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Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011


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In April I read a poem called ¨Singapore¨ by Mary Oliver. I'd been translating a book called ¨20 poemas de amor y una cancion desperada¨ by Pablo Neruda at home in Sorata; one night after dinner, my host sister Magaly was paging through it and after some hesitation asked for a copy. I transcribed a number of the poems into a Lider book, and the next day encountered the one below in English (available here http://www.oocities.org/warren8602/matt/Singapore.html). I rewrote it for her. At best it's a crude translation, so be it; big thanks to Monika & Alan for their contributions.

The events of the poem are meaningful to me because I have learned from the faltering, pregnant recognition that they communicate: new empathy. As in Oliver's example, I think this discovery is able to moderate people's mutual misunderstanding, maybe satirize it. The poem, like us, describes unlikely foreigners who are suddenly complicit.

I’ll be in touch. Cheers to one hell of a semester.

Singapur

En Singapur, en el aeropuerto,

Una oscuridad se rompió de mis ojos.

En el baño de señoras, uno compartimento estaba abierto.

Una mujer se arrodillaba allí, lavando algo

En la taza blanca.

Algo en mi estomago,

Y sentí en mi bolsilla por mi boleto.

Un poema siempre debe tener aves adentro.

Garzas, por ejemplo, con sus ojos audaces y alas chillones.

Los ríos son solícitos, y por supuesto los árboles.

Una catarata, o si no es posible, una fuente

Rociando y cayendo.

Una persona quiere jubilarse en un lugar feliz, en un poema.

Cuando la mujer se volvió yo no podría contestar su cara.

Su belleza y su pena forcejearon juntos,

Y ninguna podría ganar.

Ella sonrió y yo sonreí. Que tonterías son estos?

Todo el mundo necesita un empleo.

Sí: una persona quiere jubilarse en un lugar feliz, en un poema.

Pero primero, tenemos que mirar ella cuando clava la vista en sus labores,

Que son bastante grises.

Ella esta lavando las tapas de los ceniceros del aeropuerto, tan grandes como los tapacubos, con un trapo azul.

Sus manitos dan vuelta al metal, fregando y aclarando.

No trabaja despacio, ni con prisa, como un río.

Su melena es oscura como una ala.

No lo dudo por un minuto que ama su vida.

Y quiero ella a levantarse desde la costra y el lodo,

Y volar abajo al río.

Probablemente no pasará.

Pero talvez.

Si el mundo solo fuera dolor y lógico, quien lo quisiera?

Claro, no es así.

Ni quiero decir algo milagroso, pero solo

La luz que puede rielar fuera de una vida. Significo

Como ella desplegó y dobló el paño azul otra vez,

La manera en que su sonrisa fue solo para mi; significo

La manera en que esta poema esta llena con los árboles, y aves.

-Mary Oliver

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Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

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Singapore

Will Oliver,Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

Description

In April I read a poem called ¨Singapore¨ by Mary Oliver. I’d been translating a book called ¨20 poemas de amor y una cancion desperada¨ by Pablo Neruda at home in Sorata; one night after dinner, my host sister Magaly was paging through it and after some hesitation asked for a copy. I transcribed a […]

Posted On

05/26/11

Author

Will Oliver

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Hi all,

We wanted to inform all the friends and family of our intrepid Andes and Amazon crew that the students are making their way home and have all left El Alto this morning. They will be bringing with them memories, tears, insights, a bit more wisdom, a great many more questions and countless stories to share with you all.

We wish them a smooth transition to this next phase on their journey,

Dragons Administration

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Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

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Students in the air on their way home

Dragons Administration,Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

Description

Hi all, We wanted to inform all the friends and family of our intrepid Andes and Amazon crew that the students are making their way home and have all left El Alto this morning. They will be bringing with them memories, tears, insights, a bit more wisdom, a great many more questions and countless stories […]

Posted On

05/12/11

Author

Dragons Administration

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We are home! Okay, we are not ¨home-home,¨ but we are back in our Bolivian home: Sorata.

We´ve travel so much, so quickly throughout Bolivia and Peru that the three weeks in Sorata was our longest time being stationary, and therefore it is most familiar to us, most like home.

