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Posts Tagged ‘Seychelles’

“Persistence. Perfection. Patience. Power. Prioritize your passion. It keeps you sane.” ~ Criss Jami, Killosophy

super_power_islandWatching the world from my veranda can provoke some convoluted contemplation; it’s big/small,  gorgeous/grotesque, unjust in the extreme, yet inherently fair in the grand scheme.

Birds fly, fish swim and the sea has rhythm, yet there is a Donald Trump and The Riders of the Purple Dildo (with 50 gallons of lube on hand … so to speak) in simultaneous existence and I find that mighty confusing some days.

Those are the days I have power: power to get myself out of bed, make coffee, sometimes even shower and dress as well as contemplate convolutedly. Oh … and juice. Those days I have juice.

Juice is vital. It connects me in ways nothing else can. Passion fruit juice connects me to my garden. Grape juice — that’s been sitting around for a while — tethers day to night almost flawlessly. And when current is current, electric juice connects me to the Internet … which connects me to balloon juice, which gives a handle to lunatics … which is funny. (I’m a fan of funny.)

I know some wonder what possible charm a computer screen could have when the view, the peace, the chirping birds as the only sound, are on offer. They ask how I can pull myself away from puffy, white clouds reflected from the surface of the perfect shade of blue that is the Indian Ocean and why I’m not sitting on the shore of said ocean all day, every day. Why would I even think of opening my laptop in such a paradise?

To these people I say two things:

1) Obviously you’ve never lived decades on a rock in the middle of nowhere thousands of miles from anything even close to the real world, and 2) A girl’s got to make a living.

I sit on Facebook for hours every day (Go ahead. Let the thought cross your mind with the sit/face thing if you must.), not because I find it stimulating (Yeah …  okay …go on.), although it often is, but because it’s my job.

Keeping up with friends, family and global events is surely a benefit, and hopping in and out of conversations, arguments, bombastic bullshit, freaky hallucinations, unsubstantiated claims and such keeps me sharp.

Access to information is vital, and thanks to today’s technology I can educate myself on things other than the tide table, the rapid growth of unwanted greenery and the painfully slow decomposition of granite.

My clients expect nothing less than total up-to-date-ness on travel trends, global economic fluctuations, flight interruptions, international conflicts, and sometimes something as obscure as the price of a cup of coffee in Sofia, Bulgaria.

To say I rely on electric juice is an understatement of understated, yet understandable, proportions, given that my livelihood, and no small part of my social life, can only happen when everything can be turned on, because when the power’s out, I can’t do shit.

I can and do write when my wifi squirrel dies, but having no idea when someone might get around to reviving the rodent has me checking battery levels as often as I insert a semi-colon. Outages going on for full days present a stack of work piled up to the virtual rafters, all needing immediate attention 5 hours ago. (That, btw, tends to delay me connecting with my grape juice, thereby sloshing day into night and pissing me off.)

The power was off all day yesterday … again … for something always referred to by the utility company as: Urgent maintenance on the overhead lines. (We apologize for the inconvenience … again … and appreciate your patience. Yeah … right.)

Ah … island life … in Africa; all juicy tales and the undiluted nectar of nature. Or is it sap?

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.” ~ Emily Dickinson

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Sunset feet

One of the things …

Having received requests to work my way toward the 50 things about Seychelles I sounded off about in a recent post, I’ve found time today … after scrubbing mold off kitchen walls, jettisoning a bunch of items I’d not bothered to look at in years, cleaning tenrec dens, picking up after poopy dogs and feeding the birds … to add another 10 to the list.

Since an election happens … again … in a couple of days, and since I’m sick to death of politics both here and abroad, it’s good to focus for a while on the weirdly mundane for a while.

So, here are some aspects of life for people in Seychelles that may seem a bit odd to inhabitants of other places, but are completely normal here …

12190030_10208223474013724_3256839163126993599_n1) We know our bananas. There are many varieties that grow here, and everyone can spot the difference between gabo, fig and San Jacques. We have big bananas, tiny bananas, sweet bananas and bananas for frying, yellow bananas, red bananas and green bananas. They are picked green, because we all know the aphorism:

Q:  How do you know when your      bananas are ready to be picked?          A:  They’re gone!

