Don’t Stop. Belizean.


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Central America Caribbean » Belize
December 16th 2022
Published: March 12th 2023
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Beautiful BelizeBeautiful BelizeBeautiful Belize

A little sundowner on Caye Caulker is god level amazing
After three long years of minimal travel, it feels amazing to be back on the road again. Plus. I am newly retired. My career as a Correctional Officer done & dusted. Health, check. Attitude, check. Wallet, check. Time to go explore. But. Where to go next? The list is super long.

For the past three months, I’ve been all over Mexico enjoying my new gig as a Pet & House Sitter extraordinaire. Christmas, as usual, was with my parentals in San Jose del Cabo, followed by a three week sit in Playa del Carmen. That’s when I found myself between assignments, so I decided to hop across the border and check out Belize.

Easy peasy Belizey.

Effortlessly, I hitched a ride on a luxurious ADO bus and headed south to Chetumal with the hopes of boarding a water taxi to get out to the Belizean islands.

After going through an ordeal that could be vaguely referred to as “Immigration”, I was crammed into a polyethylene floaty thing with seventy other souls (yes I counted) where I giggled to myself because all I could hear in my head over and over was that Jamaican TikTok kid as we
Which way is home? Which way is home? Which way is home?

Such a lively, colourful home away from home
jetted across the calm turquoise bay...

"Dem have we in here like a pack of sardines and we cannot escape, we cannot come out. MAMA, we trap in this bumbo.”

...and just like that I was dropped off in the town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.

First impressions of Belize, super good!

My taxi shuttles me to my accommodations, realistically I could have walked. The guest house I found online was right on the shore with a kitchenette & pool, both things I deemed important when I booked. Didn’t need either.

I chatted up some fellow Canadians staying nearby that insisted I must rent a golf cart to survive. I’m like no, I need my steps and settled in with the intent of exploring more of San Pedro by foot early the next morning. Daylight arrived with the usual rooster announcements. Apparently, I was the only human up at 6:30, and I walked the entire San Pedro town within two hours. What a quaint little island.

I asked myself the question all people who travel ask themselves.

Could. I. Live. Here?

I think what captured my heart was the lovely tropical
Happpeee Birthday! Happpeee Birthday! Happpeee Birthday!

My Rastafarian with his palm frond helmet reminds me every new day is your best day
breeze and Caribbean charm. Oh, and those ocean vistas in seven shades of blue. Wow just Wow.

Walking, I hugged the shoreline counterclockwise and was delighted to see a frothy barrier reef just this side of the event horizon. I passed children walking to school in their crisp uniforms, locals were all bustling to open their shops, while others scrambled to get their breakfast on the go from roadside eateries.

Absolutely everyone greeted me with an enthusiastic Good Morning!

What a friendly little haven.

Executing my Belizean itinerary, I dipped into one of the big grocers on the island, called Caye-Mart.

I always appreciate a good wordplay.

Prices for familiar foods were staggering. $17 Canadian dollars for a box of cereal. Cheese and milk $30. I won’t even tell you the cost for a bottle of rum. Let’s just say I wasn't willing to lose a limb.

I quickly realized if I was going to survive Belize financially I would need to patronize the various local haunts for my sustenance.

From that day forward I formed a daily routine of walking the whole town, hitting up a rustic fruit stand, the
Me & my little BuddyMe & my little BuddyMe & my little Buddy

We shared a moment. We did. I love pelicans
hole-in-wall bakery, a two-seater eatery, and a few roadside BBQ luncheonettes. Plus. A self-imposed limitation on my sundowners. Had to. The Canadian buck is painfully shitty against the almighty Greenback.

Originally my plan was to dive Belize, but my health hasn’t improved enough, so I opted for snorkeling. Not disappointed, as we are on the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world. That was reward enough.

Chuck n Robbie’s Dive Shop made me feel genuinely welcome and they dropped me in at the reef each day for a snorkel explore. I went to all the good places, Hol Chan, Shark-Ray Alley, Coral Garden, Secret Beach, Mexico Rocks, Goffs Caye. Absolutely blown away by the amount of sea life and healthy corals. I even did an evening snorkel with some divers and spotted octopi and spiny lobsters out & about.

