FM Travel June 2021

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June 2021

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FROM THE EDITOR

Published by

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EDITORIAL

Editor: Keith Bain Content Manager: Raina Julies, rainaj@picasso.co.za Contributors: Mart-Marié du Toit, Iga Motylska, Katie Bigelow Copy Editor: Nicci Collier Content Co-ordinator: Vanessa Payne, vanessap@picasso.co.za Digital Editor: Stacey Visser vissers@businessmediamags.co.za

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Brave

new today

P

aradise exists. I truly believe Racing into the future was always that. I don’t mean in the sense humanity’s instinct, but we are prompted that brochures and misleading now to be more cautious, to hold back advertising suggest. Nor even rather than stumble into repeats of past in the sense the Bible tells mistakes. This does not mean holding us. I’m not talking about some back on exploration and experience, imaginary construct, some but it means being more mindful Photoshopped fib. Paradise about how we step into is that place you go and spaces beyond our recover a sense of who own homes. you are. It is a place of Being mindful is deep inner connection, nothing new to seasoned a reminder of what’s travellers who have important – and who. always known to keep It is a place where their wits about them. Editor Keith Bain heads you can, even if just for Whether you’ve been to to the Maldives for the ultimate escape on page 5 malaria areas or explored a few days or a couple of weeks, forget the regrets and places requiring that you keep tragedies of the last year and rediscover your yellow fever shots up to date, we now your lust for life. Your enthusiasm for the face a world where the virus is almost future in a brave new world filled with everywhere. Travel mindfully – as always – possibility and optimism. and consider picking destinations where That place could be the Maldives space is guaranteed. (read why on page 5), or perhaps the We’re in luck here in Africa, where nature Seychelles (where you can mix is abundant and the bush on our doorstep affords respite from the crowds. Take pleasure with business; advantage. On page 3 we survey read how on page 9). The urge to travel, three gorgeous new places to the desire to be stay where the crowds magically anywhere but disappear, and on page 12, where you might we take a quick peek at how have been bunkered Boschendal is disrupting Iga Motylska mixes down since before the Winelands. work and pleasure in the Seychelles on page 9 the pandemic struck, has probably never been quite so strong. Fear not. Travel is returning, possibilities are widening. With each volley of vaccinations, the world becomes a safer place once more. Mart-Marié du Toit finds herself en route to great local getaways on page 3

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SPOILING GETAWAYS EN ROUTE

Find yourself

faraway You can’t have it all, but when you do decide to treat yourself, here’s where to start looking, writes Mart-Marié du Toit

 DELTA DREAMING

Xigera is a start-from-scratch rebuild of an old Botswana safari haunt. Sustainability-minded architects have created one-of-a-kind, spoiling quarters, while being very kind to the environment and inventing an unparalleled level of home-from-home experience. Toni Tollman, design custodian for her family’s collection of boutique hotels (including several of Africa’s true greats: Oyster Box, 12 Apostles, Bushmans Kloof), collaborated with Southern Guild in Cape Town to commission 80 artists, artisans, crafters, and designers from across Africa to produce a living gallery in the remote Moremi Game Reserve. The lodge is a love letter to the African bush, while their triple-story, off-grid treehouse (which doubles as a monumental baobab sculpture) has a bedroom, a bathroom and an open-air rooftop daybed should you yearn for total solitude. Add to that the state-of-the-art 4X4s for close-up encounters with the Delta’s wildlife, glass-bottom mokoros and an “anything’s possible” approach… This might be the most enchanted getaway of a lifetime. xigera.com

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 BE STIL

In Montagu, at one end of the R62, STIL is a small, intimate guesthouse affording tranquil escape in a quietly confident Klein Karoo town known for lowkey wine farms, dried fruit production, and rockfaces that glint metallic hues in the sun. From the generous hospitality and carefully curated art collection, unique interiors, and incredible mountain views, STIL seems to have it all. Or all least all that you actually require. Plus attention to detail. The sculpture garden features works by South African artist Anton Smit and fits in seamlessly with the white walls, terracotta floors and wooden accents of the house itself. stil.co.za

