A Travellerspoint blog

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Tested and Loved

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Having traveled 3 months with just what we could carry, we've been able to separate the good products from the great. Here are some items that we used on our trip and absolutely loved:

  • Ex Officio travel underwear - Truly amazing! Anti-microbial. Quick Dry. Odor-free. Enough said.
  • Katadyn Exstream XR water bottle / purification system - an absolute savior for travel in countries with less than pure drinking water.
  • Ben’s insect repellent with 98% Deet - a must for places with sandflies (i.e. any body of water in New Zealand) or mosquitoes (Africa)
  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap - organic, cleans everything from body parts to clothes to pots and pans
  • Lonely Planet guide books - can’t imagine traveling without them
  • REI backpack travel covers - stops straps from getting caught in airport baggage conveyors and doubles as a duffel for extra space when needed
  • Anti-shock hiking poles - saves the knees on those downhill sections of your hike
  • AJ Hackett Bungy - can talk even the most reluctant people into jumping “5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 - JUMP!”

Although we stayed in some great hotels (and some not so great), here are the two standouts:

  • San Cristobal Tower (Starwood Luxury Collection) - The best concierges ever!
  • Millennium Hilton in Bangkok - Great suites with awesome views. Platinum benefits included a fantastic executive lounge with delicious complimentary breakfasts, and free laundry service!

Posted by Jeff-Iris 12:52 Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

More Links to More Pictures

If you're interested, here's Shutterfly links to more of our photos. Copy and paste the following addresses into your browser to view.



New Zealand

Let us know if you have a lot of interest in any of the places we visited and want to see more pictures. We can arrange to share more with you either through a CD/DVD or other means.


Posted by Jeff-Iris 12:36 Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)


Planes, Trains, Automobiles...

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...Ferries, trams, buses, and one scary taxi ride through Istanbul that included more than 10 high-speed charges down one-way streets in the wrong direction.

This was such an amazing trip! We still can’t believe all the locations, sights, and things we‘ve been so blessed to experience. There have been too many things we’d love to share, but just don’t have the room (or discipline) to write. However, we did tally up the following:

In 3 months, we’ve:

  • Visited 6 continents and 12 countries
  • Traveled on 15 different long-distance transport providers
  • 13 airlines, 1 overnight ferry, 1 sleeping train
  • Eaten 34 meals in transit -- 28 airline, 2 ferry, and 4 train meals
  • Rode in multiple short-distance transport providers, including: tour buses, shuttle vans, tuk-tuks, traditional taxis, motorcycle taxi, trams, monorail, local buses, subways, felucca (Egyptian sail boat), rental car, gondolas, ferries, long boat taxis, commuter trains, and a cable car.
  • And walked too many miles to count

Amusing Travel Observations (in contrast to US experiences)

  • Although we traveled on some of the busiest roads and experienced some of the worst traffic ever, we witnessed no road rage in any of the major cities we visited.
  • We received meals on any flight over 50 minutes. At a minimum a sandwich, but most flights had a full spread for any flight over an hour and a half.
  • We were also taken by surprise by the sincere apology for a mere 15-minute delay at one airport.

Posted by Jeff-Iris 21:20 Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

New Zealand

The Place We'd Love to Call Home

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We love New Zealand! If there was another place we could call home, New Zealand would be it. (Un)fortunately there are some very strict citizenship requirements, so you’re stuck with us here in the US for now.

Jeffrey visited New Zealand two years ago and this was the one spot that had to be a “repeat” destination for us on our journey. We based ourselves on the South Island, in centrally located Queenstown, and rented a fantastic apartment with gorgeous views of the lake and mountains. Though most of our time here was spent relaxing, we were able to squeeze in a few sights and activities. Of those, our favorites would be hiking the Milford Trek (marketed as the “Greatest Walk in the World“), bungy jumping for the first time, seeing the rare yellow-eyed penguins in the wild, watching a glacier break off the side of a mountain, and kayaking down the Dart River (where many scenes from Lord of the Rings was filmed). Here are a few pictures from each of the spots.