Back on shore, right in front of my lodgings, I’d jump into the sea and swim out, hoping to have an encounter with a manatee, that was until I realized I might get run over by an enthusiastic Seadoo’er. To counteract this possibility, I rented a SUP paddle board to act as my High-Viz rest platform and ventured
“We cannot come out we cannot escape”“We cannot come out we cannot escape”“We cannot come out we cannot escape”

Trapped and squeezed into a water taxi from Chetumal. Thankfully voyage was calm
out farther. No manatees around, but the massive “sea roombas” would approach and surround me until they determined I had nothing delicious on offer, and just float off.

Current mermaid status: Extreme.

My bathing suit never really dried the entire time I was in San Pedro.

This was my first experience with golf cart culture. Tourists here have embraced it fully. Zooming around all day long, with insulated tumblers, round and round in very little clothing. Maybe I’m new here, but no one seemed to have any set destination.

I met several American retirees that told me they booked years in advance to stay here all winter. I suddenly realized I had landed in “new” Florida.

Peel back this island’s façade and it’s like living inside an Applebees. Everyone is yelling. Everyone does not have their bits adequately covered. Everyone is cruise ship level inebriated and celebratory. Which is fine, until they almost run you over. I ducked and dodged golf carts continuously as they zoomed past in slow motion. Where are they all going?

Oh God, I don’t care.

Saved by the Belizean people. How absolutely charming they all are. My blue
Turtle powerTurtle powerTurtle power

I had no idea I’d see so many turtles bobbing on the reef but they were thriving in Belize
eyes see a blend of descendants of Caribbean slaves mixed in with Mayan peoples. It’s fascinating how they speak a creole peppered with Spanish and English. Leaning in, I almost fall off my barstool trying to enjoy it. There is no race hierarchy in Belize and for that, it’s beautiful here. Equality is harmony. That’s Belize.

A robust lady named June plopped down at my table in one of the seafood restaurants that hovers over the sea. The bartender remembered my name from a short encounter previously, and greeted me enthusiastically. I guess no Belizean likes to see someone sitting by themselves. I, of course thought she’d have an ulterior motive, so I was a tad guarded. But no. She was just friendly and happy to get to know me. We became fast friends.

That’s me. Always the perpetual outsider, solo female, who is used to traveling cautiously and telling a false story about leaving a husband at home, wearing a ring, avoiding dark alleyways, and always keeping my valuables tucked away in my sweaty bra purse, it becomes evident I don’t need to do that. Here, I can walk out at night without fear, knowing any Belizean
Checking my lotto numbersChecking my lotto numbersChecking my lotto numbers

You are seeing me manifesting my first official purchase of a catamaran when my numbers come in
would gladly help me without pause. Here, on this island I am Belizean.

Although Mexico is my default country, Belize is actually winning the race for restoring my faith in humanity.

When my guesthouse rental couldn’t be extended, it was as good as any time to move on. So I lugged my backpack to the water taxi docks and boarded a catamaran to Belize City. I’ll admit. Expectations were terribly low, I had been warned over the years that the city of Belize was no bueno.

As soon as I walked down my first Belizean city street, I felt like I was in the exercise yard of a dirty prison.

Queue my hyper-vigilance. Ack.

Belize City appears to be a crumbly mess of infrastructure, long forgotten by the Belizean tourist dollar and assaulted by recent hurricane Lisa. I did not enjoy walking around by myself being side-eyed by hustlers while lurkers were easily hidden in the dark recesses of the midday shade. To be fair, they were all friendly enough, but the overall vibe wasn’t genuine. I made a bee-line for the bus terminal.

We have a saying back in Canada. “Fuck Around
Lamanai Ruins Belize Lamanai Ruins Belize Lamanai Ruins Belize

The Mayan empire was vast and stretched into modern day Belize
and Find Out.” It applies on this occasion.

I’m sort of out of travel practice, but I navigated the Belize bus system super easily. Bonus points for me, they speak English. As I got further away from the city, the vibe went back to friendly, safe Caribbean.

Wanting to experience the Belizean countryside, I got dropped off in Carmelita and took a river boat ride up to the Lamanai Archaeological site first, and then booked a stay at a lodge in the Crooked Tree wildlife sanctuary.

