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Swifts Fly to Africa

Swifts fly Africa

The sky... A place that seems eternal. Full of clouds with all kinds of shapes and inviting anyone to fly through it without stopping. Something I want to travel by myself, but unfortunately I can't achieve. Seeing my appearance, this is completely possible. You see, I'm a bird. Yes! A bird! But not like those blues with orange peaks, or those who sing, but rather a little less graceful. Those of my race know me as a common swift.

Can I fly? But of course I can do it! Swifts are made to fly without stopping! We can take long trips that can last 10 months, and unlike other birds, we live on the air. I know that because my owner always reads books about me and the others from my species. He keeps me in my cage so I can live with him and I see other birds flying outside; sometimes, some of them come to visit me and we have joyful talks about what it is like to fly in the immense sky.

My owner, Jeremy, a young English man, is a pet lover who not only owns me, but my friends Kiki and Watt too.

We three are a gray color, but our eyes distinguish us. Mine have a fine mahogany color; Kiki’s are gray like her feathers and Watt’s have a splendid yellow color.

We've all been Jeremy's companions since his father bought us at a small fair in a town where he was present. I still remember his gaze when he first held us in his arms! It was a fantastic feeling! I didn't even remember where I had come from, but hey! I had someone who would take care of me, plus, I wouldn't go alone!

The first few years with Jeremy were fantastic. He found me a great cage where I could share space with Kiki and Watt and we could walk around, play, eat and do all kinds of things for Jeremy's enjoyment, who looked at us in amazement every time he passed by and occasionally shared some sunflower seeds so we could eat. But as we grew older and the cage started to get smaller for us, we had to separate.

Every day, I looked at Kiki and Watt, and we could talk from afar, but it was difficult to be so far away from them, and even more, to be locked in such a small space.

But one day, Jeremy decided to get me out of the cage and tied me with a small rope to his wrist so I wouldn't get lost. A rather kind gesture from my owner. That afternoon was quite windy, and he decided to take me to the balcony of his apartment, so that I could see what was outside the four walls of the room where he had me. That's where I saw it.

The sky, a privileged place where all kinds of birds flew. A tremendous space that awakened nostalgia in me as well.

After noticing my joy at seeing the sky, Jeremy made sure to pull out all cages so we could get some air while he went out to have fun with his friends. So after that day, every time he went out, he took our cages to the balcony, something that happened right now and while I was immersed in my thoughts. When Jeremy left, I spoke freely.

"I wish I could fly..."

Kiki began to laugh upon hearing my words. "Still thinking that, Nivy?"

Listening to our conversation, Watt stood up slowly and lazily to speak to me in an annoying tone. "It's always the same with you Nivy! Since you first saw the sky, you haven't stopped talking about it! You should concentrate on other things!"

As much as I thought about what Watt constantly told me every time I looked disoriented and thinking about the same thing, he wasn't right. I was a bird, and my instinct told me clearly that I should be flying and not locked in a cage, but I also had a weakness: Having been locked up for so long took away the sense of direction I was born with, plus, it never gave me the opportunity to learn to fly. So, how did I want to go out and wander through the sky if I couldn't even do it?

"You must not get frustrated Nivy! Even though we're here, we don't have to worry!" said Kiki, trying to cheer me up. "We have food, lots of water and an owner who loves us."

"Everything we need," Watt said in a calm tone.

"Not true! What we need is to be out there! Be free!" I exclaimed. My words were being very sincere. In the end, Jeremy was a good owner for us, but there wasn't a day when I didn't dream of flying and being free like the other birds outside who came to visit me from time to time to show off all their adventures. This made my voice tremble with every word I said. "We have to find a way to get out of here."

"You are crazy! We won’t survive out there! None of us know how to fly! Also, where will we go?" asked Kiki, using her wings to try to show that she could not fly, something that was evident from the confinement we had lived through for years.

"That shouldn't make us give up! We have to learn somehow!" I shouted with emotion. In the end, I strongly believed that we could do it if we just tried. "We can't give up and you leave our freedom just because we don't know how to use our wings!"

Watt stared at me for a few seconds without saying anything. He was quite serious at times and it was difficult for him to change his mind, something I had already become accustomed to hearing from him.

"And what do you intend girl?" asked Watt, breaking the silence that had been created between all of us. "Do you want to get out of the cage and just fly? Jeremy won’t allow it!"