Now, some commentary on our bungy jumps... Since Queenstown is the birth place of bungy (and other extreme sports), we decided to jump at the spot where it all started -- the Kawarau bridge. Jeffrey showed great tunnel vision focus and jumped off the bridge in great form and even got dunked in the river. There was some frantic flapping of the arms and a small yelp, but nothing too un-manly. Iris, however, spent 10 minutes on the platform trying to pump herself up for the leap with intermittent screams at Jeffrey about “Why?!” She truly tested the patience of the bungy operators before finally jumping, and yes, she screamed loudly…. on every bounce.

When you have the chance go to New Zealand, it really is as good as everyone says.

Posted by Jeff-Iris 21:04 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)


Land of Humidity

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Phnom Penh
We had a great trip to Cambodia spending time in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. We started in Phnom Penh and visited the major sites there, including the King's Palace and the National Museum. One of our favorite parts of this visit was people watching while sitting on the wall between the river and the main street. We lost count of the all the street vendors coming up to us asking us to by things from sugarcane and mango (with spicy chili powder) to local guide books and postcards.
The number of tuk-tuks and motorcycles/mopeds on the streets of Cambodia is amazing. A major highlight included us hopping on the back of a motorcycle taxi and being driven to our hotel through busy streets by a driver who had no idea where our hotel was. Now that's good fun!
Although a "must do" when visiting Cambodia, our visit to the famous S21 prison and the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge has to be the most depressing day of our lives. It's truly astonishing the level of atrocities committed by the Pol Pot regime to their own people. The fact that all of this took place a mere 30 years ago is also disturbing.

Siem Reap
You cannot possibly visit Cambodia without going to see Angkor Wat. It was as good as billed and a major highlight, though all of the temples and ruins around Siem Reap were amazing. Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm (of Tomb Raider fame) were overflowing with tourists all day and was sometimes frustrating to get good pictures and truly experience the beauty of the temples.
Here are a few pictures of Angkor Wat, Ta Keo, and Ta Prohm:

We also visited the major lake in the area, Tonle Sap, which is occupied by hundreds of people living in floating villages far away from the mainland. Floating homes and restaruants were all over the place as well as bars with pool tables and believe it or not a floating basketball court!!!
Here's a picture of the sunset over the lake:

Other Observations:
Food - We always have to mention the food. Like Bangkok, it was also very good and inexpensive throughout Cambodia. Our favorite dishes were the amok, loc lac, and sauteed morning glory. Please try them if you have a local Cambodian restaurant.
Markets - Cambodian life revolves around the markets. They are incredibly busy and chaotic with narrow walkways. These markets sell everything... from hardware and bicycle tires to raw meat and clothing.
Humidity - Visiting temples during the heat of the day combined with being unaccustomed to Southeast Asian humidity, we often became drenched in sweat and found ourselves seeking shade everywhere we went.

Look for our New Zealand entry soon!

Posted by Jeff-Iris 12:42 Archived in Cambodia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)



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Yes. we are still alive. Sorry we haven't posted to the blog in a few weeks, but we've been having tons of fun in Southeast Asia and New Zealand. We are physically back in the States now, but are spending some time in the Bay area prior to heading home.


We spent our entire week in Thailand in Bangkok to just relax and catch our breath from all of the previous adventures. We stayed at the new Millenium Hilton (yes, on points) on the river and were treated very well the entire stay. A monstrous corner suite with complimentary laundry service and great breakfast every morning made us want to move in.
Everything was unbelievably cheap in Bangkok. Cab rides were never more than $3. Typical meals (multi-course and very tasty) were around $10 for the two of us, including drinks. We did manage to visit some of the temples and the royal palace during our stay, but it was mainly about waiting for the next awesome meal.
Here's some Bangkok pictures, includng one of the 46 meter long, gold plated reclining Buddha at Wat Pho:

