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Dear Family and Friends!

We hope you had a wonderful Chanukkah &/or Christmas, and that you will have a very Happy New Year!

We had a nice and quiet Christmas here in England. The weather in England has been unseasonably mild, but we are not complaining! Timothy has gotten to work from home this Christmas/New Year’s week, so we are just relaxing and getting odds/ends done for when little Evie comes!

2015 was another exciting year for us. We moved from Israel to England. Timothy has been having an awesome time at his new job. He is working with such awesome people, and on so many cool projects! When Timothy is not working (and sometimes when he is), we traveled!! Not surprising right?!?! This year we went to Israel (for a wedding) & Jordan in May, France (ICML Conference) in June, California (Google HQ) in August, Southern England (Tim’s B-Day) in September, and Northern England (Our Babymoon) in October! Not to mention the entire time we were traveling, little Evie was with us!  (We found out shortly after our trip to Israel/Jordan.)

2016 is going to be such an exciting year. We have our hospital bags packed and ready for when Ms. Evelyn decides to join us. But other than that, we are not sure what to expect! (The story of our lives!)

So far on our 2016 agenda, Timothy will have a few weeks of Paternity leave. We are looking forward to quality time as a new family. Timothy hopes to attend a couple of conferences that happen to be in some pretty cool places. Our parents are planning to visit us in England, and we are planning a trip to the States as well. But life/work always throws a few curve balls our way, so who knows where and what 2016 has in store for us.

We really hope you had a wonderful 2015 and an even better 2016!

 

Our trip to the Lake District was just a little vacation we wanted to take, since Tim had some extra vacation. However, the hip thing to do now is to take a “baby moon” when you’re pregnant (according to pregnancy websites: it’s kinda like a honeymoon, but before the baby is born). So we decided to call this trip our “Baby Moon”.

Day 1- Monday, October 26

From Harpenden to Keswick (a town in the Lake District and the “w” in Keswick is silent) via A1(M) A1 (British Highway: Arterial road 1/Motorway 1) the trip was roughly 286 Miles. Timothy did ALL of the driving to Keswick. It was roughly 5 1/2 hours with a few stops. The drive was more scenic, than if we took just the Motorway. It was a bright and sunny English day, and the fall foliage was just gorgeous the whole way!

Once in Keswick, we checked into our wonderful B&B, the Ellergill B&B. It was recommended by Rick Steves, and Rough Guides, and so do we! We used Rick Steves’ book and Rough Guides, along with a video Rick Steves posted on Youtube about the Lake District to plan our trip. The B&B was just around the corner form the main market street and several restaurants/pubs! It was also about a 10 minute walk to Derwentwater (a lake).

That evening, we walked to the lake shore right at twilight. It was so peaceful and beautiful. Once it became dark, we went to town for dinner and turned in early.

Day 2– Tuesday, October 27

We woke up bright and early to walk to the lake shore before breakfast. Once again it was so peaceful and even more beautiful in the early morning sun light. Timothy and I really lucked out, our first day was a beautiful sunny/dry day! After our early morning walk, we went back to our B&B for breakfast! A Full English (vegetarian) Breakfast- eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, toast, with juice and coffee/tea. It was very good, and a perfect way to start the day!

Our host recommended we walk 1/2 way around Derwentwater– going west towards Nichol End Marine, and then south past Catbells around the lake to Mary Mount Hotel for lunch. The was was relatively easy. The 4 1/2-5 mile hike should have taken about 2 hours, but being 7 months pregnant, it took us more like 3 hours, with lots of stops for pictures and taking in the beauty of the Lake District.

Once we got to the Mary Mount Hotel, we were ready for lunch! The pub at the hotel had large windows with a great view of the lake and Catbells fells (a local mountain). It also had a ton of bird feeders, and a bird guide for us to learn about the different birds!

From the Mary Mount Hotel, we could take the Keswick Launch Company boat ride back to Keswick. The ride was very enjoyable, and we got to enjoy more of the lake. From there we walked through town and back to our hotel to relax, before dinner.

Day 3– Wednesday, October 28

After sleeping in (or trying too), we had another Full English Breakfast, before heading out for a hike to Castlerigg Stone Circle. Our original plan was to drive, but Google Maps said it was only 1.8 miles (one-way). So we decided to walk. Not a smart move. When we started walking it was overcast, and shortly into our walk it started to rain (lightly). Then about the last quarter or half (it felt like more) of the walk was UP HILL!!! It was tough, but I did pretty good for a pregnant lady! Once we got to the stone circle, it stopped raining and we had an amazing view from the top of the hill of the surrounding areas. It was breath taking. After taking lots of pictures, we started to walk back. Then it started to POUR!! It was an interesting walk back to town, and we even got lost a little. After lunch at a local cafe, we relaxed at our B&B until Dinner time.