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 KRUGER TRAINSPOTTING

As with many great hotels, it started with a bonkers idea: Set a reconditioned train on the Selati Bridge above the Sabie River in Kruger National Park and transform it into a boutique hotel. Kruger Shalati’s Train on a Bridge is an elevated sanctuary with the bonus of being able to spy animals through windows and glass walls – and from the deck and mid-air pool that juts out on one side, high above the riverbanks. Interiors are styled in celebration of African design, with local artisans, crafters, and designers collaborating to make the spaces pop. krugershalati.com ▪

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Trapped in paradise?

MALDIVES AWAY

You wish! In a world forced to stay at home, it gives Keith Bain hope to know that paradise on earth still exists

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arly-April last year, The New York Times reported on the plight of a newlywed South African couple stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean: “trapped in an eternal honeymoon in the Maldives”. The couple was sequestered on precisely the sort of unblemished patch of paradise that makes your heart go pitter-patter when you’re scrolling through the internet deciding where to go for your next holiday. Their situation involved a five-star cocoon, surrounded on all sides by warm, unfathomably blue ocean. By the time news of South Africa’s impending lockdown had reached the couple’s loved-up ears, the mad-dash travel time required to get back home meant that doing so before the borders closed was just not possible. They were technically stranded. Shame, hey?

In the meantime, everyone else was off the island. Everyone except staffers who were – like captains of sinking ships – remaining until the last guest departs. One might pity the logistical hell of arranging, via distant consulates, repatriation. But imagine the grand adventure those two, at the start of their life together, were enjoying… Waited on hand-and-foot while quartered in an adorable overwater bungalow from which

you can slip out of bed, and slide from your veranda into the balm-like embrace of a calm sea so clear that you can see the expressions of fishes swimming by.

Uncommon paradise The Maldives has been open to travellers since September, having instituted plans to enable its vital tourism industry to function amid the pandemic. It was the first country to operate quarantine resorts, and now – as most frontline hospitality workers have been vaccinated and herd immunity targets are being reached – talk has turned towards vaccination vacations. Meaning you can return home safer than when you arrived on one of the 1,192 islands that comprise this nation of 26 coral atolls straddling the equator. Once you’ve touched down amid the relative bustle of the main airport, you are ferried to your resort by boat or seaplane. The latter is one of the best airborne adventures on Earth; from these small, low-flying planes you have incredible views of what look like strings of gigantic ›

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Can you imagine? Some scholars believe that the name “Maldives” comes from the Sanskrit maladvipa, meaning “garland of islands”. Asia’s smallest country includes some of the planet’s smallest islands. Some are just a few square metres. Malé, the capital, is 1½ kilometres long; the largest is Gan, in the southerly Laamu Atoll – it’s a massive 7.8 kilometres long and 3.4 kilometres wide. The world’s lowest country, Maldives is on average just 1½ metres above sea level. The highest geographic point reaches just 2½ metres. The uncontested beauty of the islands’ beaches owes to the fact that they are coralline. While almost all of the world’s beaches are composed of quartz, some five per cent are made of finely ground up coral, turned into sand by parrot fish. The beaches are essentially undigested coral; an adult parrot fish can make about one ton of the stuff each year. Former president Mohamed Nasheed hosted the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting in 2009. It was an act of political theatre designed to encourage world leaders to sign up for reducing carbon emissions. And, yes, politicians in attendance wore scuba gear for their underwater summit.

jade-and-pearl jewels set within endless tracts of blue-green marble. You want to weep for the loveliness of it. Scattered far and wide, fewer than 200 of the tiny islands are inhabited. Another 150-or-so contain resorts and the policy is one island, one resort. Which means it’s made for physical distancing, for sucking down the cleanest air, unfurling yourself on a beach in near solitude as the sea gently laps at your feet. By a very long stretch, there’s more ocean than land and what land there is only just pokes out above the surface. The Maldives is the world’s lowest-lying country with no mountains or hills, it’s highest natural point a mere 2½ metres above sea level. This eye-level relationship with the sea – that feeling of walking from your room across a flat beach straight into the water – makes this place feel otherworldly.

