Archive for category Travel

Take a walk with me…

Today I’m feeling nostalgic, and therefore will write, but not in my standard way (as you can tell by my title). (and yes, I will get back to my favorite moments at some point…)
I just had an overwhelming feeling of wanting to be back in Israel. I can envision in my mind’s eye that I’m walking along the road headed to the Jaffa Gate. So I think today, I shall tell of the walk through the old city.

Please join me, As we go down the elevator and walk into the lobby of the Tower Hotel in Jerusalem. Walking strait, I go through the side door, because for some reason the revolving door always freaks me out just a smidge. As I walk out of my hotel, there is a large section of brick sidewalk, and then the road. To the right are shops, mainly selling clothes or coffee or some cheap accessories. And when I look to the left there’s a plethora of restaurants From Italian, Chinese, Japanese or American. Anything you want to eat is just a jaunt down the road.

Turn left to head to the old city. Walking past people, vendors and that graffiti that states “set the police in fire” on the side of the building. Such an odd thing to see posted on the side of a building. As we walk we go downhill, continuing for less than a mile, now we pass apartments and parked cars. We come to an intersection, where there are two roads curving at odd angles, which makes the sidewalk come to a sharp point where the roads meet. Time to cross, and don’t worry about waiting for the signal, as long as there aren’t any cars, you can cross. Sharp right! Cross two roads now, it’s a split road. Now just go down the stairs and you’ll see this:

This leads to the Jaffa gate

Pretty isn't it?

This is the passageway that leads to the Jaffa gate. You’ll notice that the wall ont the left has markings on it. That’s because they took it down and marked each piece and then rebuilt it, kink of like a giant puzzle. Something that my not be quite as clear from this picture is the art that line the walkway. Local artists (i belive) have sculpture lining this walkway it makes for a very chic and artsy look as you walk down. You almost feel like you’re in a giant art exhibit. The shops that line the walkway are a high price for the most part. Fancy spas or restaurants, but mainly clothes with super cute dresses in the windows.

We are now arriving at the end of the passageway, go up the stairs (amphitheater like, half circle stairs, just so you get a picture in your head). As you walk up you see the walls cascading up, there my friend is the Old City wall. From the stairs there’s a courtyard of sorts with people buzzing all around and vendors trying to sell you fresh bread and sweets. And apparently, just because they want to let you know that they’re hip, there’s a huge pice of modern art in the center of the courtyard. Looks kind of like a 40 foot tall mobile. Interesting really.

Moving forward we go through the gate, which is a huge (about 20? feet) pointed door. Then turn to the left and you’re now inside those mammoth walls that are the Old City of Jerusalem. This is what it looks like from the inside:

In the City Walls

Ooooo....Inside the City Walls

Now I don’t know if I’ve told you this or not, but did you know that all the buildings in Jerusalem (and I believe in Israel) have to be built with Israeli stone? Meaning all buildings are made with stones quarried from Israel itself. Interesting? Yes. Causing issues with a lack of building material? Yes.

If you keep going straight, following the sidewalk, you will enter the bazaar. It’s crazy and colorful and full of people and things yelling and walking and moving about. I didn’t get a picture of this. I’m sorry I failed you. walk through two slices of the bazaar then turn left then make a right, then walk down those stairs you are now entering a courtyard. to your left there is a beautiful synagogue which is being re-built, it’s one of the oldest in the city. Looking forward there are outdoor tables and chairs with umbrellas where people can sit and eat their lunch. The first time we walked down this way most of my classmates went into a small archeological museum, while me and a few others wandered around outside waiting for them. If you walk down one of the little roads it leads to a residential area, and that’s exactly where I went, you can see some of the pictures below:

Walls

A wall near the residential portion of the Old City

More Walls

A little side alley where people lived

This was actually one of my favorite times in the city. It was day 1 in Jerusalem and we only had about 15 or so minutes to take a break while the others went through the museum. But it was here that I saw the daily lives of the good Jewish Israelis. The women had their heads covered, and were wearing long skirts and 3/4 length shirts. They were taking out their trash, watching their kids and having conversations with their neighbors. It was here that I realized that they aren’t really any different from you or me. Despite the fact that they live in the Holy Land, they are still people looking to make a life for themselves. Taking care of their daily needs, and they were also people who had hurts and pains and were just as lost as anyone in the world. They were beautiful, and as I sat on a ledge under a tree, I began feeling God’s heart for his people and his land.