Quick observations:
It's good to be the King -- Thailand seems to revolve around the king. Yes, it was recently his 80th birthday and he is the longest reigning king in the world, but we weren't prepared for the unbridled dedication shown him. The Thai people's love for their king is amazing. His picture is everywhere and everyone wears yellow shirts with his royal emblem on it. We thought it was great that when he appeared in public one day wearing a pink shirt, the entire country was falling all over themselves to buy a pink shirt the next day, and the street vendors were more than happy to oblige.
SPICY - "Fish/chicken/pork/duck in spicy basil sauce" really means SPICY basil sauce.
Tailored Clothing -- We did take advantage of the unlimited supply of inexpensive tailors in Bangkok and purchased some bespoke clothing for the both of us.
River -- We've never seen so much boat traffic. The river runs through the middle of the city and the fastest way across it, or up it, is one of the many ferries or private long boat.
Gold -- No silver here. Gotta like shiny gold in Thailand. From palace roofs to statues to jewelry, it's gold.

Look for our Cambodia and New Zealand entries soon!

Posted by Jeff-Iris 17:53 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)


Please turn down the heat!

sunny 38 °C
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We spent a week in Egypt traveling to Cairo, Aswan, Abu Simbel, and Luxor hitting the highlights of each city. Seeing the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx in Cairo was fantastic! We’d seen pictures, heard and read about them growing up, but never thought that seeing them in person would be that awesome. Still can’t believe we were there! Here are pictures of both, along with the Step Pyramid, the first successfully built pyramid.


One of our favorite activities was taking a felucca (traditional Egyptian single-sail riverboat) ride down the Nile while in Aswan. We took a 3-hour ride on a felucca named “RELAX”, with its sail hand-sewn by the 2 Nubian men who captained it. As billed, the ride was very relaxing after a day of sightseeing and it helped us cool down from the Egyptian heat.

From Aswan, we took a day trip down to Abu Simbel to see the temples of Ramses II and Nefertari. The statues, drawings, and hieroglyphics within the complex were in great condition. Here's a picture of us in Abu Simbel.


Luxor was, by far, the best location to view ancient Egyptian temples and tombs. As an ancient religious city, it holds many amazing sites, including the Karnak temple, Luxor temple, Valley of the Kings (tombs of the pharaohs), and many others. Here are a couple of pictures from Luxor.


Now, a few notable thoughts not directly related to ancient Egypt…
1. Egypt is HOT -- especially in Aswan. The mornings and evenings are comfortable, but from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, it‘s blistering hot. We were told that the high on one day hit 42 C (that‘s around 105 F)… this in the “cool” season.

2. Cairo hotel security -- Granted we stayed at the Cairo JW Marriott (on points of course), but the security was incredibly strict. Guards at the entrance checked all vehicles, including the JW Marriott airport shuttle bus we were in. All bags coming into the hotel had to go through a screening machine and the guest entrance to the hotel included a metal detector and pat down.

3. Security part 2 -- Even outside of Cairo (and the JW), there were guard police everywhere, always armed with a gun and often armed with a rifle. They were in front of banks, museums, hotels, all the sites, etc. We even had to go through metal detectors and sometimes bag checks while entering tourist sites.

4. Traffic is chaos. Drivers always drive with one hand on the horn. Lights and white lines mean nothing. A 2-lane road can fit 3 cars, a motorcycle, and pedestrians. Though it was chaotic, somehow everyone knew when to hit the horn and accelerate and when to get out of the way. Being a pedestrian in Egypt is probably one of the most dangerous things you could ever do.

Now we're off to Asia - Bangkok and Cambodia.

Posted by Jeff-Iris 22:29 Archived in Egypt Comments (1)

Links to More Pictures

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We've uploaded a larger variety of pictures onto Shutterfly. Copy and paste the following addresses into your browser to view.