At first, I was frustrated that we would spend so much of our last week in Sorata, a place that we had already ¨done.¨ Driving in from Lake Titicaca yesterday, I was actuallysuprised at how happy I was to see Sorata off in the distance. Looking out the window of our mobilidad, I could identify all the parts of Sorata that meant so much to the group: there is Tutu, with the river running beside it; there is the road that leads to Villa Rosa, and the Regae Bar, and David´s farm; there is the pathI would run on, and the bridge where I saw a rainbow one rainy afternoon; there is the shopwhere the banana bread is sold; and there, four rows up from the palm tree filled plaza, is my home, so small from the road, but probably full of my family playing and eating lunch.

The tienda woman recognized Evi, where she used to buy mustard every day. And the woman with the juice shop asked Michaela where she had been. I ran into my homestay sister in the plaza within 2 hours of being back: I was suprised when someone grabbed me from behind, but as soon as I felt her arms I had no doubt that it was her!

Last night in my bed, I fell asleep easy to the screaming and music from the plaza, as sound that had been my lullabye during our previous time here. I awoke bright and early to the yelling of ¨La Paz La Paz La Paz!¨ coming from the the transportation terminal, and the roosters that never fail.

I cant believe we are actually back in Sorata. I remember being in Sorata for mid-course, looking at a calendar of the upcoming months and being amazed at how much there was left to do! Now, all the boxes on the list have been checked off.

Its funny how one can become acustomed to being in unfamiliar places, so much that the feeling of familiarity becomes unfamiliar. Perhaps being in familiar Sorata will ease the shock of returning home in less than a week. Perhaps.

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Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

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Home-Sweet-Almost-Home

Ellen Currin,Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

Description

We are home! Okay, we are not ¨home-home,¨ but we are back in our Bolivian home: Sorata. We´ve travel so much, so quickly throughout Bolivia and Peru that the three weeks in Sorata was our longest time being stationary, and therefore it is most familiar to us, most like home. At first, I was frustrated […]

Posted On

05/8/11

Author

Ellen Currin

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The waves come in and crash on the shore. Sometimes reaching farther than others. And yet, without fail, each one falls back into the larger body of water. Maybe to go farther from the shore or maybe to get caught up in the next wave, crashing again, maybe reaching up the shore a little farther.

Is that what we do? Reach out; have experiences; learn about ourselves, others, and place, only to retreat back to where we came from. Maybe it is. Maybe we do always fall back into our old ways. But maybe we also grow, not in tangible, visible ways, but spiritually. Enough to always reach out and try again.

Just like the lake, always reaching toward the shore.

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Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

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What do we do?

Wallis Gaillard,Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

Description

The waves come in and crash on the shore. Sometimes reaching farther than others. And yet, without fail, each one falls back into the larger body of water. Maybe to go farther from the shore or maybe to get caught up in the next wave, crashing again, maybe reaching up the shore a little farther. […]

Posted On

05/8/11

Author

Wallis Gaillard

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    [post_content] => whenever we were hiking, i was always looking over the edge of the path at the river. it struck me as funny that we were always following the river. when you think about it though, it is the best course. the river was formed over time by water drops finding the easiest path down the mountain. the river we followed was always safe but not entirely predictable. i feel the river is our course and possibly our life. we keep going with every thing we do and never stop learning and growing. if we hit a block, we find a way around and keep doing. sometimes we follow the crowd but we also have the choice to branch off if we find another way. when we reach a cliff, somtimes there is nothing to do but let yourself fall, tumble around for a while, but we always eventually keep going. at some point we may find a reservior or a place we feel comfortable to stop and rest at. i dont know what path i will wend yet, but until i find my resting place, i will follow the river.
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Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

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following the river

Zoe Buzzi,Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

Description

whenever we were hiking, i was always looking over the edge of the path at the river. it struck me as funny that we were always following the river. when you think about it though, it is the best course. the river was formed over time by water drops finding the easiest path down the […]

Posted On

05/8/11

Author

Zoe Buzzi

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Hello Yak Board!

This is a quick message sent from our home base of Sorata to tell the world that the group has returned from our trip to Isla del Sol and are all currently well.

We leave you with some pictures, and our promise for student yaks in the days to come...