Israel really is a Holy Land, you can feel it when you stand there. But the funny thing is, you have to look for it. It doesn’t hit you in the face when you land in the airplane. It doesn’t hit you when you’re on the temple mount, and it doesn’t hit you when you’re standing in the countryside with a pick in your hand. It hits you when you sit and pray. When you ask God to show you. Then it hits you hard. Israel is a land full of religion…but God isn’t active there, not unless you search him out. And if you do seek him…well…hold on, it will be a crazy ride.

I got off on a tangent there…sorry.

Anyway! Going through that courtyard at an angle, you will head down a road lined with food vendors, (I got a bagel, seemed appropriate in the Jewish Quarter). Going under a large archway we keep going and make a slight shift to the right, and then you were there. At the top of the stairs looking down at the Western (Wailing) Wall. Descending the flight of stairs you go through the security system at the Wall (not unlike airport security). Then you walk out and you’re in the courtyard of the Western Wall, Isn’t it pretty?

The Courtyard for at the Western Wall

This picture wasn’t taken in the courtyard obviously, it’s taken from above, but I thought it would give you a better understanding of the layout.

From here you do your best to be respectful of the people at the Wall. If you so chose you can approach it. When I did the first time it was in the middle of the day, broad daylight. I walked up, found a small place between to women, and touched the wall. I placed my written prayers in the cracks…then I prayed. And then I cried. I cried for the people of Israel, I cried for my family, I cried for my schoolmates that were with me, and I cried for my (now) fiance. And then I cried for me.

I walked that road every day I was in Israel. From the hotel to the Jaffa gate, then normally to the Wall or somewhere around it. So I thought I’d share with you some of my walk. I hope you enjoyed the company.

Dana

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Dear Favorite Moments pt 1

RE: Israel

Sorry I’ve not been in correspondence lately, I’ve been a bit distracted with being out of the country and then readjusting to being home. My intention in writing today is to not only get me back into the swing of writing again, but also to tell you about a few of my adventures overseas.

I know that you will probably be expecting me to tell you all the fascinating things that happened to me in Israel, but I doubt very much that I will write such a long post. So forgive me, but I think I’ll focus on only the major highlights of my trip. And even this I’ve decided after writing for a bit will be done in parts.

OK. First, before I even start, I’d like to give a quick shout out to my parents for helping me go on this adventure. What a huge blessing. Also, I’d like to thank Professor Mike Pytlik and Dr. Stamps for the opportunity to join them on OakDig 2011. All the work, sweat and tears they put into this trip was worth it in my opinion, and I loved every second of it. Thank you all so much!

My highlights of this trip will be organized as follows:

  • My favorite place we went (pt 1)
  • My favorite people I met (pt 2)
  • My favorite times with my group (pt 3)
  • My favorite part of the dig (pt 4)
  • What I learned from all this (pt 5)

Part 1:

My favorite Place I Went:

all three of our weekends were full of interesting things to do, and beautiful things to see. However, as people ask me my favorite place when I speak to them, I have one place in particular that stands out above the rest. The Garden of Gethsemane (here after named as The Garden). If I look back at the day I went it’s easy to see why it was my favorite place. In the morning our entire group headed to the Church of the Holy Sepulichre (considered to be the place where Jesus was hung on a cross, buried and rose again) (and here after name as CHS). I was expecting to enjoy the experience immensely, I mean come on, it’s the place where Jesus died and was buried man!

Outside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

 However, when I entered the most holy church the feeling was…less than holy. When you first walk in there is this pink, flat slab of marble on the ground. Someone leaned over to me and told me it’s supposed to be the place where Jesus was laid in preparations for his burial once he was dead. People were walking up to it, kneeling (because it was almost at floor level) and putting their things that they bought or relics from home on it. Apparently this is supposed to give the things some type of blessing. Although I didn’t really see the point, I went up and knelt down, touched the stone and prayed. I belive my prayer went something like “Hi again. Um, so this is the stone where you laid. I suppose I should re-pray for my family, give them a blessing, let them know that I love them while I’m away. Amen.” Epic prayer right? No not really. But what do you pray about at the stone where Jesus laid. Especially when you don’t think the thing has any powers of blessing at all, it’s just a stone.