"We have to find a way! There must be something we can do!" I shouted.

"As long as there is no way to escape, keep your crazy ideas to yourself."

"What do you think Kiki?" I asked my friend, expecting a positive response.

"If one day we manage to find a way out of our cages, I'll try.”

That was enough for me. If my friends supported me, then we could leave the place and fly to pursue our freedom, but to do so, we had to think of a way for Jeremy to open the cage.

And that's how a few days later I decided to ask for help from one of my flying friends. Horace, an imposing falcon who used to fly around the top of the building where we lived came to greet me from time to time. He was quite lonely and many birds were afraid of him because of his imposing appearance, but he had a very good heart, something I would use to ask for a little help. That day, Jeremy had gone out to an event and left us out as usual, which led me to act immediately so as not to miss the opportunity to leave.

"Do you want to escape from here?" asked Horace.

"Yes," I replied almost immediately after. Since Horace arrived to talk with me, I had been telling him my concerns and what I wanted to achieve. "I don't want to stay here any longer."

"It's a dangerous thing for someone who doesn't know how to fly… Besides, being swifts, you can't take off from the ground. You all have to jump out of a high place, and although this is the perfect place, you could fall straight to the ground."

"I'm not going to let fear consume me," I replied. "Can you help me?"

"Of course I can! Only you had never asked me! I thought you were happy with your owner..."

"Jeremy is fantastic, but birds like us have to live in the sky and not in a cage."

"Very good, little swift... Be very careful then."

Horace took gentle steps towards me and opened the cage, letting me take my first steps outside.

"You have to be careful," Horace warned. "If your owner comes back and sees you outside, he will never let you out again."

Horace's statement was true and made me tremble. Jeremy was an owner who cared too much about us, and if he saw us outside, who knows if he would let us go back to the balcony. This would be the only and perhaps last chance we would have to escape.

"Can you open my friends' cages too, Horace?" I asked.

"Nivy!" shouted Kiki. "Being outside is one thing! But you won't think about throwing yourself into the void to see if your wings open and let you fly, do you?"

"Of course I will!"

"Think with your head Nivy..." Watt said. "This can be quite dangerous for all of us."

"Well, then I suggest you make your mind fast, little swift," Horace said, standing on the edge of the building and looking down. "Your owner is right down there."

The blood on my body froze when I knew that Jeremy was back so soon. Normally, he took much longer to arrive when he was out, but now, not much had happened and he was back. I had to take what I had or abandon everything, but there was also a huge risk of falling and colliding with the pavement due to lack of experience, something that sounded terrifying.

As soon as Horace opened my friends' cages, we were all staring at each other not knowing what to do.

"It's time then," I said.

"Will you really do it?" asked Kiki.

"Yes, I want to know what the world is like out there," I said, then stood on the edge of the balcony and look down.

As expected, the simple act of looking down caused me a deep vertigo that almost made me faint. I had never been so close to falling from such a high place, and fear was immediately present in me.

"You only have a few minutes!" shouted Horace. “If you truly want this, just jump! I’ll help if necessary!”

Both Watt and Kiki stood next to me and looked at me with uncertainty. They were fearful, but I could tell they too wanted to get out of that place and live free.

My ears indicated that the door to Jeremy's apartment opened and I knew he was inside the house, but the horrified scream he gave was much worse and was like a push for me. The last thing I could hear before I threw myself into the void was my name and that of my friends echoing through one of the rooms.

"Ahhhhhh!!!! "This feels... Fantastic!!!!!" I shouted with excitement as a current of air hit my face.

Looking to my side, I could notice how my friends had followed me and the three of us fell quickly; on the one hand, Watt flapped hard to try to take flight, and on the other, Kiki flapped slower, thus seeking to stop her fall. But none of this was working, and when seeing all this, Horace flew to our side to help us.

"Fear not! Just open your wings!”

Horace's words penetrated deep into my mind and for a few moments I remembered my past. On one occasion, a female voice said the same words to teach me how to fly, but now I couldn’t remember more. Only thing I could do was just open my wings and let them do their thing. As soon as I did, I felt in control of the situation and noticed my body stopping, letting me take a slow flight that I directed using my wings. My friends had also done the same and for the first time in my life, I was flying.