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Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

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Back from Isla del Sol

las Instructoras,Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

Description

Hello Yak Board! This is a quick message sent from our home base of Sorata to tell the world that the group has returned from our trip to Isla del Sol and are all currently well. We leave you with some pictures, and our promise for student yaks in the days to come…

Posted On

05/7/11

Author

las Instructoras

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What do you picture when hearing the word Amazon? Do you see a thick mass of green things growing? Animals creeping and bugs crawling, or perhaps a person adorned with feathers bathing in a waterfall. Or maybe even a website selling you books and movies. Before making our way to the amazon, I read a chapter from a very excellent book of essays called Uncommon Ground, by Will Cronin. In the chapter titled, Analysis of Amazonia as Edenic Narrative, the author Candace Walters opens up the idea of how our society has viewed, and is currently viewing this environment called the Amazon. As I read this the idea of how we have interpreted this place to fit a certain image, thoughts occurred to me. Why do we see these images when hearing the word Amazon? And, what do those images mean to our society?

As a child, when I first saw the Jungle Book my mind was made up as to what jungle living was all about. For others, things such as certain cereals, beauty products, and restaurants have given off an image of what the Amazon is. With these images the imagination goes where it is led. That imagery has made the Amazon a place of wonder, enchantment, beauty, and paradise in one’s imagination. It is a separate place where we can retreat to or relate to according to our needs and desires.

However this place is not imaginary. It is not an Eden untouched by evils. Upon entering the place that had been imaginary for all my life I saw it finally as a reality, and the images then became those of that reality. It was hot, buggy, and unbelievably beautiful. As we first walked into the thick forest that we had been seeing from the boat, I felt completely vulnerable to all that was around me. This was not a paradise or enchanted forest; it was a different world that I had no control over, and a world that was filled with life. As Andrew Revkin says in The Burning Season, ¨Everything is either in a state of birth or death, growth or decay, attack or defense.¨ As we continued through, the group and I couldn’t help but become a part of the wildness. In order to walk through I had to understand how little control I had, and become comfortable with my vulnerability. As we reached Asuncion, I first saw a community whose livelihood depended on the Amazon. They were living within this crazy, buggy, hot environment, and had been for generations. To them this was part of life, and their culture. Their kindness and generosity helped us become acclimated to this new environment we had entered. As I got more used to the bugs, and the heat, the question came back to me and I realized this is not the Amazon that our society has portrayed. As I came to this realization another question came to surface; why has this place been imagined and built up as it has been?

I feel that because of these pre-determined definitions and judgments of the Amazon I must get back to the scientific basics that have made the place what it is. Therefore the reader can have, if not already, the background information as to what the Amazon really is. Apart of eight different countries; French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia (the best country of all), it takes up 15% of the planets total terrestrial biomass. The Amazon gets its name from the Amazon River Basin. This basin, first called the Sweet Sea by its European discoverer, Vincent Yanez Piñon, was discovered in February of 1500. However he did not see how amazing the river was, or how diverse. It is a place of unique climate due to its placement on our earth. ¨In the tropics the same beam of sunlight strikes the earth perpendicularly, or at least more directly then in the temperate zones, and the same amount of energy is therefore focused on a correspondingly smaller area.¨ (Tropical Nature). Due to its position it can’t help but be an extreme place. Its location has made it what it is. ¨There is little seasonal change in temperature, the type of seasonality we are accustomed to. Days and nights are about the same length throughout the year. In the tropics you don’t have to worry about sending your children off to school on dark winter mornings, but you miss out on lingering, lazy summer evenings.¨(Tropical Nature). This lack of seasonal change defines the Amazon, and the cultures within it. With this lack of seasonal change everything is at the same pace always, a constant season throughout the year. ¨Since day length is more or less constant through the tropical year; there is relatively little fluctuation in temperatures through the year… In the tropics the uniformity of day length means that there are no such opportunities for heat to build up or be lost. Although there may be seasonal fluctuations in temperature, they tend to be minor.¨ (Tropical Nature). All of these factors contribute to what create the Amazon, and make is such a unique and studied place.

