madam, mama issella illuwe glouse; glouse dekak; madam dannawa ne GLOUSE?’

(‘madam, I earlier asked you for glouse; two glouse; you know GLOUSE?’)

Finally it dawned on me. She was asking me for GLOVES; TWO GLOVES! The audacity to ask for not one but two blouses, suddenly made sense.  The nervous hovering earlier was probably because she thought my disproportionate mood change quite alarming, after a very reasonable request for gloves for certain types of housework, and was thinking along the same lines as me…

Apart from this shocking (and unusual) inability to decipher a very common pronunciation dilemma in Sri Lanka, things have been going alright.

On the Lifestyle Change front:

  • The kids have been continuously early to school (high five!)
  • I’ve been working out every day of the week, including a step aerobics class which I like very much (http://mumsibles.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/lets-take-a-step/), and the yoga class I mentioned, which doesn’t really suit me.
  • Progressed to Jillian Michael’s Level 2 of the 30 Day Shred (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi5mdHCN81c); DEATH!
  • Dogs washed and all sparkly, gardener and mossie spraying successfully sorted
  • Moderate unhealthy eating over weekend, but an active weekend thanks to annual school Family Picnic!
  • Changed my hair; it was beginning to resemble a crow’s nest
  • Ya-Ya’s sudden night waking, and refusal to go back to sleep without being patted or held (which she has never needed before!) has resulted in sleep deprivation
  • Waking up early morning has made a very positive difference in my life

I’m now feeling fitter and stronger in general, but a bit of fine tuning is still needed to improve things; curbing the diet a bit further, and GETTING TO BED EARLIER! With that said, goodnight!

 

Getting it Together; the daily trials of staying sane

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