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Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012


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Hello Morocco families!

Abdou and Allana here, writing to you from hot Marrakesh. The student group left us early this morning with sleep and some tears in their eyes and we were so sad to see them go. This summer has truly been a magical experience for students and instructors alike. We checked in with the group during their layover in Casablanca and all was well. They were boarding the plane to return to the friends and families we have heard so much about over the last few weeks - you have all been missed!

Thank all of you again for supporting our group in Morocco this summer - it was an experience none of us will forget.

Allana and Abdou

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Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

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Return flight from Casa

Allana Hearn,Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

Description

Hello Morocco families! Abdou and Allana here, writing to you from hot Marrakesh. The student group left us early this morning with sleep and some tears in their eyes and we were so sad to see them go. This summer has truly been a magical experience for students and instructors alike. We checked in with […]

Posted On

07/27/12

Author

Allana Hearn

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Coming from a rural homestay, I was not at first prepared for our arrival in Sidi Kaoki. Where Skoura was a warm desert, Sidi Kaoki is a breezy town on the water; where Skoura was all local, conservative Moroccans without a tourist in sight, I arrived in Sidi Kaoki to see Frenchmen, Spaniards, and even the odd American. I was instantly revitalized and any desire I had to head back home dissipated almost immediately upon my arrival.

Our activites here have been numerous: we have gone shopping along the streets of the old medina in Essaouira; we have swum in the ocean and rode on camels and munched on nutella crepes. But don’t get me wrong, not everything has been fun and games. As the “student-led” component of the trip, each of us had a plethora of responsibilities and duties to carry out on a daily basis. I, for example, was in charge of the budget. When I first inherited the role of budgeter, I didn’t exactly know what I was getting into—I figured I would just have to add up some numbers at the end of the day and that would be that. Unfortunately, that was not that. I had to work with the transportation guru in our group to find affordable travel, haggle with hotel owners to find rooms that fit our budget, work with the food person to decide how much money to allocate to each meal, and report everything back to the I-team at the end of the day. It was definitely one of the more challenging things of this trip, but it taught me a heck of a lot about thriftiness, accountability, and how to manage money. And, of course, I have a whole lot more respect for A-flus, D-money, and any body else who bears the burden of the trip budget.

One highlight of our trip here was our experience with the Artisans. Our task was to find an artisan and employ them to explain the history of their craft and to provide us with some hands on experience. Our search led us to the “Artisan Ensemble” in Essaouira, where we entered a woodworking shop. After checking out the shop upstairs, where there was a whole manner of finished products, including chess boards, animal figurines, magic boxes, hair clips, spice boxes, and even a chandelier that took 10 years to build (!!!!), the artisan showed us the whole process of production. We saw the origin of the wood, which came from the Thuya tree; then we saw how they cut, sand, and add different wood (lemon tree) to it before they finally add a varnish finish. It was a very complicated process, but one the artisans had mastered. When we came back the next day, we had the chance to make our own wood pieces by hammering metal into wood cutouts and then sanding them and adding olive oil for coloring. Our group made sailboats, flowers, names, and all manner of amorphic designs. It was a really fun experience for us and it taught us about a craft that has played an important role in the history of Essaouira.

And of course, there is the beauty of the whole place. There is nothing quite like waking up to the sun above the oceans (after, albeit, I was woken at 3:30 am by the call to prayer blasted over the town’s loudspeakers) or sitting on the beach in Sidi Kaoki watching windsurfer, klitesurfers, and swimmers do their thing as the breeze blows in your face. I particularly enjoyed the camel ride this morning. I had never been on a camel before, and it was awesome to ride one alongside my friends as we passed by the ocean.

Essaouira, too, had its own beauty. The first day we visited the fortress city, our group was fasting for Ramadan for the day, which, I must add, is easier said than done. Partly because we were so hungry, and partly because we had spent the previous week in a desert, our senses were suddenly attuned to the sounds of merchants selling their goods, the smells of baking bread and shbekia (sugary Ramadan treats), and the sights of fabrics of thousands of colors made by berber craftsmen. As a group, we instantly fell in love with Essaouira—perhaps too much, though, judging by the sheer amount of items we purchased for ourselves and for others!!!