We have a bazillion uses for bananas. A regime (what a whole, huge bunch is called here) can contain anywhere from a dozen to a multitudinous slew of individual fruits attached, and all go ripe within days of each other. ‘No waste, no want’ being a dictate, putting all to good use is no small feat. From the usual banana bread to the more exotic katkat banann and banann ladob to cream pie to chips to ice cream topping, there are many options. A ripe regime inspires no little visiting, either, as we share out what we have, knowing full well it will come back to us bountifully in no time.

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Rhino beetles are cute!

 

2) We don’t mind critters. One cannot live in Seychelles for long without developing a tolerance, often even an affection for the small creatures who share our homes. Bugs and lizards are ubiquitous, so getting used to seeing them is a must. Skinks and geckos are quite entertaining, as is watching visitors go crazy at their presence.

I have been asked on occasion to write informational inserts for in-room packets for hotels because the panicked phrase, “There are BABY CROCODILES climbing the walls in my room!”, has been heard by those manning the night desk far too often.

geckobaby

Awww … baby gecko!

I’m still no fan of big spiders and ants are a pain, but I’ve developed a fondness for rhinoceros beetles and stick insects and an appreciation for the skill of mason wasps.

3) We sometimes even share critters. My tenrecs love crunchy bugs and juicy worms, so I have been known to ask for donations from friends. Gay has a compost heap that is full of worms … which reminds me; I need to get up to her place and see if she has enough now to spare a dozen.

4) We organize our complaints. Service isn’t always what it should be, so after a spate of crappy Internet or an erratic electricity supply friends put their heads together and coordinate gripes.

5) We talk about death. Our own deaths, to be exact. Since most of us expats have little-to-no family, no next-of-kin, within a few thousand miles, planning for our eventual demise is just part of what friends do. Our out-of-country connections are shared, as well as the details on what we want done with our empty husks.

6) We obey the laws … sometimes. Seychelles has as many laws as anywhere, but some do seem to be more like suggestions. For example, it is illegal to park on double yellow lines, to overtake on a solid white line, to use a phone while driving, yet every shop along the road has cars and trucks parked on double yellows, any drive at the speed limit will have you passed in no-passing areas by dozens of cars, trucks and busses, and it seems every other driver has a phone stuck to his ear. It is also illegal to have tinted windows on a car. (Who was that? Don’t know … the windows were tinted.) Legislation was passed a few years ago banning building on mountaintops, but that apparently does not apply if you happen to own one of the United Arab Emirates.

7) We entertain other peoples’ visitors. No one visits Seychelles for a weekend; even a week is far too short a time for many. It takes a couple of days to get here from most places, so 10 days is routinely calculated as the minimum stay. That’s great, most of the time. Since this place is so very different, very few guests are up to getting out and about on their own. For working people, this can put quite a strain on their time. Then, of course, there are the difficult guests … grumpy parents, that weird uncle, the school friend you dropped who is just dying to see you again since you live so close to a beach. Sure, you could book them into a hotel, but you won’t.

No worries. Your friends here will pick up a lot of the slack, because we know you’ll be there for us when guests-from-hell send flight details and a long to-do-on-holiday list.

8) We are casual. Although I’m sure there are people here who own formalwear, and perhaps even dress to the nines from time-to-time, but for most in Seychelles dressing up is more a matter of putting on your best long trousers, preferably jeans. There was a private school headmaster who kicked off holy hell by insisting teachers not wear jeans to work, his days in England giving a bias that saw denim as too devil-may-care laid-back and loosey-goosey for an institution of learning. Little did he realize that most here would wear their ‘good’ jeans to have tea with the Queen.