Day 4– Thursday, October 29

Once again, we tried to sleep in, but it is not as easy as it seems! We had another Full English Breakfast before heading to the Southwestern corner of the Lake District to Muncaster Castle. The hour long drive was very scenic and beautiful. However, it was very stressful. English roads are very narrow and windy! Plus this road had lots of sheep and cows roaming freely! We even got in to a few “traffic jams” with the sheep and cows!

Luckily, even though the morning was wet, shortly into our drive the rain cleared up and turned into another beautiful day. We toured the castle (that is still lived in), the grounds, and a owl/eagle/hawk sanctuary! We also went though their family friendly scary halloween maze, and watched a spectacular bird show! Thankfully, I only had 1 heart attack during the show.

We then headed back to Keswick for dinner, and another relaxing evening.

Day 5– Friday, October 30

It was sad to leave the Lake District Friday morning after another Full English Breakfast, but we were ready to go home. Plus there is always laundry, and house work to do after a vacation. The drive back was LONG! We went down the M1 (motorway). And there was a lot of construction and traffic! It probably took us 7 hours (including lunch break). This time, Timothy started out driving, but after lunch I drove, and did a pretty good job! 🙂 We were very thankful to be home, even though we highly enjoyed our “babymoon,” and hope to go back to the Lake District one day! There was still so much for us to see and do, and so much more hiking to do.

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For Timothy’s birthday, we took a nice day trip to Southern England! It was nice to relax on a coach bus, and listen to our amazing guide. We really enjoyed this trip! Plus, the weather was AMAZING for England! Our first stop, Leeds Castle was breathtakingly beautiful! We got to explore the castle, which was restored by an American who bought it 1926, and the pretty garden with amazing views (for those of you who love golf, they have an amazing course). It is definitely a must see! Then we went to Canterbury Cathedral. It was really neat to visit together. There is so much history and beauty at this cathedral! The architecture and art in this cathedral is very impressive.  Lastly, we went to the coast to view the White Cliffs of Dover! The sky was so clear we could see all the way across the channel, to see FRANCE! It was amazing. We had such a fun day together.

Description of Trip:

“Escape the hustle-bustle of London for a day and travel to the English countryside for a tour of Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral and Dover. Enjoy a private viewing of beautiful Leeds Castle before the doors open to the public, get an exclusive tour inside UNESCO World Heritage–listed Canterbury Cathedral, and admire the symbolic White Cliffs of Dover.”(Viator/Evan Evans Tours)

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Timothy’s parents visited England for the first time this past month! We had a great time showing them around the St. Albans area, and of course LONDON!

Timothy’s mom arrived first. She was able to go with us to our anatomy ultra sound, where we discovered Peanut was a very healthy (and maybe stubborn) little GIRL! 🙂 Then the site seeing began! We showed her around St. Albans, London, and Hampton Court Palace. Also, one evening Tim took us to the theater to see WICKED. It was a lot of fun.

Then about a week later Timothy’s dad arrived! A really cool part of their trip was that Christopher’s (Timothy’s younger brother) trip to London/Amsterdam overlapped with his parents, so he hung out with us a couple of days! While Timothy’s dad was here, we went to St. Albans, of course, and in London we visited the British National Gallery, the Tower of London, Westminster Abby, and went on a Thames River boat cruise to see all the major sites (Big Bend, Parliament, St. Paul’s, etc.). On their final day in England, Timothy took his dad to Bletchley Park (iconic WWII code breaking location), while Mrs. Mann and I had an afternoon at the spa.

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Where in the World are the Mann’s?

Our summer has been just as busy as always, and we have had a lot of fun along the way. Our summer technically started with our trip to Israel and Jordan. However, I’ve already blogged about that trip, so I’ll start right after! First, we had a nice visit from my Aunt Marie (my mom’s sister) and Uncle Glenn Claire. They were in England for a cruise and a trip to Europe, and were able to spend some time with us.

Then we found out we are expecting our first child, along with celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary! Timothy and I are so thankful for 8 wonderful years of marriage and almost 12 years of being best friends.

Then the traveling began (with some English day trips in between)…

First trip: Just Timothy! Timothy went to RLDM (Reinforcement Learning and Decision Making Conference) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and presented a paper with our good friend Dan Mankowitz from the Technion (Israel). This was Timothy’s first time in Edmonton, and was shocked at how similar Alberta was to College Station!

Second trip: Another conference! We are so blessed that I (Laura) am able to travel with Timothy on business trips. Both of us went to Lille, France for ICML (International Conference of Machine Learning)! Timothy had another paper he wrote with some other friends from the Technion to present! It was a really fun week, because we got to see so many friends from Israel- in France! We also did a lot of site seeing in Lille, including their zoo!