I understand this is my final yak, so I’m glad I can end with a reflection on one of the most beautiful and most quintessential Moroccan locations yet. I’ll definitely have to return, In-shalla!!!!!

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Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

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Yak from Ben

Ben,Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

Description

Coming from a rural homestay, I was not at first prepared for our arrival in Sidi Kaoki. Where Skoura was a warm desert, Sidi Kaoki is a breezy town on the water; where Skoura was all local, conservative Moroccans without a tourist in sight, I arrived in Sidi Kaoki to see Frenchmen, Spaniards, and even […]

Posted On

07/24/12

Author

Ben

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The minute I jumped off of the weathered bus and onto the cool sand beach in Sidi Kouki, the last traces of sickness vanished and my spirits were instantly lifted. The potent combination of the ocean breeze and the town’s laid back attitude washed away all of the qualms resulting from my previous illness, and I felt ready and eager to face the student expedition phase. This positive energy clearly infected the rest of the group as well; during our student expedition, there was no conflict, only support and collaboration to accomplish the necessary tasks with a willingness of spirit. As a group, we managed to arrange transport from Sakoura to Sidi Kouki – an eleven hour ordeal that was no easy task – find lodging for the group, prepare or find meals, learn from an artisan in Essaouira, teach lessons, and run daily meetings, all on a strict budget that was managed masterfully by Ben and Sharron. Furthermore, each student fully embraced their roles, rising to challenges when necessary, and standing by to aid other peers. As a group, we really achieved cohesion and therefore saw great success on the student run expedition.

The expedition itself was the most relaxing and beautiful part of the journey. Sidi Kouki in nested on a windy, expansive beach, littered with costal cafes and jeets full of character. Thirty minutes away resides Essaouira, a town known for its Portuguese influence, laid back spirit, and colorful gnaoua music. While in Essaouira, we managed to befriend a skillful wood worker, who taught us his craft in a three hour lesson inside the medina. The medina itself is bustling with a plethora of sights, sounds and smells. The sweet, stick shabekea floods the narrow dirt roads, producing a constant mouthwatering sensation. The streets are alive with the chattering of French and Arabic, while from stores the famous gnaoua music floats as a jazzy, acoustic background to the city. I’ve relished my time in the medina, and have enjoyed simply strolling around – slightly lost – and absorbing the colorful surroundings.

The trip ended on a perfect camel ride on the beach, and although it pained me to say goodbye to my camel, I plan to sneak down and steal it tonight… Guess what I’m bringing home mom. Despite the merry setting, I cannot help but feel nostalgic when I think of the course coming to an end. However, I am incredibly grateful to say goodbye on such a high note, and I hope to return to this hippie enclave in the future. J Basallama mareb.

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Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

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Introspective Quest

Annie Klink,Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

Description

The minute I jumped off of the weathered bus and onto the cool sand beach in Sidi Kouki, the last traces of sickness vanished and my spirits were instantly lifted. The potent combination of the ocean breeze and the town’s laid back attitude washed away all of the qualms resulting from my previous illness, and […]

Posted On

07/24/12

Author

Annie Klink

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In my honest opinion the last couple of days here in Sidi Kouki have probably been my most memorable parts of this trip. Ive enjoyed every minute being in this wonderful area and im glad that as a group we decided to come here. The calm setting of this place and the cool breeze of the ocean makes me feel great about being here and at the same time makes me feel like im back home. Ive had such a great positive attitude on this part of the course that I haven’t really had in a while. From being sick and home sick I was honestly ready to just go home and didn’t want to deal with anything anymore. Being in this area has given such a great energy and it as well has been shown in the group. During the group lead expedition we’ve been working together as a group better then ever in my eye. Everyone was willing to help in any way possible, whether it was from finding a place to stay, to getting food, to cooking the food, and as well as offering to teach lessons.

We’ve done so much in such little time here. We’ve spent most of our time in the markets located in the medina of Essaouria and ate tons of nutella crapes, which are amazing. As well as got to watch over a woodworker. They taught us how to carve a picture into a wood piece and then inlay silver pieces of metal into it, which was extremely nice. The woodworkers were so nice and helpfully willing to help us at every moment which was great. We as well got to do our own wood pieces. Mines didn’t come out so well but it was nice to have to experience and memory of trying it.