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Sparky in her harness …

9) We leave empty and come back full. Going overseas is a big deal for anyone anywhere, but when traveling to big places from a small place it’s not just a holiday … it’s a shopping trip. Packing is easy, as our big suitcase contains only our smaller suitcases on the way out. And it’s not only ourselves we shop for. Nope. The suitcase within a suitcase within a suitcase is sure to have at least three lists of stuff to get for friends. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have blood sugar monitoring sticks, batteries, print cartridges, flip flops, flea drops, tenrec halters, tequila, clothing, dog collars, a toilet seat and many, many other items delivered to me by friends returning from a vacation abroad. It’s a courtesy we acknowledge and value highly.

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We have great sky!

10) We look at the sky … a lot. Views here are big, wide and impressive, and unlike in more confined spaces we have a big chunk of sky over us. By day, we watch clouds move around and can see rain coming from miles away. By night, the distance between Seychelles and mega-cities allows the stars in the southern sky to shine and twinkle by the thousands. We know the season by the placement of Venus and are known to stay up all night for meteor showers. The moon in all its phases is as familiar as the 6 o’clock news is to those who live indoors most evenings, and an eclipse is an event bigger … and more entertaining … than the Superbowl.

So … that’s now 20 things about Seychelles, and many more have come to mind while putting these down. More to come. Don’t touch that dial. Film at 11.

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62006441If I felt more industrious this Sunday afternoon, I could easily list at least 50 things about this country that could come as revelations to newcomers and visitors, but it’s a lovely day and I’ve already put in time feeding birds, cleaning tenrec dens and picking up dog poop.

Funnily enough, the fact that people living here deal with such mundane things startles some who assume days on these lovely islands simply must be passed in sun-soaking, wallowing in the warm sea and strolling down sandy shores as birds sing and clouds drift overhead.

If only.

I’ve written before about the Disneyland mentality of some visitors and how annoying it can be when assumptions are made that we here are responsible for the weather and have nothing more important to do than make a holiday perfect, and new residents can be almost as exasperating in their giddiness at actually living in paradise.

“My toilet is broken. Do you know a plumber who’ll come out on a Sunday night?”

“I’ve been looking all over for authentic pork pies. Where can I find some?”

“The power’s gone out! What do I do?”

(The answers are, 1) No, 2) Yes. In England, 3) Hand wash the dishes … in the dark)

So … in an effort to help some stumble the Seychelles path (Watch out for potholes!) as they learn to negotiate their way around, here are 10 things to know about the country and the people who live here:

1) We don’t go to the beach nearly as much as you think. Often we choose to stay home, indoors, and do exciting things like laundry.

2) There are virtually no addresses. Although roads do have names, house numbers exist in only a very few areas, so if you are invited to visit someone’s home be prepared to take directions. You may want to write these down, as they’re complicated. For example: Turn left at the shop with half a mannequin by the door (a right turn will put you in the sea), drive up the road, pass the 5-to-10 guys sitting on a rock under a mango tree drinking, then look for a dirt track to the right just after the place where the road is white from squished breadfruit, etc.. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to be going along a trail of spilled paint … which is helpful.

3)  When we do decide some beach time should happen, choosing a beach is done by committee. Not just any beach will do, even though they are all lovely, so much consideration goes into the choice. Micro-climate has us calling people who live on the other side or up north or down south to check if it’s raining. If it’s rough on the east coast, perhaps it’s calm on the west. If we’re bringing kids, the shallow or inside-the-reef options are taken into account. If snorkeling is desired, we all have our fav spots. If it’s a Sunday and we don’t want our meditative communing with nature disturbed by picnickers with a generator hooked to fridge-sized speakers blasting crap music to distortion … well … we know where to avoid.

4)  We use the airport as a pee stop.

5)  We swap entertainment … books, movies, TV shows … so if you have any, share.

6)  We are annoyed when there are more than 10 people on a beach.

7)  We get really excited by new products. This isn’t quite as big a thing these days, so we hardly ever, now, call all our friends when we find mushrooms or nice cheese in a shop, nor do we tend (as much) to buy up the whole stock of whatever to share out or hoard. We do, however, continue to be right chuffed at discoveries of rare or never-to-have-been-available-in-Seychelles items, and given how much shopping we do when overseas, it’s a given that there are a lot of things that fit the category.