"We're flying!" shouted Watt with emotion on his face.

"Look! Look how I fly!" said Kiki, achieving a well-established flight.

"Follow me!" ordered Horace.

Together, the four of us flew over and passed by several colossal-looking buildings. Everything around us was so big and there was so much noise that my ears hurt. Apart from Jeremy's apartment, all things looked so big.

"Flutter gently!" shouted Horace.

And that's what we did to finally stabilize.

When we did, Horace flew higher, and the more we rose, the more we looked down to see that many humans walked under us but now they looked so small. This the feeling took hold of me, so driven by euphoria, I decided to give a loud scream.

"We made it!"

My friends celebrated next to me and we were following Horace for quite a while. He guided us through several places and many small birds looked at us strangely; surely they had never seen a falcon be so kind to such small beings, but Horace was very different and turned out to be extraordinary. His flutters were so elegant and I wanted to imitate him, but it would take quite a bit of practice to become like him one day. With this in my head, I decided to fly faster. I had to test my freedom and overcome all adversity to achieve it.

In total, we flew for almost three hours, until we reached a huge field, leaving the city and Jeremy behind.

"Do you think he’ll miss us?" asked Kiki.

"I hope he doesn't feel hurt, but I have to admit this is too good," Watt replied. "Feeling the air go through my whole body makes me feels amazing!”

"He'll be OK," I said, thinking maybe Jeremy could understand why we escaped. Of course, leaving made me very sad, but this was gradually being replaced by immense joy. "Come on! Let's move on!"

Horace stopped at an electricity pole and we did the same. There, he looked at us with a smile and spoke calmly.

"Listen... We have come a long way, but it is time for you to take your own path," Horace said with a tone that showed a little sadness. "You have to go elsewhere and not be in this city, but I can't go with you as I can’t fly as much as you.”

None of us knew exactly which path to take. It was quite difficult to guess where we should go and being the first time we had flown, the situation was complicated, but Horace was there to help us.

"Where should we go?" asked Watt doubtfully.

"Wherever our hearts take us," I said. The answer became so simple and came out of my mouth without problems, which caused my friends to look at me. Saying it was something anyone could do, but the important thing at the time was to analyze exactly where my instinct was taking me. "We have to go to Africa."

"What?!" asked Watt and Kiki at the same time.

"Africa... A hot place where you swifts could live without any problem," Horace said. "You could fly without stopping there. Here the temperature is too cold and this season is not the best for you."

"Africa?! It's a long way there! We will never arrive!" shouted Kiki.

Obviously, Kiki was right and Africa was too far away, but that wouldn’t stop us. Now that we had managed to get out of the house where we had lived, we would have to face many things if we wanted to get what we wanted. I was looking for freedom and also a comfortable life, but to achieve both, I would have to strive and fight. Going a long way would be difficult, but I would have to be ready and give my best.

"We have to do it," I said decisively.

"It’s 20,000 kilometers to Africa from here," Watt said. “We are not ready.”

"We are not ready, but we will be.” I exclaimed with emotion. "Watt, Kiki, let’s go to Africa!”

To be continued.

Soaring in the air all day long, the three of us fed ourselves with the most delicious meal we ever loved. Flies, bugs, bees, wasps, beetles, caddisflies and others, the sky was equally celebrating with us, our freedom, joy and happiness . We never had these variations of food in captivity. Jeremy caters to us with birdie formulas. We occasionally got treats on special days, it would include a few insects, earthworms, larvae, ants, etc, to introduce an original swift taste to our taste buds.perhaps,people don't enjoy everyday as a special day, I often thought when I was offered special feasts, they are so busy with their lives that they don't feel every moment of their life is special, it would never return. We won't live the moment that is gone. Time and tides wait for none. I wondered why humans don't celebrate each moment to its fullest. I couldn't find the answer. Perhaps, someday I'll get it.

Watt was busy dining in the air, "Are you still hungry?"I enquired Watt. "No, it's awesome to have those bugs straight down the stomach, satiated for two days!" replied Watt, merrily.

Kiki, too, was busy feeding herself, filtering the air. Swifts are the only birds known for feeding in the air at such a height. Currents in the upper atmosphere bring a lot of insects for swifts to feed on.