The best part of all in my opinion was the camel ride we did this morning. I never knew how tall a camel was till I was up close to it, and when you actually got on it and it gets up your pretty far off the ground. I was scared at first especially since my camel thought he was in a race and would start running every now and then having me hopping up and down on its back. But overall it was an amazing experience.

I would like to thank the instructors for giving us all their support and energy. As well as the support they’ve giving me, I don’t think I could have lasted this long on this trip without them. I also want to thank my family for supporting me on coming to Morocco. As well as a special thanks to Summer Search if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have been able to come to such a wonderful place like Morocco and to have the experiences that ive had. It probably would have been honestly impossible without them. I don’t think I could thank anyone enough of letting me have such a great experience. This trip has been something that I will carry on in my life for a life time. I will never forget the people ive met and the experiences ive in-countered on this trip.

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Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

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Student Led

Deina Mejia,Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

Description

In my honest opinion the last couple of days here in Sidi Kouki have probably been my most memorable parts of this trip. Ive enjoyed every minute being in this wonderful area and im glad that as a group we decided to come here. The calm setting of this place and the cool breeze of […]

Posted On

07/24/12

Author

Deina Mejia

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We headed out to the coast and Essaouira for our Student Lead Expedition on Friday, and since then have enjoyed a relaxing but also challenging few days. We had to manage our own budget, figure out transportation, plan all of our activities, find accommodation, and more. Regardless of all the difficulties and occasional confusion, this has been a fun opportunity.

We experienced the fasting of Ramadan for the first day. For me, this experience was actually very pleasant. Although I felt hungry, it also felt good to be participating in an activity like that with everyone here. It also wasn’t as difficult as I expected. The only part that was hard was waking up at 3:00 am to eat before the sunrise call to prayer. Unfortunately, because of that part, I was unable to convince myself to fast again.

One morning, we went on a camel ride. I was terrified as it stood up, tipping me first one way and then another. When it finally was standing fully I was further above the ground than I was really comfortable, but we set off. We ambled along the beach, looking at the breaking waves, the windmills running behind, and the breathtaking landscape expanding on the remaining side and in front. It was a bumpy ride and my feet fell asleep off and on the entire time but it was amazing! Once I got used to the whole situation up there, I didn’t want to get down. My favorite thing might have been the personality of my camel. Her name was Coco and she kept on trying to break from the group. Once, when the man guiding her tried to direct her back to the group she turned her head as if to listen but quickly turned away in the opposite and sped up a bit, trying to break away. It was very tricky. Unfortunately for Coco, it didn’t work too well.

Another day we were able to do woodwork with a few artisans. They taught us how to inlay silver into wood. I cannot claim to have learned enough to come anywhere near their skill—they were quick and precise with their work coming out beautifully—but I did manage to put a nice pattern into my wood block. The men at the shop were also very kind and helpful. They really wanted us to learn the skill and gave us pointers that made the work easier. When we had finished putting the silver in, they took the blocks, sanded them until the metal shone and the top was smooth, and covered them in a finishing oil. Our somewhat ugly patterns suddenly looked beautiful and fit to actually show people.

Today we got to swim in the ocean and hang out at the beach. After that we ran to the restaurants and ate banana nutella crepes. Crepes: the food of Essaouira, except that is only true for Team Maroc’n Roll.

I don’t know what to say to adequately express how much I have gotten out of this trip. We had to journal about what we learned; I didn’t know what to start. I learned many physical skills for trekking and travelling but also the mindset that I think will help me make it through life. That sounds incredibly cheesy but it’s the truth. The people I’ve met and situations I’ve been through have shown me that I need to remain hopeful, open minded, and positive in order to reach my full potential. As I transition to life back in Vermont I need to remind myself of this and not forget everything I learned or everyone I’ve met.

Finally, I want to thank my parents for allowing and enabling me to go on this trip; the instructors for all they have taught me, their support, the energy they put into the trip, and making me feel safe, welcome, and at home in Morocco; the other students for making the trip fun and being awesome people to travel with; and the people of Morocco for being, for the most part, open to me and showing me their culture. From the homestay families to the random people I met in the streets, most everyone made my first trip outside of North America wonderful and created an environment that encouraged me to travel more.