And then there are the resorts themselves: a vast variety catering to every sort of budget. From intimate guesthouses on the local islands and live-aboard boats for scuba divers and maritime adventurers, to ultra-plush fancy-pants places where Hollywood superstars congregate and CEOs throw wedding getaways. There are in-between places too, where you are treated like a VIP with access to the same gorgeous scenery, even if Leo DiCaprio isn’t on the same island. No matter where you go, the emphasis is on barefoot luxury and letting your hair down. You’re not there to impress anyone – you’re there for yourself.

Getting there Emirates (emirates.com) and Qatar (qatarairways.com) fly from South Africa via Dubai or Doha. A visitors’ visa will be issued on arrival. Since 3 May, inbound travellers must carry a negative Covid-19 PCR test of a sample taken within 72 hours of departure to the Maldives, and submit a traveller health declaration form within 24 hours of departure. Install the TraceEkee contact tracing app on your smartphone before or upon arrival. Updates at imuga.immigration.gov.mv/ethd Getting around Malé, the capital, is the only crowded place and entirely avoidable if you’re heading to an island resort on the country’s 26 coral atolls. Resort representatives in the airport arrivals hall will assist with transfers to your island. You’ll see someone holding your name or your hotel’s name, or just find the relevant resort booth. There

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may be a wait for onward transfers; boats depart from a jetty across the road, while buses take passengers to a separate seaplane terminal. Preferably stick to one resort per trip – travelling between islands will chew up precious holiday time. Money The airport has forex facilities and ATMs but you’re unlikely to require local currency (rufiyaa). Many resorts are all-inclusive; any extras are settled before departure by credit card. US dollars are useful for tips and payments on local islands. Local custom As a Muslim nation, alcohol is strictly prohibited on local inhabited islands. This law does not apply on resort islands where alcohol is freely available. On local islands, dress modestly. Safety & health Biggest concerns are sunstroke and diving accidents. There is no malaria, and crime is virtually unheard of at resorts.

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PICTURES: ITTEMALDIVIANO, ISHAN SEEFROMTHESKY FOR UNSPLASH, KEITH BAIN, SUPPLIED

Maldives essentials


MALDIVES AWAY

Where to stay on your castaway holiday

Dreamworks to reality And if you assumed that the Maldives is simply for the ultra bone-idle, you’d be wrong. There’s plenty to do aside from soaking up the sun. Most activities involve the water, obviously. But whether you wish to be in it, under it or on top of it is a question to be dealt with as per your prevailing mood. The snorkelling is phenomenal. Among the marvels to see are the blue-glowing bioluminescent phytoplankton around Vaadhoo Island. South Ari Atoll, meanwhile, is one of the best places on Earth to swim with whale sharks. You hear stories about the turtles and manta rays but until you find yourself casually swimming with these creatures, you cannot imagine the way they make your heart beat faster. Keen divers can also swim with hammerheads, and bull and tiger sharks, and right at the water’s edge you will see tiny sharks, like puppies, hanging out in the shallows.

PICTURES: ITTEMALDIVIANO, ISHAN SEEFROMTHESKY FOR UNSPLASH, KEITH BAIN, SUPPLIED

“You hear stories about the turtles and manta rays but until you find yourself casually swimming with these creatures, you cannot imagine the way they make your heart beat faster.” You can set off on magical sunset cruises or sail on a traditional dhoni built from the wood of coconut palms (the mainstay of island vegetation here, and the trees in which everyone wants to hang from in a hammock). You’d be forgiven for assuming that all the hype has been manufactured in a DreamWorks studio, Photoshopped to feed the marketing machine. Yet, if anything, the brochures don’t do it justice. Because none of those pretty pictures features you, and none convey the soft embrace of the water, almost milky to the touch, the sunlight reflecting off the white sand underfoot, nor the way those multicoloured fish look at you as you snorkel by. Which possibly explains why those honeymooners were so uncoupled from the reality brewing in the outside world – you are so literally in paradise, it’s impossible to imagine ill fortune. Which is precisely the point, right?