Easter Island


Other Africa Pictures




I know many of you already have one, but you WILL need a login to view the pictures on Shutterfly. It's pretty easy though.

Jeffrey & Iris

Posted by Jeff-Iris 20:00 Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)


The city where West meets East

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With the recent Turkish pro-war / anti-PKK rallies and disagreements with the US, we were a bit concerned about how Americans would be received in Istanbul. However, our concerns quickly dispelled upon arrival. Istanbul is a wonderful city filled with fabulous architecture, food, and people. We highly recommend visiting this city if you ever get a chance.

To experience the city, we skipped using the ever-so-helpful hotel points and chose to stay at local Ottoman style hotels in Istanbul’s touristy Sultanahmet area. We whole-heartedly recommend doing this when visiting the city. (The Ibrahim Pasha and the Empress Zoe hotels are especially nice with their outstanding service and style.) Many of the key sites are located in Sultanahmet, including the Blue Mosque, Aya Sophia, Basilica Cistern, and Topkapi Palace. Each were amazing, with fabulous architecture, art, and history. Jeffrey’s favorite spot was the Basilica Cistern, the underground cistern built by the Byzantines in the 6th century. Iris’ favorite was the Aya Sophia, with a rich history as a church, mosque, and now museum. Here are pictures of both along with the Blue Mosque.

Observing the whirling dervish performance was a major highlight. In addition, the Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar were overwhelming with the maze of vendors to weave through. As we passed each of the vendors’ stalls, they would persuade us with “Where are you from?” and “Please take my business card.” We got a kick out of all the business cards we’d get handed. It was quite an experience! Though, we did succumb to purchasing yummy Turkish delights in the Spice Market.

And the food was amazing! The Turkish delights we bought didn’t make it out of the country. We also enjoyed fish sandwiches and sardines from the fishermen at the fish market. Both were fabulous and extremely fresh. The feasting on mezze (small communal plates like tapas) was great in the boisterous Beyoglu area. The freshly squeezed pomegranate juice was especially refreshing between sites and after long walks. Hot apple tea is mandatory as an afternoon or after dinner drink.

We’re sad to go, but our journey continues back to Africa with a week in Egypt seeing Cairo, Aswan, and Luxor.

Posted by Jeff-Iris 10:21 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Athens, Greece

Ancient ruins amongst a thriving city

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And another three airline meals later, we made it to Greece. Our currency exchange woes continued as we made it to Europe right as the dollar hit an all time low against the Euro; so everything is a bit more expensive.

Regardless, Athens is a great city! It has gracefully merged all the benefits of a thriving metropolis with the beauty and history of its ancient past. We made it through all the mandatory sights in a whirlwind 2.5 day tour. A big unexpected highlight was our handmade Greek leather sandals; Jeffrey’s actually made from scratch while we waited.

Here are a few pictures of the sights in Athens: us in front of the Parthenon, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the changing of the guard ceremony in front of Parliament.

We’ve actually decided to take the overnight ferry to the island of Crete and spend a couple of days relaxing at the Blue Palace Resort & Spa (God bless those Starwood points). We’re posting this message from the ship now so on our next posting, we’ll be fully relaxed, if not spoiled a little.

Posted by Jeff-Iris 11:20 Archived in Greece Comments (1)


Africa's Roof, Wild Animals, and a Big Waterfall

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Lots to share since our last posting as we’ve been romping about Africa. Highlights include:
1 - Making it to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro 5896 meters (19,340 ft)
2 - 7 days of safari, including camping in the Serengeti
3 - Seeing Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world

Reaching the roof of Africa at 19,340 ft (Tales of 6 days and 5 nights on Mt. Kilimanjaro)
WE MADE IT!! WE MADE IT!! WE MADE IT!! This has by far been the toughest hike either one of us has ever done... and Jeffrey’s finished a few tough ones in his life. But, it was SO worth it! Granted, neither of us want to ever do it again, but we’d definitely recommend it to some of our more climb-loving friends.