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Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

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Leading on the Coast

Sharon Schuppe,Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

Description

We headed out to the coast and Essaouira for our Student Lead Expedition on Friday, and since then have enjoyed a relaxing but also challenging few days. We had to manage our own budget, figure out transportation, plan all of our activities, find accommodation, and more. Regardless of all the difficulties and occasional confusion, this […]

Posted On

07/24/12

Author

Sharon Schuppe

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Our student lead expedition brought the group in our final week to Sidi Kouki, a tiny beach town just south of the artists’ enclave of Essaouira. After being left to our own devices and allocating our own transportation, lodging, food, and activities, we found time to relax and unwind within the bustling medina walls of Essaouira, as well as learn from local artisans of wood, jewelry, and fine art.

Stepping off the bus into breezy coastal air instantly revitalized and recharged me for the last week of my Moroccan adventure. The days that followed were filled with fasting for the first day of Ramadan, haggling for goods and gifts, and refreshing swims followed by sandy beach naps in the sun. I discovered on our first day in Essaouira just how faithful Moroccans can be as I struggled to resist delicious street food and tried to imagine thirty consecutive days of fasting. On the second day, we worked with a woodworker in the Artiste Ensemble and created our own polished wooden plaques. I also discovered, to my own dismay, that Morocco is not the best place to order pizza (think Cheeto crumbles). The expedition drew to a close on the third day with a camel ride down the beach, which I noted as an especially remarkable experience from the trip as a whole.

Surprisingly, our group came together nicely and we managed to execute an extremely fun and interesting trip. As our days in Essaouira/Sidi Kouki come to an end, I couldn’t think of a better way to close out my month in Morocco better than this.

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Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

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Student Lead Expedition

Jackson Kenna,Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

Description

Our student lead expedition brought the group in our final week to Sidi Kouki, a tiny beach town just south of the artists’ enclave of Essaouira. After being left to our own devices and allocating our own transportation, lodging, food, and activities, we found time to relax and unwind within the bustling medina walls of […]

Posted On

07/24/12

Author

Jackson Kenna

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Essaouira is a Morocco unlike any Morocco I’ve yet seen.

The cozy beach town differs in almost every way from the sprawling alleyways of Sale and Rabat, the impossibly high rock faces of the High Atlas, and the endless sand, sand, sand of rural Skoura that I’ve come to know and love. This is a town dubbed the “Moroccan Woodstock” for its annual Gnaoua Music Festical, and frequented by free-spirits and tourists who seek adventure and laid-back vibes. Everything that is familiar to me of Morocco - Essaouria is not.

Essaouria is, instead, where the spirit and triumph of art lives, and finds home in cobbled alleyways in artisans who devote their life to craft. The busy streets of Essaouria are lined with intricate wood cravings, dazzling jeweled items, shiny goods for days – and the masters of these trades seated patiently atop wooden stools nearby, offering passerby’s a “Moroccan price” with a toothy grin.

I’ve spent the better part of my days observing these masters at work. A master wood-carver by the name of Hajjoub kindly opened his workshop for us, and allowed us to apprentice with his tools and precious thuya wood. When not clinking bits of wood with metal tools, the rest of my time is a smattering of beach-lying and lazy wanderings down cobbled roads, sampling sights, smells and of course, the occasional (or very frequent) crepe. There is a strange and soothing mist that seems to settle above the minds and souls of the peoples that live and work here.

All said, my experience in Essaouira and its beach town cousin, Sidi Kaoki has been a delight, but decidedly different from the rest of my Moroccan experience. At first, it was almost disorienting to find myself standing on Sidi Kaoki’s shores after a week in desert-like Skoura. I felt as if I had left Morocco and found myself trapped between wind-surfers and ocean breeze. Everything is so different here, I thought.

And yet, some things persisted. The ubiquitous smell of tajines and halwa chebakia – a Ramadan food - greets the senses even in Essaouira. The traditional Arabic as-Salāmu `Alaykumgreeting piques the ears in between hello’s and bonjour’s uttered by European tongues. So much is the same. The warm hospitality so distinctive of Morroco and so persistently Moroccan lives here, too. It’s found on buses, tucked behind crooked alleyways, and in the eyes and wide-toothed smiles of a local passerby. Essaouira is a reminder that the diversity that so defines Morocco, a nation that sits at the crossroads between so many cultures, ideas, and foreign influences, is real and alive. In that way, Essaouira is simply another distinctly Moroccan town with its own unique heritage and space. The town is simply other face of Morroco that I’ve come to know and grown to love.