8)  We ALWAYS have candles.

9)  People are as recognized by the number plates on their cars as they are by their faces. Driving someone else’s car can introduce you to a whole load of people you’ve never seen before. (And it is amazing how many people you’ve never seen before on this tiny island.)

10) Mahé is 17 miles long … Praslin and La Digue even smaller … yet the idea of driving to the far end of the island takes almost as much contemplation and preparation as a plane ride of 12,000 miles. I live in the south and get to Beau Vallon (in the north), on average, once every 2 years or so. Friends in the north visit me about as often. Meeting up in town used to happen, but that was before Victoria became a traffic and parking nightmare and options outside that hellish perimeter were available.

So … that’s it for today. Hope it helps.

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“if you will always give great ears to the cacophony of the masses instead of the solemn voice of your true purpose, you will never leave a distinctive footprint” ~` Ernest Agyemang Yeboah ~

A Truckload of Jingling Keys.

A Truckload of Jingling Keys.

With November on the horizon, many are making plans to encourage growth on their upper lip, or preparing purple or pink-and-blue or silver ribbons to replace the pink ones worn through October … all admirable endeavors.

I, however, having no desire for any more facial hair than I already spend too much time erasing and not a single straight pin in the house, am planning to put my nose to the grindstone, rather than use it to frame a statement, by accepting another November challenge … NaNoWriMo.

National Novel Writing Month (often shortened to NaNoWriMo), is an annual internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50,000 words (the minimum number of words for a novel) from November 1 until the deadline at 11:59PM on November 30.

I’ve had a number of novels percolating for years: a trilogy on the history of Africa as seen through the eyes of elephants; a completed, but as yet unpublished account about the gifts of terminal illness that needs a rewrite; the birth and life of a female messiah.

So many stories, so little time, motivation, energy, and far too much living and working and .. well … noise.

My personal odyssey, unlike Homer‘s, has not had me stumbling across any muse that might infuse inspiration. She could be avoiding me in deference to my lack of belief in inspiration getting work done or light-bubbles-of-creativity putting words on a page, paint on a canvas or notes on a score.

Nope. The only calliope following me around emits a continuous, cacophonous clamor, comes complete with shiny objects and has the ominous distinction of being known as Distraction.

Ambient sounds, especially with words, occupy about 5-10% of your intellectual bandwidth.” ~ Peter Rogers ~

charles-payne-quote-that-may-be-a-distractionAs Halloween draws near, ghosts of unformed prose haunt me. Throughout the day, they sneak in from corners of my mind … not good when driving … and by night come oh-so-close to materializing, then vanish to mist leaving me whimpering in my sleep to wake grasping at jingling keys as dogs bark and the phone rings and the need to pee drives the dregs of plot points and dialog fragments out of my head.

Closing in on the Oct/Nov cusp I’m buckling down, warming up, preparing to ignore all that can safely be ignored, focusing, organizing, finding voice, plotting direction, knowing characters, and …

… writing a blog post!

Fuckin’ shiny objects!

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Victoria ... shopping“I need to run into town to pick up a few things.”

These are dreaded words. Hated. And although ‘progress’ has made it a more simple process to find some of the necessary items, the process itself continues to be … well … an adventure?

Victoria, being very small for a national capital, may seem like an easily navigable undertaking, and it possibly could be; park the car, walk all over town and someone named Robert is your mother’s brother. Being, however, the only game in town … or rather the only town in country … makes it the de rigueur destination of the entire population of Seychelles, including that Robert guy and your mother, on any given day.

No parking ...

No parking …

Twenty years back there were fewer cars, so easier parking, and since the increase in autos dictated changes (apparently designed by a schizophrenic crack addict) the traffic flow doesn’t and parking places are few, far between and difficult to get to. There has been additional parking added — that near Marine Charter, for example — but getting there requires a spin of the Trois Oiseau roundabout, now perpetually blocked by the addition of a stop light near Caravelle House a couple of hundred meters further down the road, and if your search turns out to be futile it’s a long and frustrating way back to try again.