It had been a long time since we were in the air. Our flight was better than the morning when we used our wings for the first time. The three swifts were happy. Kiki and Watt were twittering and flying happily.Their speed was slower than usual.

"I'm tired now, "Watt said. "My wings need rest and as I'm up since dawn, I need a nap,"Watt looked at me." We can't rest, we have to cover a long distance to Africa, it would not be wise to stop and nap. "Kitty was angry." We are not aware of the path that leads us to Africa, we are flying at our own instinct, " Kitty added." What if our muscles won't support because of exhaustion?, " Watt was reluctant to continue the flight.

Swifts can fly over the sky to long distances, more than any other bird. They nap at their wing. They don't need nests to sleep. I knew this as Jeremy reads books on swifts. I was not surprised at Watt's demand. His brain was working in the right way. Everybody gets tired when working hard for the first time. I had seen Jeremy taking a rest after gym. Rest repletes the energy consumed during efforts.

"Watt, you can have a nap on your wing," I coined the solution in front of both the swifts. "I never slept like that, nor did any of us,"Watt was frightened." We never slept, but we can give it a try because now we are in an immense space that is specially made for us, "I encouraged my friends." See me, I'm trying to catch the sleep on my wing, "Kitty made a bed out of her wing for her body to rest on.

Kitty and Watt both were sleeping on the wings. I too slept for a brief time. Swifts occasionally stop flight and remain in the air even months. Their life is flight, flight, flight.

"Sun will be out soon, we should plan the next destination as we cannot stay here for another couple of days. I found the night a bit cold," I shared my brain with my friends. "There's no turbulence here at this height, it's pleasurable to have a motionless flight here," Kiki was fresh after resting the whole night. "Let's move from here as we are not aware of potential dangers we can come across during our journey to Africa," Watt was thoughtful.

"What would be the potential dangers that we should think of?" Kiki took part in planning.

"Several factors contribute to a swift's survival, environmental hazards, predators, humans, are a few on the list," I added.

Jeremy's readings proved more than helpful. It educated me on how birds live and survive. Jeremy was a true bird lover. He had a thirst for knowledge about birds that he often quests with movies, documentary series and picture books on birds.

" How far are we from Africa?" Watt tried to figure out. "Perhaps, near the border," Kiki replied. "How can we find the direction?"Watt asked." We can find the direction with the rising sun, look! It's in the east, " I tried to explain the directions to my friends." Yes, and straight opposite to it, there is west, " Kiki shouted." To the right it's north and on the left it's south, " Watt was clear about the four directions.

We were aware of the directions because Jeremy was the tutor of his younger brother and taught him directions.

" Which direction should we continue to fly to reach the world of dreams?, " Kiki asked Watt."Let's search for a map of Africa somewhere in the city or any suburban lands nearby," I said. "That's a good idea," my friends agreed.

We all were descending to reach the lower atmosphere so that we could find a map in the city. To find a map was not that easy. We found a bookshop near a town. We flew straight and reached that shop.

"Who will find the map?" I asked. "Kiki, you should go, you are good at reading books, you can find a suitable one,"Watt decided to send Kiki for a map." It's risky, but I'll try to get the one," Kiki entered the shop.

" What a beautiful swift!, " the shopkeeper praised Kiki." I should try to cage this little bird, my son would love this birthday gift,"the shopkeeper was talking to himself.

Kiki had no idea of the worst that was next to happen, she was noticed by the shop owner. Being busy searching from shelf to shelf,her wings were a help and support to her.

" This looks OK, it has all the important details in it, it marks the paths of swifts that they take for travelling from the United Kingdom to Africa," Kiki decisively said. "Now I should leave as I was noticed by the owner, he may not allow me to fly in his bookshop,or else he can put me in another cage, I don't want to be in another cage again, " Kiki's brain was working like a robot.

Everything was fine. Kiki flew towards the front of the shop. To her bad luck, the door was closed. Kiki was confined in the shop. Soon she realised she was in danger. She needs to escape from the ship as soon as possible. Every passing minute, she was getting closer to adversity.

"Kiki needs us, she can't come out, the door is locked," Watt was on the ball. "Keep calm, let's see any quick fix, any hole, a ventilation or a chimney," I was wondering to find a way for her to escape. "Watt, is there something to come out?," I asked. "There's a broken glass wall, here in the North of the shop,"Watt was overjoyed." Come, kiki" Watt tweeted to call her friend towards the exit. "I'm trying Watt, but this is narrow, my body won't be out, but bleed me to death," Kiki was worried.