Although there are many routes to the top, we took the Machame Route, otherwise known as the “Whiskey Route“ (as opposed to the supposedly easier “Coca-Cola Route”). Days 1 and 2 went smoothly and we climbed up to 2980m and 3840m, respectively. They were easy hikes through the rain forest and the moorlands. Each day, we easily finished our hikes an hour faster than anticipated. Though we didn’t know it at the time, Day 3 would be the turning point. Around mid-day Jeffrey caught something. We’re still not sure what he caught, but we think it’s a combination of altitude sickness and the flu. At the end of the day, Jeffrey was very fevered, but we figured it wasn’t anything a couple of Advil and some sleep wouldn’t cure.

By morning of Day 4, Jeffrey felt better with only residual ailments nagging at him. But, the hike started off strenuous, with us scrambling over boulders and sheer cliffs to continue the trek up the mountain within the first hour. Iris loved this part of the hike (going up is much easier than going down), but because Jeffrey hadn‘t fully recovered, this quickly drained much of his energy. So, we took the rest of the hike slowly towards base camp at 4550m.

Summit day climb was ridiculously difficult and by far the most strenuous hike we had ever done. After the first hour, we were so close to turning around and calling it quits, but we knew that we’d regret it later. We kept at it for a total of 6 hrs 45mins to make it to the top with our guide literally pushing Jeffrey up the last 200 yards towards Stella Point (the rim of the crater).

Day 6 was much easier. Going down the mountain was obviously quicker and as boring as expected aside from seeing monkeys in the wild in the rainforest section of the trek.

Animals everywhere!
The best medicine for a grueling 6 day climb up and down the tallest mountain in Africa is sitting all day for 7 days in a tricked out Toyota Land Cruiser while taking pictures of animals. Our safari went through some of the best animal viewing areas in Tanzania: Lake Manyara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire. Each had their own charms.

Our afternoon game drive in Manyara got our safari off to a great start as we saw four of the Big Five within the first hour: leopard, lions, elephants, and water buffalos (rhino is the 5th of the 5). The famous Serengeti (means endless plain in Swahili) lived up to its reputation with an amazing abundance of animals. We were particularly excited to see cheetahs on both days. We also heard a great variety of noises at night while tent camping, including one noise that turned out to be lions grunting as they were marking their territory.

Ngorongoro Crater is a great spectacle as it is 26km in width and is shared by both wild animals and cattle that is brought into the crater by the Maasai every day to graze and get water. This is also the main place on safari to see rhinos as there are supposedly a dozen or so roaming inside the crater. Unfortunately, we were not part of the lucky ones to see them (and thus unable to complete our Big Five viewing). The last park, Tarangire National Park is most known for elephants. We were not disappointed, as we saw large groups of them up close. The other exciting part about our game drive here was we were able to see a lion resting in a tree (see earlier picture). Although we can’t claim to have seen all 5 of the Big 5, we consider ourselves very lucky as we saw the big cats on every game drive we took.

We also experienced some of the local culture during our safari as we visited both a Maasai village in Ngorongoro conservation area and a Hadzabe tribe near Lake Eyasi to learn about their way of living. The latter being literal nomadic bushmen that live, eat, and sleep in the unsheltered wild. For food, the women hunt for roots while the men kill animals with bow and arrows. The game is cooked on a fire started with two sticks (neither of which is a match). Tribes also move approximately every three days to find new wildlife. Here’s a picture of Iris helping start a fire.
We also visited the Laetoli research area where the earliest (3.7 million years ago) human footprints were discovered.