Shopping is easier, though, as there is more stuff. Much more stuff. It’s been years since fights broke out over buckets and fans, as items like those are now almost ubiquitous, albeit expensive and not likely to last long … and come with user guides explaining in Chinese why your fan just broke.

The egret is optional

The egret is optional

Shops can be jammed with a bazillion different and non-related items, so it still takes local knowledge to discover which shop might have what when. Still not as confusing as the days when the only shop that sold women’s undergarments had a stack of car tires at the front door. Need eyeliner? Try the Chinese shop on Market Street with the running shoes in the window. How about a haircut? Up the stairs next to the place that sells hammers and washing machines, down the hall, last door on the right. Looking to get a tattoo? The place in the souvenir shop across from Bank of Baroda, up the stairs in the back might still be operational. Out of nail polish remover? Sorry. Napa.

(Napa … Creole for ‘we-ain’t-got-none-but-did-last-month-so-you-should-have-bought-seven-then-and-no-I-don’t-know-anywhere-there-might-be-some-so-bugger-off.)

Friends visiting Seychelles would sometimes get a bit bored with beaches … or burnt … and need a day doing something a bit more active. I would give them a list of 10 items, normal-sounding things like tweezers and shoelaces, and send them off to town to find as many as possible. Having no idea what they were in for, and scoffing at my description of the day as a “Scavenger Hunt”, off they’d go, only to return many hours later exhausted, sweaty and sheepish as they’d hand over maybe two or three of the ten.

One of those "Look what I found" shopping moments.

One of those “Look what I found” shopping moments.

Shops in town are still bewildering, but not quite as bad as they were. The tendency of importers to buy whatever was going really, really cheap in China and India still appears to exist, but it’s been a long time since I’ve stumbled upon entire sections of shelving chock full of windscreen de-icer and “9-11 Super Funny Children’s Toys”. (A tiny track to race around with George Bush in a tank and Osama bin Laden on a skateboard.)

Today cheese is available and it’s been years since we’ve run out of onions or toilet paper. Shopping can be done without setting foot in Victoria proper, which is a blessing, but …

I need to run into town tomorrow to pick up a few things.

Sigh …

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House, n.  A hollow edifice erected for the habitation of human, rat, mouse, beetle, cockroach, fly, mosquito, flea, bacillus, and microbe.  ~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Life is all around!

Life is all around!

Ah … tropical island life! So green and lush and moist and warm, so full of life.

Unlike other parts of Africa we have no giraffes loping gracefully over open plains, nor do we have open plains. You won’t find lions lounging in prides in the shade under acacias, even though we do have acacias. The huge saltwater crocodiles that once inhabited this island have been extinct for two centuries, so the only predator species filling the top spot is Homo sapiens and we’re far from indigenous.

Still, everywhere your eye might rest there are critters, some of which are autochthonous like our fruit bats that have become their own unique version of chiroptera. The list of endemic reptiles includes thirteen types of lizard, two snake species, and of course the Aldabra Giant Tortoise, which visitors are far more likely to see than either our wolf snake or house snake. (In my twenty-plus years here I have seen ONE live snake. A few dead ones, unfortunately, since although the animals are completely harmless and could, if allowed, take a toll on the rat population, Seychellois are terribly ophiophobic.)

Every house has geckos; entertaining little critters that chirp like birds and scamper over seemingly impossible surfaces as they

Sweet little baby gecko!

Sweet little baby gecko!

munch on bugs. Tourists not accustomed to sharing space with lizards sometimes freak out and no few have alerted hotel staff to the “baby crocodiles on the ceiling” … really.

Birds are everywhere: mynas, fodies, doves, blue pigeons, bulbuls and such are common and spend time on verandas. Beautiful kestrels are rarer, but can be seen if you’re lucky.

A myna likes to bathe in the dogs' water bowl.

A myna likes to bathe in the dogs’ water bowl.

Sea birds are less common on Mahé, but legion on some of the islands. A trip to Bird Island delivers just what the name promises with over 700,000 pairs of sooty terns nesting. (For diehard birders … “another phenomena especially in October to December, arises from the geographical location of Bird Island on the northern edge of the Seychelles Bank. This means it is the first landfall for migratory Euarasian birds …” )

And like everywhere else in the world, we have a lot of bugs.