The ruins of Lamanai date back to 1500BC and once belonged to a sizable Mayan city in the Orange Walk District of Belize. Lamanai means “submerged crocodile,” a nod to the toothy reptiles who live along the banks of the river. For me, it was reminiscence of Tikal in Guatemala, except for these 600 cruise ship patrons who arrived right after me and were now crawling all over the ruins to get their Instagrams. The howler monkeys were extremely agitated by the noisy crowds, but as long as I stayed ahead of the wave of yelling people, I spotted some wildlife. A few toucans and parrots flying madly away, and land
More comfortable in water than outMore comfortable in water than outMore comfortable in water than out

I was a mermaid in a previous life.
critters like agouti running as fast as they could for cover.

The park reserve itself gave hint as to what these Belizean jungles would have looked like before humans mowed them down for lumber. Massive old trees like Mahogany wrapped in strangler figs were at least 200 years old. Me being a Hortie, I lingered to marvel at them.

I spoke with a gentleman of obvious Mayan descendant who was excavating a mound with his students. He excitingly explained what they were doing in Spanglish. This site has so many places yet discovered. Painstakingly inch by inch, they try to uncover their Maya history.

I find it interesting how the Maya are still such a strong societal construct, unchanged from 1000’s of years ago. Their lifestyle and traditions hold up despite the different country’s borders. Steeped. Their intricate weaving, their reverence for sun & corn, their work ethic. Their genuine smiles when prompted. Hardworking, diligent, loyal ants on an ant hill, as it were. Working collectively in this era to appease their now “tourist” Gods. In a weird way, they still live their life out on the fringes while the privileged few live a lavish lifestyle in
Just leave me here Just leave me here Just leave me here

Relaxing at the Crooked Tree bird sanctuary inland Belize.
the inner sanctum of a walled beach resort.

Or something like that.

I got back to my lodge at Crooked Tree for sundown and pulled up a hammock to enjoy the lovely lake views. There were a few tourists hovering about to chat with, and I arranged a bird watching tour early next morning with the owner. This inland wildlife sanctuary is full of lagoons, marshlands and creeks, making it one of the best destinations for wildlife spotting. I was not disappointed. The owner Michael had X-ray vision and we combined a count of 49 different birds by 8 am. Later, after some hammock time and ate eggs with tasty beans on fry jacks for breakfast, I borrowed a bicycle and peddled through the Crooked Tree village taking in the historical atmosphere, it being established around 1750 during the logwood period and thought to be the oldest non-indigenous settlement in Belize. Quaint.

The following morning, I boarded a bus to San Ignacio and was dropped off at the top of the hill so I could check out the ruins of Cahal Pech, a Mayan royal palace of a ruling Mayan family, consisting of seven plazas and over
Reef magic Reef magic Reef magic

I spent day after day out in the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world. It did not disappoint
thirty structures including temples, buildings and ball courts. Looking around, I'm going to assume most of the people of San Ignacio are directly linked to this long lost civilization. It’s kind of cool. Afterwards, I walked down into town, stopping along the way to check out a Mayan chocolate museum and the Iguana Rescue center. There was a lovely little Saturday market happening right in the core surrounded by a few coffee shops where tourists were loitering. Friendly vibe. After booking a few activities and eating three mystery meat tacos for $1.50, I bought some market fruit before discovering my hotel for the night was way up at the top of the hill. Taxi!

The next day I went to see Xunantunich. I know. More ruins. Pretty much ruined out after that, so I took a pass on another day trip to see the Caracol ruins. San Ignacio is known for all its amazing cave systems on the outskirts, so I decided on the Actun Tunichil Muknal burial chambers which plunge into the ground several miles, a wet trek in socks where your headlamps spy sacrificial ceremonies that took place somewhere between 700 to 900AD. Crystalized skeletons and stalactites
Iguana sanctuary Iguana sanctuary Iguana sanctuary

My little iguana friend Iggy paused to lick me. I guess I’m tasty
and stalagmites give a feel of mystical portal into the Mayan underworld.

That followed with an afternoon of canoeing on Barton Creek through their twisty cave system and a refreshing dip, majestic in this sweaty jungle humidity.