Watt hit on a plan, he used his strong bill to cut the glass wall. It was hard. Shopkeeper could come any time.

"Father, are you in the shop?," Owner's son yelled and opened the door.

Kiki was quite overjoyed, she fluttered her wings and flew out of the shop safe and sound. We three were together again. We did not have any accidents. We were fine.

"Kiki, please guide me in the right direction, we are already late," I said." Map says, we should see the swifts flying around us and follow them, as all swifts fly to Africa when it's winter in the UK," Kiki informed. "That sounds pretty good, we should join a flock and continue," I said decisively. "Let's find a flock first," Kiki exclaimed.

We all were in the air again. We were searching for swifts. I had seen a few flocks, but they were large enough to support new birds in their circle. I decided to be a part of a flock with a young lot. And I had to put my efforts into finding one of my choices. Swifts live in flocks, they keep flying in a big population. Young swifts are protected by the mature swifts. They learn from mature swifts.

"hey, would you let us fly with you?," Kiki asked a flock's wise swift, he was a bit older swift. "Yes, why not?, you can join us but first you need to choose your pair," said wise swift.

"pairs?, but we are three, an odd number can't be paired, does it make sense?," Kiki asked the wise swift. "It does make sense little Kiki, make your pair with Watt," swift helped. "What about nivy?, won't she pair?" Kiki's inquiry continued. "nivy, you can choose your pair from our flock, there is a boy here who will pair up with you," told the wise swift.

Kiki and Watt, nivy and Walter paired up with each other to live with the flock. Journey to Africa was getting interesting and inviting. Now we were among a family, all the members were swifts, like we were. We had friends to share and care for. It was a new and wonderful relationship.

"Swifts, fly harder, I can see a storm approaching us from behind, winds in the storm are violent, probably it would be difficult to keep flying,but this storm would be helpful, it would guide us to the route, let's follow the direction of the storm," said wise swift.

Swifts can stay safe from thunderstorms using their flying abilities . Swifts stay in front of the storms and fly in its direction. In this way they are not caught by the winds and rain. Other birds don't have this ability. They are caught in the merciless storms and are killed. The flock was supported by the stormy winds, swifts were flying at a speed of more than 1500 kilometre per day. Soon, the atmosphere was gentle and calm. Storm was dissipated and the skies were blue again.

"Lush green landscapes always attract me," said Watt. "Rain and thunder showers wash away the dust in the air and enhance the ornaments of the landscape," Kiki added. "Yes, you're right, there's always a brighter morning after every storm," I said. "Dear swifts, we have been given another chance to reach the destination, we are safe by the grace of God, we should be thankful for his blessings," the wise swift spoke to the flock members.

"It takes 5 to 10 days to reach Africa if we fly and rest in the air," Wise Swift informed us. "Next, there's another challenge waiting for you on this way," Wise Swift continued the speech. "We will cross a big water body, perhaps you'll get a tremendous amount of feed on that path, but remember not to be busy in feeding such that you forget your aim 1500 kilometres in a day," Watt was listening to the wise swift.

We were travelling for four days now and we covered roughly 8000 kilometres towards Africa. Six days' journey was left. We were enjoying everything on the course for the first time in our lives.Everything was new to us. We were learning from different swifts by observation and communication skills. Our experiences were growing with every passing day. We were mature enough to deal with the adversities of life.

"Look, there is immense water underneath where we are flying," Kiki was excited to see the blue waters of the ocean. "I'm hydrophobic, I can't fly with water underneath my wings, I'll get into it," Watt was terrified to see huge stretches of water. "Don't be afraid of the water, you're at a safe height Watt," the Wise Swift was compassionate. "We will cross the water by this evening and at night we will enter another country," Kiki tried to comfort Watt.

Who knows what the future holds, except the one who holds the future. We were flying forward with grit anchored in grace. There was a disturbance in the flock, some of the swifts were shouting and some were flying lower than they usually do, I felt something unusual had happened.

"A swift touched the ocean waters when a current of air tossed him up and threw onto the blue ocean waters," Watt said. "He is in danger, let's fly to rescue the little soul," Kiki was determined to help the poor bird. "OK, let's stay with him till his wings are dry again, we will find a place to rest in the canopy of beech flora," I designed a plan.