It is estimated that at any given moment, Earth is home to a billion billion insects. Spread out evenly over the land surface, this would be nearly 8,000 insects per square meter!

Yep. Creepy crawlies abound, although if you try to learn what’s here through Wikipedia you’ll come up short. Some, like bees, are helpful. Some (centipedes come to mind) are horrible. Spiders the size of a kid’s hand aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. We have ants that are yellow and crazy, mean sand flies and … sigh … mosquitos. Not the type that vector malaria, thankfully, but bite and itch and can transmit dengue fever, a miserable illness I can personally attest to the misery of … twice. I’m so not a fan of these asshole insects that global eradication would be just fine with me. And I’m not alone in this …

“it’s difficult to see what the downside would be to removal, except for collateral damage”, says insect ecologist Steven Juliano, of Illinois State University.

Fun with a Rhinoceros Beetle.

Fun with a Rhinoceros Beetle.

On the bug front, however, we also have a very cool Rhinoceros Beetle, and since coconut plantations no longer support the country I’m okay with them. They’re big enough to be considered more like a dog than a bug, as is evidenced by their presence in the pet trade. Thankfully I get to play with them for free.

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1978663_10153161808111928_7666657526912481160_nAnyone who knows me or follows me on Facebook or Instagram is familiar with my love of sunsets. I post loads of photos of the show on display as days end, each new, all different and spectacular in their own way and worthy of attempts to capture at least a fraction of the show.

“When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, ‘Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.’ I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.” ~ Carl R. Rogers

I doubt there are many people who can have such a display in front of them without it triggering that awe and the deep thoughts that should, by rights, follow the experience of the sky sharing its glory with us puny humans. Dropping into the horizon, we become acutely aware of the Earth’s rotation and can be dizzied by how fast we’re spinning. The changing shapes of clouds prompt notions of animals, faces … and the occasional Starship Enterprise … to pop into mind, stirring imagination and rumination. Colors shift constantly and dramatically, often fleetingly causing wonder if this shade or that hue has ever before been noticed.

10996037_10153174300731928_6012042621209276529_nI can easily understand the compulsion of the ancients to come up with wacky theories about the why and wherefore of the setting sun: a god driving a golden chariot across the sky daily; Navajo people of the American Southwest portray their sun god as a worker named Jóhonaa’éí, or sun bearer. Every day Jóhonaa’éí laboriously hauls the sun across the sky on his back; myths of monsters or evil spirits that steal or devour the sun or stories of the sun falling from the heavens or withdrawing its light for a time. How else to explain something so huge, so life-impacting, so spectacular at a time next-to-nothing was known?

It’s with emphasis on the spectacular that I am confused, disappointed and outraged by the fact that people in 2015 continue to chalk up this marvelous daily spectacle to mundane, simplistic and tattered ideas trotted out 2000 years ago by illiterates. They’re missing out on so much.

What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn’t prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary. ~ STEPHEN HAWKING

That we live on a planet with water and atmosphere enough to create a sunset is wonder enough for anyone … or should be. We revolve around our sun and rotate on our axis, so planning for sunset appreciation is easy. What could possibly motivate so many to opt out of the amazement the natural world provides in favor of acceptance of the moves of some cheesy magician trick? “Watch me pull a rabbit/sunset/rainbow/whatever out of my hat … or ass …”

11012937_10153167014596928_3107568570031190133_nHow believers cheat themselves out of true appreciation for the world around us! Dodging knowledge, learning, thought, wonder, for the sake of convenient indolence is an offense to humanity and our struggle to reach personal pinnacles of fascination and surprise during our lifetimes, and how can that struggle not be better than the shoulder shrug that is “God did it.”?

It may be — I hope it is — redemption to guess and perhaps perceive that the universe, the hell which we see for all its beauty, vastness, majesty, is only part of a whole which is quite unimaginable. ~ WILLIAM GOLDING

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