I’ve been contemplating my next move, I stew on it a bit over some beans & rice in a tiny shack before I finally decide not to proceed farther south to the town of Placencia. Long of the short of it. I had booked four weeks with a reef conservation organization and was going to live on the private island called Tom Owens Caye and assist them with spearing the invasive Lionfish in protected areas As well as help with fish counts, beach cleanups, and some possible coral restoration. But, as I said before, diving wasn't in the cards for me this trip, so going there made no sense. I'll come back someday and fulfill my obligation.

So, back to Belize City I went.

The long way round on the equivalent of a Guatemalan chicken bus. Some roads were beyond potholed and the seats were made of plywood. Horrific. I made it just in time to get a luxury
Cleaning the lobsters shoreside Cleaning the lobsters shoreside Cleaning the lobsters shoreside

If there were a better word for fresh I’d use it.
water taxi out to that one island everyone is familiar with...

Caye Caulker

Oof but it was sweltering. I found shelter from the midday sun in a bar called the Salty Crab. There I met an American veteran who hides behind his fluffy white beard and a Santa cap. After he blazes up a 420 with his fellow vet, he slides in to chat me up.

He bought this bar, fixed it up, and two weeks later Hurricane Lisa rolled in and flattened everything. C’est La vie. It didn’t matter to him. He told me that the minute he landed on Caye Caulker, his trauma just melted away. Same, my brother, same. I cannot believe how un-vigilant I am here. I find myself waking up early just so I can stroll this entire sleepy hamlet of 1500 souls as it comes alive to cater to the Americans. Loud, but enthusiastic Americans. There are way more of them here. The Belizeans seem very accustomed to it, but for my fragile Canadian ears it’s an adjustment. I watch the islanders smile warmly while they problem solve any complaint or concern an American can unload on them.

So, what’s
Bbq Caye Caulker Style Bbq Caye Caulker Style Bbq Caye Caulker Style

I ate lobster almost everyday from the roadside bbq. Alternating with delicious roasted corn and mild jerk chicken.
so special about this little island?

Are you kidding me? It’s a total vibe. I mean, step over the trash filled sandy side streets and mind a few hectic golf carts, and it’s definitely the ambiance. Signs are everywhere telling you to Go Slow. The Americans found this place back in the 1980s and have made it their winter hideaway. Us Canadians, we just latched onto that patriot-wagon wholeheartedly.

Island life includes living in a perpetual hangover. Eyeball any drink menu, and it becomes strongly evident there is no Happy Hour here. It's Happy any Hour. Even I found myself day drinking these crazy strong concoctions referred to as Panty Rippers and Rum Punches. I required naps in hammocks often.

Peek into any establishment on island and you'll spy a few salty characters holding up their end of bar. This is truly a place you can still disappear.

Every morning, a Rastafari with a palm frond helmet goes by me on his bike and yells “Happy Birthday” as he passes. At first I was startle annoyed, but then I clued in. Here in Belize every new day, you are reborn. Now I respond “Happy Birthday”, and
Chilling like a villain Chilling like a villain Chilling like a villain

The whole idea of this little mini break from my permanent vacation was to get old Andrea back. Success!
he giggles. Truth.

I hadn't planned to do anything on Caye Caulker, but luckily I met this solo Canadian ER nurse I nicknamed Special K. She was a mermaid like me, and we bonded over career war stories and our love for Belizean cuisine. When she wasn’t diving, we'd meet up. She even booked us a lovely catamaran tour to go back out to Hol Chan for a snorkel day with more Canadians and some Argentinians. Shark Alley and Coral Gardens were also included in the package. Most of these spots are relatively easy to snorkel even though the currents were strong and surf was insanely choppy. Have you ever seen someone throw up in their snorkel? I have. It’s not pretty.

Interestingly, our captain was against feeding the massive nurse sharks that converged where the fishermen used to dump their bycatch overboard at the end of the day. Habituated, they now approach any tour boat that motors in. To keep the sharks interested and the guests entertained, the other crews throw fish guts over. Our captain refuses to do it. It was fine, all we had to do was swim over to another tour boat and we
Beautiful fruit & veg markets Beautiful fruit & veg markets Beautiful fruit & veg markets

Inland towns were very interactive and loved their markets
got the full show.