Wise swift advised us to bring the wet swift back to the flock after he is dry and join the journey as soon as possible. Being late would be dangerous for us as we could intentionally cause trouble.

" This is a good place to live at night," Kiki found a thick canopy with a nest in it. "We should spend this night here, since our buddy is uncomfortable and unable to fly for a few hours,"Kiki said." we'll fly after six hours from now when that little swift will be dry and ready to fly on its wings again, "Watt said" That's the suitable option for us, let's wait for the right time, "Walter, my partner added.

Six hours were gone and a bright morning welcomed us in the thick woods. Wet bird was ready to fly and join the flock. He was lucky to survive the first adverse situation in his first flight. We headed straight towards the immense sky and touched the limits of the troposphere. Winds were calm and full of food. Everything went fine. We joined the flock we were a part of in the afternoon. They were quite happy to have us with them again.

"We are near our destination, from here the border is just a 1000 kilometres, it's not a big distance but its full of dangers,many swifts can lose their lives, border security forces will shot you down if they'll find you in the proximity where aeroplanes fly in the air,"Wise swift warned everyone in the flock.

Birds were terrified, they would never like to meet this kind of an accident intentionally.

All of them flew to the tropospheric height where jets don't have reach. Birds were not detectable even on radars. Swifts are blessed to fly so high that they often go unnoticed on the security machines like radars.

With six hours of flying, we covered almost 1000 kilometers, we were near the African borders. It was an amazing sense of accomplishment, I was so happy to see my dream come true with open eyes, it was no more a dream, it was now a real thing that I could enjoy. The freedom was there to embrace me with open arms. My excitement made me twitter happily in the African air.

"Congratulations," Walter greeted me. "I'll always be thankful to the mighty sky who gave me a partner like you," Walter gazed at me with love in his eyes. "It's my pleasure that nature gifted me with the best bird of my lifetime," I said.

"Kiki, are you happy?," Watt asked. "I'm more than happy, it's still unbelievable for me that I'm in Africa where once I wouldn't believe I could ever reach,"

Wise swift happily bid farewell to all the flock partners, we were now free to explore the new destinations and make our New families. We were in the warm weather where we could feed and flourish a lot. Young ones would mature by the end of the winters in the UK. They would then return to their homeland there in the summers.

"Kiki and Watt, what did you plan for nesting?," Walter enquired about both of them. "We've no plans yet, we will decide once we're sure that we have a safe ground," Kiki answered. "Where would you be nesting?,"kiki coined the question towards me." I'm not sure, I haven't explored the new territory yet," I said." Let's fly in the countryside and watch for the best breeding sites. I'm hopeful that we will be able to find one for ourselves. Walter put a solution that was agreed upon by everyone.

The next day, we flew and explored the countryside. There was a huge biodiversity inviting us to unbox the gifts it had. Flora and fauna of the woods was quite unidentifiable, there was a huge diversity of birds, all of them were migrants like we were. They had flown to Africa taking several routes from around the globe and from different continental regions of the world. It was like a pot melting with several tastes in the water.

"I've found this quiet place, a tubewell shelter to make a nest in its air vent," I told Walter.

He was busy searching for potential nest locations. I gave a rhythmic chipping call to Walter that he identified and responded to it.

"cling to it, it's a good location, we would have food and water nearby and it's not a public place either," Walter praised my choice.

"Your attempt to choose the nesting site is really commendable," Walter said.

"Let's arrange nesting material to build a home for the night," I said.

We got busy flying to the deep woods to bring twigs and weave the nest. We were flying through the branches, breaking them down with our feet and bringing them to the nest with our bills. With an untiring effort of four hours, our nest was nearly ready. It needed some finishing that Walter was doing.

"It looks 2 - 3 inches from front and back and 1 inch deep, isn't that true?," I asked Walter. "you're absolutely right nivy, it's 4 inches wide as well and I've secured everything using saliva, it won't scramble or be dispersed by the winds," Walter added while he was finishing the nest.

Four days later, we met Kiki and Watt. Their nest was beautiful and the dimensions were all about the same as ours. Kiki told us about three white eggs in the nest, that will welcome a new life and a new chapter in our life….

Life goes on…

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