Now please understand, I’m not trying to talk down the Sepulchre here, I’m giving you my impressions of the place. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who have had epic experiences there…I wasn’t one of them is all.

From the stone we headed upstairs to the place considered Golgotha, which didn’t look like anything but a big rock under the floor with this epic altar built on top of it. Well, not wanting to miss out on any experience I stood in line waiting for my turn to step up to the altar and say a prayer. I’m thinking I stood there with Danielle (my roommate and friend) for a good 10 to 15 minutes waiting, you see, it’s a one-at-a-time kind of thing. We made it finally, and I let her go first. My turn now. So when you get to the altar you have to kneel down to get under it (lots of kneeling these people), and there is a little hole in this piece of glass, and in this hole I assume must have been where the cross stood on the stone. Because it looked to me like a hole in a stone. Once again, not wanting to miss out, I prayed.

“God…you’re not here are you? This may have been the place where Jesus was killed, but Jesus rose from the dead and is alive. You’re not here are you? Hm…”

I know, I kick hinny at prayers. But in all honesty, I really didn’t know what to say, I knelt there and looked at this hole and just felt that all of this is was rigamarow…it was all religion, God wasn’t there. Mainly because God dwells in the ‘hearts’ of his believers and not in a church. But it seemed like everyone there was looking for God in that place…but they weren’t going to find him there. At least I didn’t.

We went through the rest of the Church, it’s huge man, like 3 stories. Fun fact: the church is owned by four different denominations and each one is extremely Orthodox. So apparently, all changes or repairs to the CHS have to be agreed upon by all four parties. And in most things, they don’t agree. So there are parts of the church that are in serious disrepair because the stupid parties can’t agree on the way it should be fixed. Not really a fun fact…more of a sad fact.  

Some other things that left a bad taste in my mouth was the decorations. think, Greek Orthodox shiny fanciness mixed with intense Roman Catholic paintings, mixed with Medieval architecture. The place just bombarded you with stuff EVERYWHERE!  you couldn’t get away from it really. I suppose one of the good things about it was that you didn’t have to pay to get in. there are some places, not a lot, but some that you have to pay money to see historic things. That’s stupid. But none the less, people try to make money and they know how to get it.

ANYWAY! I needed to tell you my experience with the CHS because it shows why I enjoyed the Garden of Gethsemane so much more.

The Garden of Gethsemane Church

The Garden of Gethsemane Church

So, this is one of my favorite places I went. Mainly, as I said because it was in comparison to the CHS. This place is across the Kidron Valley, which is outside of the ‘City of David’ and the ‘Old City’. So for orientation purposes, if you’re standing with your back to the Eastern wall of the Temple Mount, you’d be looking at this building, along with the Mount of Olives.OK. So after the CHS, and after unknowingly walking the Via Dolorosa (backwards) a few of us broke off from the group and headed for a food tour of Jerusalem led by Hagi. Hagi had been the one who told me that I would probably like The Garden. You see, as we were leaving the CHS Hagi asked me how I liked it. I gave my honest opinion of the place and then he suggested on our little tour we make a detour at The Garden. So this was one of the first places we went after we broke off from the group.We arrived a little early, The Garden doesn’t open until 2pm, why? I don’t know. But none the less, we got to chill on the street for about 10 to 15 minutes before entering (this is a completely pointless fact, but I added it to make you feel like you were there with me). Anyway, once the doors opened we walked inside with the small crowd that had gathered, and we looked around the garden for a bit. Below is a picture from a distance, you can see the Garden is on the left and the church on the right:

The Whole Garden of Gethsemane Church

So, as you should be able to tell there are some trees and things, but overall the Garden is pretty small. You’re not allowed to go into it, only look from behind the fence. One interesting thing that Hagi told us was that the trees that are currently in the garden are olive trees. Now, the interesting thing about them is that once they get to  be over 100 years or so old they begin decomposing from the inside out. so some of the trees in the garden were in fact hollow. I of course didn’t get a picture of this, but thanks to Google Images I can still show you.