That water falls a long way.
Although visiting Zimbabwe was one of our biggest safety concerns of the trip, we couldn’t go to Africa without seeing one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. The Zimbabwe economy is in shambles as inflation has reached almost 8,000%, with a staggering 36% increase between September and October alone. We actually felt very safe in Zimbabwe, and tourists were treated very well. We experienced the food shortage during our one night stay in the capital city of Harare as our waiter at the hotel handed us our menu of ~50 items and then stated, “We only have these two items tonight.“ Victoria Falls hid the country’s problems very well as their mature tourism industry didn‘t skip a beat during our visit.
Although it’s the dry season for this part of Africa, the Falls still had plenty of water and was very impressive. We also attended a traditional African dancing show and took a fantastic sunset cruise on the Zambezi River that feeds the Falls and separates the countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia.

We had a great time in Africa and are looking forward to our next destination, Athens, Greece.

Posted by Jeff-Iris 12:01 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

Airplanes, Airplanes, and More Airplanes!

Our first hiccup... traveling through 4 countries in 24 hours

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Wow! We've made it to Africa. We originally wanted to make it to Killimanjaro this evening, but unfortunately flight delays have enabled us to spend the evenng in Nairobi, Kenya (which, with the transit visa, has taken up another page in our passports). You probably won't be hearing from us in the next couple of weeks, as we'll be starting our Kili climb and embarking our on safari. But, once we're back online, we'll post pictures and the latest info on our trip.

Hope everyone's well!

Posted by Jeff-Iris 13:10 Archived in Kenya Comments (3)

Rapa Nui or Easter Island

To the "Belly Button of the Earth" and back

sunny 21 °C
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Greetings! We have completed the first leg of our trip to Easter Island. The indigenous people of the island refer to the island as Rapa Nui. It is also referred to as the "belly button of the earth." Easter Island is definitely one of the most remote (if not the most remote) locations. There are only 2 locations that fly to Easter Island -- Tahiti and Santiago (it's a stopover point between the two) -- and only one airline that flies there, LAN Chile. And, the airport only operates 5 days a week, with one arrival and one departure per day. Here's a picture we took as were landing (in the middle of the Pacific).

But, the island is best known for the moai statues. These moai were used to identify families and villages and were erected to honor their ancestors. We took tons of pictures, but here is one of us at Ahu Tongariki to give you perspective of their size.

There are approximately 800 moai on the island. Not all have been restored. Many are still even covered under ground. The moai ancestors face the village, protecting their people. Here is a picture of some of the partially covered moais at Rano Raraku, the quarry where all moais were carved.

We absolutely loved Easter Island! The island life grew on us fast. It was so peaceful, beautiful, and quiet... aside from the roosters crowing, dogs barking, and horses neighing! Truly, it was such a relaxing and phenomenal experience. We would definitely recommend it as a travel destination, but don't expect much from your room. It was quite a change from our Luxury Collection accomodations in Santiago.

Posted by Jeff-Iris 15:59 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

We've made it to Chile!

Starting off on the right foot

-17 °C
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We're in Santiago! The city is beautiful, surrounded by the Andes mountains. We landed to a gorgeous sunrise and then promptly checked in to our hotel to take a nap. :) By the way, traveling with a Starwood Platinum member is fantastic -- one gets treated VERY well! We're loving our trip so far. Though, we're trying to get our Skype to work so that we can hear others. (Apparently, the folks on the other end can hear us just fine.)

Observations on Chile so far:
-- Chilean flags are everywhere, on cars, apartments, homes, companies,...
-- Seems to be cleaner than the last time Jeffrey was here
-- People are incredibly friendly
-- Food is fabulous!
-- Starwood Luxury Collection is amazing
-- Wish the exchange rate was better
-- Regardless of whether we understand the language, ESPN is on the TV

Posted by Jeff-Iris 20:14 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

Our Map is Up!

Now that you know where we'll be, come join us!

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Thanks to the helpful Travellerspoint Customer Service, we were able to put together our travel map. We hope you enjoy seeing where we are. Just point to the spot on the map to see the location and dates we'll be there. We'll make every attempt to post pictures... but please don't be upset with us if it takes us a while. :)

Posted by Jeff-Iris 23:41 Archived in USA Comments (2)

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