Your resort will make most arrangements for you, from airport transfers to add-on activities. Some packages are all-inclusive, but you can tailor a deal that suits your pocket. For a selection of packages that include flights to and from South Africa, book through Computravel, a Cape Town-based travel agency offering stays at incredible resorts in the Maldives. Among their deals, you’ll find trips to the following two pockets of paradise Meeru Island Resort & Spa. In North Malé Atoll, under an hour from the airport by boat, this barefoot, eco-friendly paradise is among the country’s best-value resorts. At 1,200 metres in length it’s one of the larger islands – you can magically roam and seldom run into other people, even when it’s fully occupied. A creamy beach merges with lush tropical vegetation, and dotted across the island are 286 rooms affording

various grades of quaint, comfortable accommodations from the rustic-chic Garden rooms to romantic overwater cabins. The resort successfully takes care of grown-ups seeking solitude as well as families with children in tow; they do wonderful outings to the neighbouring island for a tour of local life, and have a variety of restaurants, including the main buffet-style open-air dining area with sea sand underfoot. meeru.com

Adaaran Select Meedhupparu. After the joy of arriving by seaplane, you are thrust into an atmosphere of unbridled relaxation. From morning jogs around the island to sinking cocktails at one of the five bars (including one that’s 24/7), you’ll find virtually every taste catered to at this resort, with a mix of room categories. You can snuggle away in romantic privacy in your over-water villa or hang out at the main pool’s swim-up bar with its view towards the sea, or watch seaplanes land and then witness a scintillating sunset at Café Mass. Seemingly every imaginable indulgence is on offer – multiple restaurants, cocktails for every mood, an ice-cream station, after-dark party vibe, and not just a spa but a dedicated reflexology centre. Plus, visits to the local island of Meedhoo, dolphin and sunset cruises, big-game fishing trips, and island hopping with a braai on an empty beach. adaaran.com

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SEYCHELLES BUSINESS CLASS

Workation? Bleisure? Whatever you call it, you could do a lot worse than a remote working stint on a faraway Seychellois island, writes Iga Motylska

Paradise also has Wi-Fi

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’ve given myself a month. An entire month with no other work distractions – no emails, no Zoom calls – to rework that pesky final chapter of my novel. I read somewhere, don’t ask me where, that in order to produce a semidecent novel, you ought to be stimulated creatively, enveloped by awe-inspiring nature that rejuvenates the senses, remain active and challenge yourself to do things you’ve never done before. And so, I’ve chosen the Seychelles as my playground. My routine will consist of reading on powdery white beaches sprinkled with granite boulders and painted in a palette of aquamarine hues.

I’ll go snorkelling in search of tropical fish and, with a bit of luck, spy hawksbill turtles which, despite being endangered, are a common sighting here. There’ll be sticky treks through virgin forests and bicycle adventures with stops for freshly-made juices. I’ll indulge in spicy Creole seafood curries to get a taste of the archipelago. And I will go for frequent rum degustations because no one blinks at the sight of day drinking on a tropical island. Perhaps I’ll pick up some Creole phrases and learn to dance the Sega. I’ll write in the shade of my palm-frond beach gazebo and… “Madam… madam.” My driver’s words shake me from my afternoon nap. In reality, there’s no novel, no month to laze. I’m in this picture-perfect Indian Ocean archipelago for one week. And I am here to work. Mostly.

Safe haven Many of the larger global hotel brands and resorts – such as Constance, Savoy, Kempinski, Avani and the Eden Bleu Hotel – offer all-inclusive MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing and Eventing) packages. Pre-pandemic, the Seychelles was experiencing an overall increase in demand for these kinds of business travel groups.