The climate and constancy of the Amazon is only part of what it can be defined as. Within the forest there are many other things that go to extremes, and how they deal with their environment, to make the Amazon what it is. ¨The architecture of the forest has resulted from a sort of tug-of-war between the need to absorb water and nutrients from the earth below while competing with neighboring plants for the light come from the sun above.¨(The Burning Season). Things such as the walking trees, also called Socratea trees, are actually nomadic, slowly moving towards rivers for water. Seeing these trees I was in awe. What was also amazing to me was seeing how trees bended towards the light that would sometimes break through the canopy above. Sometimes at angles I didn’t know trees could move in. They are truly living creatures. The strangler fig was another amazing thing to see. The fig, starting its life in the canopy, grows down to the lower sections of the forest. ¨Over a period of years, the thickening mass of dangling roots begins to fuse and can eventually completely encase the host tree, as if it had been dipped in cement. The mummified host dies and rots, providing a rich source of nutrients for the fig.¨(The Burning Season). At first the sight of a tree like vine surrounding another tree made me smile, because of its relation to a really good hug. However it does not take long to see that what is actually happening is suffocation. Not only have the plants gone to extremes though. The sloth, which I had previously thought to be a lazy and rather boring creature, is in fact an amazing example of the Amazon and its give and take nature. Seeming as if it is a part of the tree it lives in, covered in that which covers the tree bark, ¨The sloth has an odd habit: rather than defecating randomly from its perch- like monkeys and birds- once a week or so, it descends to the ground and deposits its feces in a hole it digs near the base of the tree in which it spends the most time. Perhaps this strategy has evolved as a way of returning some of the nutrients it took from the tree by eating its leaves. Whatever the reason, it must be pretty important, venturing onto the forest floor is a risky business for an animal that can barely drag itself across a flat surface. Thus, the sloth itself is an almost incomprehensibly intricate biological system. ¨(The Burning Season) Although we will never really know why the sloth goes down to the forest ground , I find it amazing that it does so. The idea of giving back to the tree which gives him life is an ideal example of what the Amazon is, and why it is so beautiful. The last thing I will mention briefly is the canopy. It is an ecosystem above the ground, making it one of the most unique places known to man. As the author of the Burning Season explains, it is ¨it is the last great unexplored frontier of the natural world.¨

The nature of the environment creates a similarly extreme way of life. It is not a secret of the political tensions that surround the Amazon and its natural resources. Outsiders in the US who are trying to ¨save the rainforest¨, and donating money to the varied organizations see this area with just charitable eyes. I was unaware of another in-justice revolving around the rainforest up until reading Burning Season by Andrew Revkin, his information on the death of the environmentalist Chico Mendes, a man working to save his own livelihood and the livelihood of the forest supporting him, as well as the politics that caused his death. Chico Mendes worked against the large ranchers chainsaws, creating many enemies for the powerful people amongst the Amazon, and many proud spectators in the US. ¨It was this substance, called latex, that lured the grandfather of Chico Mendes and tens of thousands of other men to the Amazon rain forest in two waves over the past hundred and twenty years… Called seringueiros…[these men were] fighting to make a life from the living forest- and fighting to free themselves from bosses who saw to it that they remained enslaved by their debts.¨ (Burning Season). A season that brings about this hate between seringueiros and ranchers is the burning season, hence the title of the book. ¨People from the Amazon say that the trouble always starts during the burning season, a period of two months or so between the two natural climatic season of the region- the dry and the wet¨ (Burning Season). The two seasons is a gap between when burning can happen and when it can’t. When the rancher’s burning occurs, it threatens the trees that other workers, the seringueiros, need. It is a battle, a battle that creates enemies, and tension. High tensions create high stress; this high stress leads to deaths, meaning the powerful trying to stop what is in their way. Chico Mendes, and many others, were victims of this injustice. ¨More than a thousand people have been murdered in land disputes in rural Brazil since 1980, and Amnesty International estimates that fewer than ten of the killers have been convicted and sent to jail.¨(Burning Season). Justice is not a word used in the Brazilian amazon. As Revkin states, ¨when you ask people about justice they simply chuckle in a sad kind of way...¨ The death of Mendes made these issues more public to far away countries, however it is a part of the culture of the Amazon that we are naïve and oblivious to.

Despite any judgment or image of the Amazon, it is an amazing, beautiful place; a place full of danger and beauty. Its portrayal in our society I feel does not give it the credit it deserves, and lacks the definition needed. It is not an Eden; however it is a place of wonder. The idea of this place as a land of paradise is an obscuration of what is real for those who live in the Amazon, and the environment that it really is. I see it to be more amazing then the advertisements and movies say. The Amazon is full of unbelievable life. Instead of seeing it as a place that suits our wants and luxuries, one needs to see the place for what it is, a place thriving with unbelievable life. Revkin puts it well when he says; ¨Those with the hubris to go home convinced that they have solved the regions riddles almost invariably end up humbled. The better ones go away with more questions than when they arrived. The closer one gets the more intertwined things become.¨ The Amazon teaches us of our strengths, and reminds us of our vulnerability.