Olive Tree (not in the Garden)

Olive Tree

As you should be able to see the tree looks like it’s a bunch of small trees fused together with a hollow center. It’s not though, it’s one huge ancient tree that is hollow in the center because it’s decomposed from the inside out. So, The Garden had several of these trees. Hagi said that it’s hard for them to date the trees after a certain period of time, because unlike other trees where you can count the growth rings, these trees are hollow. So we know that they are over 100 years old, but there is no way of knowing if they date back to the time of Christ.

After we spent a few minutes out in the garden area we then walked into the church. Everyone had come for me, so no one else really entered with me, they just hung back at the entrance or in the doorway maybe around the edges of the church. When you enter the church one of the first things you notice is the darkness of the place. There was hardly any light other than the front of the church which illuminated  the stone that Jesus was supposed to have thrown him self down on to pray and also the light that streams in from the purple stain glass windows, and even that is a faded light.

Awesome stain glass windows

Awesome Stain Glass Windows

As I walked into the church I could feel the silence around me. There were no more than 15 people in the church, most of which were praying. I walked up the right side of the church, looking at the awesome purple cross stain glass  windows, and then arrived at the front of the church. I knelt down at the kneelers which surround the stone at the front of the church. One of my favorite things about this place was when I went and kneeled down there were these funny things in picture frames. They were Bible passages of the record of Jesus being at the Garden, Matthew 26:36-46. Along all the kneelers these verses were spread out. I would say the were in about 9 different languages, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, English, Spanish, etc.

As I knelt and read I could see why Jesus would have come here. The people who keep up the church have done an excellent job making it a place where you feel comfortable praying and calling out to God. The silence all around you makes you reflect about where you are, and why you’re there. For the most part I prayed for my family, but I also prayed for everyone I was on the trip with. During my prayer I felt like I could understand a sliver of what Christ was going through when he prayed. There was passion behind my prayer, that doesn’t normally happen. I was praying with an earnest heart, I wanted to see the things I was praying for come to fruition so badly. After my prayer, I walked back to my group. Hagi asked how I liked the Church and I confirmed that this place was much more what I was looking for than the CHS.

Overall, looking back, this experience was one of hundreds that I had in Israel. But whenever anyone asks me what my favorite place was my answer is always the Garden of Gethsemane. Maybe it’s just because it was a place where I met God for a time, I don’t know. But this is one of many places that I went that I loved, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it.
 
I hope to be in touch again soon,
 
Dana
 
 

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Dear Stressors,

For the past few weeks I’ve been stressed. This to me is interesting because the only time I almost ever get stressed is when I’m in an argument with someone (which  rarely happens) or if I have a 8-12 page paper due in two days and I have no idea what to write about. Now, both of these issues are generally self-induced, and I have no one to blame but myself for my lack of self-control.

But the stress that’s come upon me lately is due to two specific things. Number one, the passing of my grandparents. And number two, my impending trip to Israel.

In April, when my Grandma passed, I wasn’t horribly stressed out about the situation. My main concern was for my Father, Aunt and Grandfather, and also for my missing a full week of school. But overall the trip was pleasant, aside from the circumstances, and my life continued, all be it I was a little bit sadder, and I was a little easier to distract.

But with this past trip to the U.P. there was more stress involved. However, this stress could be translated into sadness/mourning/regret. You see, I’ve never really had to deal with death before. Although I’ve been to the funerals of both my Uncle and my Grandmother, this funeral was different. Looking over it, I would say my sadness is more for the lack of communication and contact with my Grandparents while they were alive. Although I often prayed for them, and even enjoyed talking to them on the phone, there wasn’t a relationship there like I would have liked to have. I didn’t really know who my Grandparents were, aside from what people have told me about them.

There’s always a point when you reach a certain age, where the gap between you and your older relatives begins to narrow. Where your Grandparents or Aunts and Uncles become more of older wiser friends than someone who is just your Aunt or Grandparent. And although I’ve had the privilege to get to know my mom’s side of the family relatively well, I missed out on that with my Father’s side of the family. I regret this. So my sorrow doesn’t come necessarily from the passing of my Grandparents. I know that they are in Heaven and are happier now with Jesus than they ever were down here. No, my sorrow comes from not knowing who my Grandparents were, and not taking the time to get to know them as people. As I was up there I realized that there was all kinds of family history surrounding me, and I wanted to know about it. But those that could tell me the stories were gone.

switching subjects, my second cause of stress is, as stated before, my trip to Israel. I take flight two weeks from today. And with this impending trip comes all the lovely worries and stress of foreign travel, but added on to that is the worry and stress of taking a class. What fun!