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Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

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faces of morocco

Alex Ding,Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

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Essaouira is a Morocco unlike any Morocco I’ve yet seen. The cozy beach town differs in almost every way from the sprawling alleyways of Sale and Rabat, the impossibly high rock faces of the High Atlas, and the endless sand, sand, sand of rural Skoura that I’ve come to know and love. This is a […]

Posted On

07/24/12

Author

Alex Ding

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Sidi Kouki is cute J. The coastal Moroccan town draws locals and tourists alike with its breezy, laid-back vibe. This part of the course had been led and planned by the students, or colloquially as we’re known in the streets, the S-team. It’s been a challenge transition, but we managed to fulfill our goals. I’ve enjoyed our visits with various local artisans, who’ve graciously shown and taught us their craft. I cannot believe our Moroccan experience is drawing to a close. I look forward to our last remaining few days in this beautiful country.

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Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

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The Beach Town

Alex Ding,Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

Description

Sidi Kouki is cute J. The coastal Moroccan town draws locals and tourists alike with its breezy, laid-back vibe. This part of the course had been led and planned by the students, or colloquially as we’re known in the streets, the S-team. It’s been a challenge transition, but we managed to fulfill our goals. I’ve […]

Posted On

07/24/12

Author

Alex Ding

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Our group collectively refers to our instructors as “the I-team “, so for our student led expedition we’ve designated ourselves the S-team, as creative as that sounds. I thought it was pretty funny, that and the minor role reversals we do, when we students talk patronizingly to the instructors while they complain about being tired and hungry. So the student led expedition has, so far, proven to be a pretty great experience. Not quite as challenging as I’d been anticipating, and we as students have performed much better than I’d imagined we would. From the beginning there was really no doubt we were going to Essaouira. I remember discussing how awesome Essaouira was going to be with someone only a week or so in. And Essaouira is really awesome; I’ve been having a lot of fun here. Seeing the Artisans was especially cool, and having the opportunity to work with them was great. Another unique experience we went through on our expedition was fasting for Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. It was a really cool thing to do, even if only for a day, and I actually really enjoyed it. It wasn’t too difficult either, the only hard parts were getting up at 3am for breakfast and exercising self restraint when passing food stands. Other than that, Essaouira and Sidi Kaouki, the town we’re staying at, are both really cool places, so different from the other places we’ve been but distinctly Moroccan at the same time. I love the atmosphere, the music, and all the cool shops selling a myriad of stuff in the medina. Essaouira/ Sidi Kaouki are the perfect places to end our month-long trip in Morocco.

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Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

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The S-Team

Amber,Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

Description

Our group collectively refers to our instructors as “the I-team “, so for our student led expedition we’ve designated ourselves the S-team, as creative as that sounds. I thought it was pretty funny, that and the minor role reversals we do, when we students talk patronizingly to the instructors while they complain about being tired […]

Posted On

07/24/12

Author

Amber

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    [post_date] => 2012-07-19 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

Between the three days of a fever and the ptsd from the Goat Slaughter, my homestay experience has been a blur, but a good blur. As I type this yak, my fingers are moving at a glacial pace due to the freshly applied henna by my host family – a fantastic morning surprise. Not only has my family treated me to fun Moroccan customs, but they readily took care of me – a complete American stranger – while I was sick and feverish. This explicit display of caring is a trait I’ve found unique to this rural homestay experience. Each person in the small town, even those I do not recognize, have sought me out to make sure I am feeling better after being sick, and I am very grateful for the concern. Thankfully, I have had one full day in health to spend with my family, and I look forward the community celebration later today, even though we had to slaughter a goat for the occasion….. Overall this has been a very insightful and character-building experience.

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Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

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Yak from Annie

Annie Klink,Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith, Summer 2012

Description

Between the three days of a fever and the ptsd from the Goat Slaughter, my homestay experience has been a blur, but a good blur. As I type this yak, my fingers are moving at a glacial pace due to the freshly applied henna by my host family – a fantastic morning surprise. Not only […]

Posted On

07/19/12

Author

Annie Klink

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