Since my inland hotel didn’t have a pool and was uncomfortably close to the town’s deafening generators, I’d go walking early to circumnavigation the island which included the airport, where I'd sit on a bench and watch “the plane, the plane” take off overhead from the postcard stamp Caye Caulker runway. Then I’d meet up with Special K at the popular Ice & Beans for a queue to get a toasted bagel with cream cheese, and a vacant hammock with free WiFi.

Lunch would be BBQ from a side stand. Truth be told I’m constantly propositioned by islanders with dreads to partake in their “special” brownies, and they whisper 420 as I pass on by, but it’s harmless. Here, I kinda fully expect to see Bob Marley come around the corner at any moment. His One Love vibe is the predominate gene here. Not just because of the blaring reggae music, but because there's a real peace loving existence.

Or so I thought, until I watched two inebriated Rastafarians being shooed off the convenience store stoop by the Taiwanese proprietor. They issued each other some creative creole words which made me blush, and
Caye Caulker the paintingCaye Caulker the paintingCaye Caulker the painting

Almost impossible to take a bad picture in Caye Caulker
then limped away, only to return a few minutes later and take up residence on the stoop again, I had to laugh.

Midday, when I was on my own, I would pull up a Adirondack chair at the Lazy Lizard public beach and people watch, or go over and have a $12 Pina Colada in front of the Iguana Reef hotel during sunset to see the gigantic "sea roombas" climb up unsuspecting tourist's legs near the shoreline. The shrieking and hysterics, definitely worth the booze fee.

Out of sheer boredom, I went looking for some of the local community goings-on. I happened upon a footy game mid island and they’ve got the sandy streets cordoned off, bikes are piled along the fence line, and some of the teens have brought their school’s band equipment to encourage the crowds. The tubas and cymbals make it more like Marti Gras. Lots of entertainment from the sidelines. I cannot understand creole, but I can follow along easily enough picking up on tone of the crowd’s cheers & jeers.

Special K went out to dive the famous Blue Hole. Not going to lie, I was horribly envious. It has been my
Dog in a Doorway - BelizeDog in a Doorway - BelizeDog in a Doorway - Belize

Every country I go to, I capture a dog in the doorway check it out
dream to experience the gigantic marine sinkhole since I was just a kid when I saw it predominately featured in one of my Grampa's National Geographic magazines. But, I listened with glee as she spoke of her adventure over dinner at a place the crew recommended. We were served up delicious fare for super cheap. No tourists here, just locals vibing, with great music, fish curries and creole chicken stew, and endless cold Belikins.

It was an all-nighter.

Hungover, nothing feels more island than renting a ratchety bicycle with square tires and foraying the Split ferry to get over to the North Side of Caye Caulker for the afternoon.

If you weren't aware, Caye Caulker is split down the middle by a dredged channel. Why? Well, there are varying stories as to why, but you get a definite “us and them” vibe when you see all the Multimillion houses being built on the other side. I enjoyed my super slow ride from one end of it and back, stopping to view a home that looked like SpongeBob square pant's pineapple house. Oh, to have that kind of vision. And disposable cash to back it up.
Art verses Graffiti Art verses Graffiti Art verses Graffiti

Lovely murals decorate the sea walls in San Pedro. History lesson revealed

Best part of island life? The smell of charcoal BBQ that wafts up midday. I ate lobster everyday unabashedly, knowing the season was coming to an end February 1st. Rastafari toil over huge smoking metal drums doing a mild jerk chicken with creole shrimp and roasted corn cobs. They take turns wading into the shallows of the sea to clean the lobsters before putting them on the grill face down. Heaven.

My next problem. How do you leave Caye Caulker? There's a trick to it I'm sure. Because I could easy melt into this island scene and become one with these Belizeans. Grow my armpit hair. Partake in 420. Forget about Canada. But, it's now creeping up into February, and my phone subtly reminds me I have a few obligations that require a return to the snowy homeland.

Nooooooooooooo!

So, back through San Pedro I go, and onto another ferry boat ride to Mexico.

At last minute, I was offered & accepted a pet-sitting gig in Bacalar. I spent two wonderful weeks looking after some friendly doggies in this beautiful lakeside town. Exploring the immediate area, I went to Mahahaul and was blown away by the
Caye Caulker mottoCaye Caulker mottoCaye Caulker motto

Yep. No problem. Can’t get any slower. And that’s the best part of the Cayes
pristine beaches, reminiscent of what the Mayan Riviera looked like some thirty years ago.