Food for thought “Are you ready for dinner?” asks the driver. “It’s time to try that crab I’ve been telling you about.” At La Pirogue Restaurant and Bar, I meet other travellers and representatives from the Seychelles Tourism Board, where we talk about all things holiday, tourism, sustainability and coral-reef friendly sunscreen. On my driver’s recommendation, I order the Creole crab. I get started on it with my knife and fork. I struggle. Seeing my laboured efforts, the waitress brings me a finger bowl and a crab claw cracker. I twist the claws and crack the knuckles, while trying to appear as though I eat crab regularly. Eating a crab elegantly ›

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BUSINESS CLASS SEYCHELLES

Downtime wanderings On Mahé Island you can hike to Sauzier Waterfall (pictured); and, on Praslin Island, wander beneath the canopy of palm fronds in the UNESCO-designated Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve. Keep watch for the country’s famed “coco de mer”, double-lobed, provocatively-shaped enormous seeds that are endemic to this cluster of islands. They’re the world’s largest seeds, weighing up to 25kg.

Easy peasy

What’s harder to reconcile is how anyone gets any major work done in a place where all I want to do is dig my toes in the sand and bliss out. I wrench my crab’s claws apart and manage to suck out some flesh before asking if there’s a viable work-play balance.

Before the world shut down, the island nation ranked 100th of 190 countries and eighth in the sub-Saharan African region on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. A fair number of South African-owned businesses operate here and several ABSA branches are located on each of the three largest and most visited islands – Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.

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Beach, please! Also on Praslin is Anse Lazio, consistently voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This crescent-shaped golden beach is bookended by a pile of granite boulders that lead into calm crystal-clear waters (no swimming mask is required here), where anchored yachts seem to float in mid-air. It’s what Instagram feeds and travel brochures are made of.

offer protection to foreign investors against expropriation or nationalisation that are not offered in other African countries,” she adds. Juan Nel, who works for Constance Hotels and Resorts, chimes in: “Beyond the picturesque beaches, we have indigenous forests, protected mangroves and granite hills that offer exotic landscapes you’d think only existed on postcards.” Evidently Nel is in sales. Not that these islands require much marketing. Having seen the postcards and experienced the real thing, I know he’s not exaggerating.

Nel insists that those who come to do business do actually get work done. In his line he sees what the executives get up to, notices how the professionals mix it up. Between meetings and deal-strike sessions, they’ll play a round at the scenic 18-hole championship course; fly through a seven-stop forest zip line at a height of 110 metres; even climb up and abseil down granite rocks. He explains that there’s tremendous diversity of experiences beyond the honeymoon fantasy of lolling on a sunlounger. You can snorkel straight from the beach; take a glass-bottomed boat; scuba dive; hop between islands; hike numerous trails; and experience top-end spas – all between number-crunching, Zoom calls, and logging your work hours so your colleagues know just how productive you’re being. And, when conferencing returns, what could be better? Take the conversation outside, or onto the beach when you need fresh air. There’s so much of it here, even if the sense of being in paradise leaves you a little breathless. In fact, thinking about all this has me wondering if this isn’t the perfect place to start my imaginary novel. Perhaps once I get all the meat out of the crab, I’ll be ready.

PICTURES: MICHEL DENOUSSE FOR SEYCHELLES TOURISM

is not the kind of skill you can fake. Harder to fake still while listening to local experts break down the stats on the archipelago’s unique charms as a destination for the business crowd. Beyond the holidaymakers, a fair share of South African companies, entrepreneurs and the lucky folks who (at least until the pandemic changed everyone’s schedules and lifestyles) manage to combine business travel with a healthy dose of leisure time – choose the Seychelles as their “bleisure” (or should that be “workation”) destination of choice. Because it’s just south of the equator, to the east of Tanzania and north of Madagascar, this watery paradise is a year-round travel destination. It’s only a five-hour direct flight from South Africa and only two hours ahead of home, so there’s no worrying about jet lag. “In addition to being a top tourism destination, the country offers various investment opportunities and is a safe place to do business,” says Christine Vel, Director of the Seychelles Islands for South Africa. “We have laws and policies which