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Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

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Amazon Yak

Rebecca Dibble,Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

Description

What do you picture when hearing the word Amazon? Do you see a thick mass of green things growing? Animals creeping and bugs crawling, or perhaps a person adorned with feathers bathing in a waterfall. Or maybe even a website selling you books and movies. Before making our way to the amazon, I read a […]

Posted On

05/4/11

Author

Rebecca Dibble

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FOR ALL YOU ANDES AND AMAZON FOLLOWERS WHO WANT TO SEE THE GROUP´S PHOTOS, PLEASE LOG ON TO FLICKR.COM AND TYPE IN ANDES & AMAZON SPRING 2011. BE SURE TO CLICK PEOPLE SEARCH RATHER THAN IMAGE SEARCH. OUR ACCOUNTS ICON IS A PICTURE OF TENTS (THE PICTURE POSTED). WITHIN THE NEXT 3 WEEKS EVERYONE IS FORCED TO POST THEIR PICTURES OR THEY WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES, SO EXPECT GOOD PICTURES SOON!

XOXOX

LOTS OF LOVE

HALEY ROSE & LEONARD ALEX

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Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

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Flicker

Haley Rose & Leonard Alex,Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

Description

FOR ALL YOU ANDES AND AMAZON FOLLOWERS WHO WANT TO SEE THE GROUP´S PHOTOS, PLEASE LOG ON TO FLICKR.COM AND TYPE IN ANDES & AMAZON SPRING 2011. BE SURE TO CLICK PEOPLE SEARCH RATHER THAN IMAGE SEARCH. OUR ACCOUNTS ICON IS A PICTURE OF TENTS (THE PICTURE POSTED). WITHIN THE NEXT 3 WEEKS EVERYONE IS […]

Posted On

05/3/11

Author

Haley Rose & Leonard Alex

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    [post_date] => 2011-05-02 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 
Dear Parents,
Your students are almost on their way home! Hard to believe. Below is the return flight information for their group.

Returning Flight:

May 12th, 2011
South African Airways #SA 207
Depart: Dakar (DKR) 5:10am
Arrive: Washington DC (IAD) 10:20am

The participant can be picked up or should arrange a connecting flight after:
May 12th, 2011 @ 1:20pm
*Students need at least 3 hrs to gather baggage, clear customs, change terminals, etc.
Best,
Dragons Admin
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Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

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Return Flight Information

Dragons Administration,Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

Description

Dear Parents, Your students are almost on their way home! Hard to believe. Below is the return flight information for their group. Returning Flight: May 12th, 2011 South African Airways #SA 207 Depart: Dakar (DKR) 5:10am Arrive: Washington DC (IAD) 10:20am The participant can be picked up or should arrange a connecting flight after: May […]

Posted On

05/2/11

Author

Dragons Administration

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    [post_author] => 39
    [post_date] => 2011-04-26 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

Enjoying our first few days in Peru, the Expedition Phase of our course has finally started! We are in Cusco and gearing up to leave the bright lights and the big city for a small, sacred town called Nacion Q'ueros. Many believe that Nacion Q'ueros is the last remaining remnant of true Inka lineage, wisdom and knowledge. We will be able to spend a few days in Quico Chico, inside of Nacion Q'ueros, being able to bathe in that sabidura for a short while. We will be out of touch by phone or email until the 1st of 2nd of May. Until then we will be romping in the hot springs, wandering around the cloud forest, learning from the Elders or perhaps helping to perserve ancient textiles... or buying some oursleves!! Whatever we'll be doing we'll be smiling and enjoying our last couple of weeks to learn and enjoy this country and each other.

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Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

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Nacion Queros

Las Instructoras,Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2011

Description

Enjoying our first few days in Peru, the Expedition Phase of our course has finally started! We are in Cusco and gearing up to leave the bright lights and the big city for a small, sacred town called Nacion Q’ueros. Many believe that Nacion Q’ueros is the last remaining remnant of true Inka lineage, wisdom […]

Posted On

04/26/11

Author

Las Instructoras

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