I’ve never been on a trip that caused me so much stress, not only do I need things for the dig, but also for the weekends, oh and I also have books and articles to read, a presentation to plan AND a paper to write. Now, all of this together, really isn’t that stressful, and I’ve had time to do almost everything I need to do before I leave. I’m sure everything will get done, it’s just a wee bit stressful with the loss of a week while I was in the U. P. Please don’t get me wrong, I am extremely excited to go. 

 My overall intent in telling you this was not really to bitch about my problems. It’s just whenever I sit down to write about something here, these are the two things that clog my mind. So I figure if I write about them, maybe it will help me feel less stressed. Perhaps perhaps…I don’t know.

So I guess when I sum it up, I have excitement and stress for my trip, and an odd feeling of loss and regret for my relationship with my Grandparents. I suppose I just don’t quite know how to deal with all these feelings at the same time.

With mixed emotions,

Dana

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Dear Languages

To the languages that helped me survive foreign countries, study for anatomy and physiology tests or simply allowed for a more diverse frame of mind.

I’ve dabbled in several of you:

  • 2 years French
  • 1 year Latin
  • 2 semesters Greek
  • 1 semester (and one missions trip) Spanish
  • 1 missions trip Swahili
  • 1 semester Arabic
  • and several random phrases  in different languages picked up here or there

All of you have a place in my brain or heart…whether I like you or not.

French, you were the biggest pain in my rear end. I took you during Middle School. All the cool kids were taking Spanish, but my mom signed me up for French instead. I passed the class with something like a C-. Utter failure in my book. And I didn’t care, still don’t. It would be nice to be able to speak a language other than English, but French, we just couldn’t get along. There just wasn’t anything worth making a lifetime commitment to, so I dropped you. Happy day.

The only sad thing that came from my hatred of the French language was my unwillingness to travel to France with my class. They ran around for two weeks, looking at French paintings, eating French food, experiencing French culture. And I said no. My teacher wanted me to go, in fact, my teacher offered to pay for the flight. it would have cost under $1000 for me to go for two weeks, experiencing the best of France. But my hatred for the language ran so deep that I said no. This is the only thing I regret. Not that I like the language. But being where I am now, with my love of traveling and cultures, I can’t believe I said no. Stupid child I was.

Please don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely nothing against the people of France. It was just the language that I don’t get along with.

To Latin, I don’t have much to say to you. You helped me with English when I was growing up. Helped me understand where the words came from and the root of the words. But alas, as a dead language, you didn’t stick with me, and after a few semesters you fell.

Greek, you were my solemn helpmate during my pre-nursing years. The world of medicine is filled with your phrases, and knowing the basics helped me connect all kinds of anatomy together. But as my desire for nursing died, my knowledge of anything about the Greek language died as well.

Spanish, you whom I’ve never felt a need to study (despite everyone and their mother telling me it was wise to take it). I took you because, as I stated before, all the cool kids were taking you. However, the teacher left a lot to be desired and there was no structure to the class. Even in middle school I disliked classes that lacked structure and teachers who didn’t inspire me to learn. However, my second interaction with the language allowed for a more pleasant learning experience. However, the only phrase that really stuck with me was “Dios le bendiga”, meaning: “God bless you”. This was said to every single person in church on Sundays and Wednesdays, therefore the continual repetition forced the phrase into my head, and it will probably be stuck there forever.

Similarly, my dabbling in Swahili was only through my exposure to it for 10 days when I was 14. Although it was an extremely short exposure to the language, I picked up a few phrases and words. For example, “Mongu aku bariki”, means, “God bless you”, (shocker, I learned the same phrase in the missions trips I went on). But I also learned: “asante sana” which some may recognise in the funny phrase that the monkey in The Lion King sings “asante sana, squash banana”. The first part of the phrase means “thank you very much”. There are other words that I learned were mainly “Jombo” (Hello) and Matatu (Taxi). These were the only phrases I really needed over there.