Work interrupted

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ARTYFACT BEYOND OENOPHILIA

Winelands disrupted

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e need to talk about bread. And wine. But first the bread. It – a squishy, air-pocketed, heavenly baguette – arrived, in a box packed with other goodies, fresh from the farm. Presumably out the oven just moments before it left the Winelands and made its way to my front door. Also packed? Plump plums straight from the orchard, star plums in syrup, extra virgin olive oil made on the estate. That baguette, though, needed immediate attention. My needs anticipated, my delivery included a brick of Boschendal’s rich, creamy salted butter, and a slab of deep-flavoured smoked Cheddar. Slice, cut, smear, repeat – I assembled these three essential ingredients for a meal that will stay with me forever. Washed down with citrus-infused star plum cordial, also prepared in Boschendal’s kitchens using fruit from the farm. Adventurous folk cannot, of course, live on home-delivered produce alone. Some places demand repeat visits. Although among the oldest estates in the country Boschendal has in the last few years applied sparkling innovation on all fronts, disrupting pre-existing ideas of what a wine farm can be. These days the buzz is even more youthful, and more sustainability focused than ever. You see the results everywhere. Starting with the organic vegetable garden adjacent the Werf Restaurant where a contemporary soil-to-fork dining philosophy demands local, seasonal ingredients – many of which are grown right there in that lovingly nurtured soil.

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The restaurant’s focus, as with my box full of delivered goods, is on ethically-sourced wholesomeness which translates into the kind of nourishment you can taste. At The Deli, meanwhile, you can grab a Farmer’s Breakfast, order wood-fired pizzas, or pack up ready-made meals to take home. You pop them in the oven and – voilà! – instant happiness courtesy of Boschendal’s chefs. The estate hosts wonderful weekend markets under the trees right outside the Farm Shop, where artisans proffer their

Less is more For the remainder of 2021, children under 12 stay for free at Bertha’s Retreat; there’s a “one child per adult” policy making this an ideal way to treat the family to a sumptuous Boschendal getaway. Also worth knowing is that Boschendal now offers special rates for South African residents across all of its accommodations. They eschew “uppity exclusivity” and really want everyone to “pull in” and experience the magnificent atmosphere on the farm, the unrivalled facilities and opportunities for adventure – and excellent food and wine, of course.

wares alongside organic fresh fruit and veggies and flowers; much of what’s sold comes from nearby farms. And apart from those legendary picnics (gorgeous on a crisp winter’s day, always with a carefully curated menu), there are wine tastings and a cellar from which to restock your home supply. There are magical outdoorsy spots you can explore as a day visitor, but what could be more enchanting than to hole up for a few nights? From the historical Herbert Baker-designed Cottage 1685, to the rusticbeautiful Orchard Cottages set among the fruit trees, waking up here means being immersed in fresh air and craggy mountain views. Plus, plenty to do besides eat and drink: horse rides, mountain biking trails, running routes, a guided hike around the farm. Parents can drop off their children at The Tree House where they’ll learn about regenerative farming, look after the horses, collect eggs and discover a few handy “forgotten” outdoor skills. And, yes, coming back to the wine… They’ve been making the stuff for more than 300 years and the name has never gone out of fashion. Tastings here are a delight but you also want to leave with cases of the stuff, from noble cultivars and an estate range, to special cuvée blends and classic everyday drinking wines. Have you tried their MCCs? You might want a few bottles on hand to celebrate when that deli delivery arrives. ▪

PICTURES: CLAIRE GUNN

Farm-fresh deli goods, luxury mountain cottages, horses, bikes, trails, and fascinating adventures for children. Plus, their classic wines and legendary picnics under the oaks. Centuries on, Boschendal is leading the Winelands into the future, writes Katie Bigelow

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