Slow travel is THE ultimate way to travel. It's also a luxury. You really don’t have to be anywhere at anytime. Planners like me hate it. But. It's my new goal in life to embrace the suck and stay indefinitely in each new country I visit.

Having said that, I’m still a work in progress.


Additional photos below
Photos: 36, Displayed: 36


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The Plane! The Plane! The Plane! The Plane!
The Plane! The Plane!

Fully expected to hear the theme song to Fantasy Island every time I did a hot lap around the airport.


12th March 2023
Which way is home?

Bad Decisions, Cocktails & Good times
Fabulous pic Andrea. I am posting this in TB's "Signs, signs & more signs" thread in the Photography Forum.
13th March 2023
Which way is home?

That is a good one isn’t it? The land of bad decisions lol
12th March 2023
Sea Roombas

Stunning
What a magical pic Andrea. Certainly a stunner.
13th March 2023
Sea Roombas

So many gigantic “sea roombas” so little time!
12th March 2023
Lamanai Ruins Belize

Mayan Ruins
A great addition to TB's "Rock art of the World" thread in the Photography Forum. Check 'em out.
13th March 2023
Lamanai Ruins Belize

Cool! I will. Gotta love the rock art.
12th March 2023

Congratulations on your retirement...
House and pet sitting sounds like an excellent way to see the world.
13th March 2023

Thank you! Yes it’s a great little gig for Mexico, expansion is possible!
12th March 2023

Enjoy the slow life...
And go with the flow. I'm sure you are a natural at it!
13th March 2023

Thank you Ralf! Hope all is well for you, whereever you are in this world. Cheers!
12th March 2023

Happy Retirement Andrea!
We wish you much happiness and amazing adventures in equal measure… and obviously, more blogs about it all :) xx
13th March 2023

Thanks so much! I’m slowly catching up on everyone’s blogs and commenting when I can. Greece is on my list. Someday I hope. Safe travels
13th March 2023

You can still disappear here....
Andrea, congratulations on retirement. Belize sounds like a pleasant change for your beach life. Mexico has been your love for decades but a branch out won't hurt. I suspect you will see Belize again. I'll be interested in reading about your volunteer work. Your smile says it all. Squeeze out every ounce of quiet, nothing and day drinking as necessary. Keep these fabulous blogs coming.
13th March 2023

Thank you so much! I am looking forward to hitting the road again. First, I must figure out my life and what I want to be when I grow up. Retirement is pretty fantastic though! I can only hope I’ll be able to travel as much as the Binkleys. I’ll be savoring your blogs soon.
13th March 2023

So Glad
I am so glad you took time to get the old Andrea back. What a great adventure, all the way down to a Belize chicken bus. Great stories!
13th March 2023

Thanks! Your blogs are a hoot and of course cover my favourite topic, food! Keep up the good work!
18th March 2023
Sea Roombas

Nice underwater photos
You have some really nice underwater photos in the blog. I wish I was as good as you taking those. I was in Belize a few years ago. I really loved Caye Caulker and I would like to go back there again. For a while we were thinking about visiting Belize/Guatemala next summer. But when we couldn't find flight tickets we decided on going to Canada instead. /Ake
22nd March 2023
Sea Roombas

Finally got myself a go pro and upped my photo game. I did Appreciate the Ray posing for me! Hey! Enjoy Canada 🇨🇦 it’s a big place and hard to cover in just one trip. You’ll have to plan to come back to experience the west where I live.
19th March 2023

Andrea is Back
Oh I love this - so glad to see Andrea is back and travelling again! 😁 Your new lifestyle also sounds incredible - slow travel and house/pet-sitting. I imagine you'll have many more adventures like this, and I look forward to reading about them. I've been to a few places you mention here in Belize, but I was doing the more fast-travel type of trip, so it's lovely to read about the country here in first gear. I completely understand your words on Belize City, I felt the same there. Sounds like you had some serious time to unwind in San Pedro and Caye Caulker. Great reading 😊
22nd March 2023

Yes! I’m back! Lol
Thanks for reading. I can’t wait to get out there and see some more places on my list. Exciting! Hope you are enjoying your travels to the USA. I’ll go and have a read!

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