My final dabbling in language is with my dear friend, Arabic. I loved it. It was fabulous. So foreign, so odd, so lovely. I took you because I thought I needed a language class to graduate (I was mistaken). I had several people tell me that I shouldn’t do it, that I should take Spanish instead. But the thought of drugging through another Spanish class was about as appealing as getting stabbed with a pin. So I made up my mind and signed up for the Arabic class. I excelled in the language. There was one time when my teacher was going to all the students when we were working on some words and he stopped by my desk and said “do you need any– oh, no. You don’t need any help”. Made me feel awesome. First time I ever felt that way about a language, like if I continued I could actually master it.

The sad day came when I realized I didn’t need the credit. So spending $1300 to continue in a class I didn’t need simply wasn’t justifiable. Therefore, despite it being my favorite language yet, I haven’t continued with it. I’ve looked every semester to see if it was possible for me to take it. But as of yet, it’s just not viable. I’ll probably go back and take some classes at the Community College when I’ve graduated.

The final category to examine is the random phrases and words, these are just what I’ve picked up from missionaries, my sisters journeys, classes and the like. They are pretty basic phrases. such as “munchi neellu” (clean water) which is Telugu. Or “guan xi” (Relationships) which I think is Mandarin (maybe Cantonese or Taiwanese). These phrases randomly pop into my head and make me feel more cultured and sophisticated which in reality is a load of bogus because knowing a few random words in a language doesn’t make you anything special.

All of you languages have helped in some way make me what I am. Even if I can’t recall anything but how to count to thirty in some of them (French). All in all it was a good experience though. and I’m generally glad I got the exposure to all of you languages that I did.

Ma’ Alsalam,

Dana

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Dear Reader (#2)

You know what? Sometimes there is nothing I want to write about. Sometimes, I just want to scribble down my thoughts here without having to focus them in on one particular thing. Although I like my posts generally, sometimes it’s just to hard for me to focus my thoughts on one particular subject long enough to write about it. So this post is a break. I focused in on a few posts, and now it’s time to get my thoughts out of a funk. Perhaps I can clear some stuff up with a review of my thought life…

Welcome to my thought life.We shall begin on the left, where you’ll see some major decisions I’m balancing in my mind. The largest part of that section is the thought: “what am I going to do after I graduate”. But this thought hasn’t been getting much attention lately, because there are other things for my brain to focus in on.

To the right you’ll see my thoughts about Israel. ‘What else do I need to buy’  ‘what do I want to see’  ‘who will I miss’  ‘how will I cope’. These are some of the thoughts rolling around over there. They generally take up much of my time and at any given second, if you see me in a pensive state, I’m probably thinking about Israel in some form or another.

Related to these thoughts about Israel are the thoughts about my walk with God. This is located right below of my thoughts about Israel. These thoughts have been more weighty, thus they are below my thoughts of Israel, lest thoughts of God crush thoughts of Israel. These are thoughts such as, ‘perhaps I should read my Bible more’ ‘I know that I’m going to need to get back into that habit before I leave, because I won’t have church for four weeks, and that’s not good’. These types of thoughts plus the things that I’ve been talking to people about have led me to feel like I need to stop watching so many shows, and start cracking open my Bible instead.

Along with all of this is obviously the daily madness that I find myself dealing with, these thoughts are located right over there by the boredom section of my thoughts. These thoughts deal mainly with doing Weight Watchers and thinking about the points that I’m consuming. Nothing to fancy or fun is in this section of my brain, just the basics.

The above section is actually split in two, one section is near the boredom section as I mentioned, and the other is by the loved ones and interests section. This division of my thoughts doesn’t get enough attention, especially not the loved ones section. I tend to forget about those that I love, I don’t think about their needs or how what I’m saying may affect them. this is one that I should pay more attention to. Hopefully if I begin increasing my attention on the God section of my thoughts this section will automatically get a little more attention.

There are other sections of my thought life that I have not detailed here, but like an old home on display, there are always rooms that are closed for repair, or are just to private for the public to go into. So I’m sorry dear Reader, but those rooms are off-limits to you. My apologies.

It’s interesting taking a short tour of your thoughts. Makes you realize where your mind choses to go, and how things should be moved around…

I hope you enjoyed your tour,

Dana

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