Third trip: Both of us went on a last minute trip to Mountain View, California! Thankfully, Google (Alphabet) HQ is about 35 minute drive from my dad’s place (in good traffic)! It was awesome to be back in the U.S. of A, spend time with my dad, and eat lots and lots of food! Timothy went to his first Raider’s Game, and we both had our first Pro-Football tailgate! It was a great game, and the best part was the RAIDERS WON! Then I got to go to two Oakland A’s games (vs. L.A. Dodger game & Tampa Bay Rays), and Timothy got to go to his first Oakland A game (vs. the Rays)! Even though the A’s lost against Tampa Bay, we had a great time! It was Star War’s themed, with lots of characters and the best part was the Star Wars Firework show!!  In addition to our weekend fun, during the week Timothy had a great time at Google HQ. He really enjoyed geeking out with all the Mountain View people, working on projects at HQ, and checking out the awesome facilities.

End of Summer: As our summer winds down, we have lots of family visiting us in England! Timothy’s mom will be here for about 2 ½ weeks, Christopher (Tim’s youngest brother) will be here as well for a couple of days, and then Timothy’s dad will be here for a week!

Baby Update: We will be 20 weeks on Saturday, August 29th! We are 1/2 way there! We have a couple of appointments this week and should know the baby’s gender soon!!! We will post a baby post soon!

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Just a few months after moving to England, Timothy and I were back in Israel! Our good friends Dan and Shirley were getting married (it went off without a hitch!)! It was my first Jewish wedding and it was awesome! The Rabbi did everything in Hebrew, and then he would explain it in English! The wedding was beautiful, the couple were so happy and beautiful,  the venue was beautiful, the food was good, and the party was a lot of fun. We are so happy we were able to share in our friends happy day!

Since we were going back to Israel, we wanted to do some things we didn’t do before, and also do some things we loved! First we went to Jaffa (South of Tel Aviv), Eilat, and Petra (see post below), which were places we hadn’t visited! Then we were back in Haifa, where we met with friends, spent 2 days at Hof HaCarmel swimming and had fun, we ate a lot of Israeli food, and drank LOTS of Hafuk (Israeli lattes!).

Enjoy the pictures! (Click to enlarge the gallery!)

Jordan – 2 Day Tour 

First Day Tour of PETRA – “Departing Eilat early morning we cross into Jordan and head straight to the ancient city of Petra. The tour takes in the most popular highlights of Petra beginning with the Treasury and the Siq Canyon and heading right through the main centre of the site. After lunch in Petra we have some free-time… take an optional hike up to The Monastery on Jabel A-Deir…” *Info provided by Desert Eco Tours

Ali our tour guide was amazing! There were 13 of us on the Petra tour (I think) and Ali learned all of our names! He told us interesting fact along the drive from the Jordanian border at Aquaba to Petra. One interesting quote is that we were only 12 km from the Saudi Arabian border! And from Aquaba we can see Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel! So cool!

Petra itself was spectacular. Ali was very knowledgeable about the sight. It is about a 4 km hike from the Visitor Center to the Treasury, in which we hiked through the “siq” or canyon. We saw the aqueducts and terracotta “pipes” along the way. While there were tombs along the way, the iconic and most spectacular Treasury was amazing to see as we walked through the canyon walls. After marveling at the Treasury, we walked down to the Palace Tombs. This was where the tour ended for the one-day tour group as they had to walk back 4 km to the bus to head back to Israel. Since we were staying overnight for the Wadi Rum tour, we got to stay as long as we liked. We had lunch at the end of the Ancient Roman City that is located in the middle of Petra. After that, we hiked to the Monastery. It was over 800 steps in the hot desert sun. Some people took donkeys, which seemed frightening because there was no railing and the donkeys were quick and the passengers looked petrified! The hike up to the Monastery was definitely worth it! It was a beautiful sight! After we came back, we explored the ancient Roman city (Colonnaded Street), then hiked up to the Royal Tombs. By then we were exhausted. But the hike back to the visitor center was nice. Seeing the Treasury in the late afternoon was beautiful. It was less crowded and just spectacular.

*After our wonderful day in Petra, we were taken to the Ammarin Bedouin Camp http://www.bedouincamp.net/enter.html. It was my favorite part of the trip! We stayed in a goat haired tent, that had nice thick matting, and super warm blankets. The camp had real bathrooms and showers, plus a generator that ran from sundown til 10pm. Timothy and I walked around the camp, and sat the around the fire drinking “shie” (tea). Also, there was a herd of goats on the side of one of the mountains! It was so cool! Our hosts were very nice, and helped us practice our Arabic before serving us a very delicious dinner. Then we sat around the fire some “shie” and enjoying star gazing. It was so beautiful being surrounded by mountains, sitting by a warm fire, looking at the stars with my wonderful husband. It reminded us of our trips to Big Bend.

In the morning after we woke up we had more “shie” and were served a wonderful breakfast. Then we walked around the camp a little bit more while we waited for Mohhamad, our Wadi Rum guide to pick us up. Right before our driver came, we saw a DESERT FOX! It was so cool. Plus, we got to see more goats on the mountains. I highly recommend staying at a Bedouin camp if you stay overnight near Petra or Wadi Rum! It is a great experience and the hosts are so friendly!

Second Day Tour of WADI RUM – “This day covers the highlights of Wadi Rum. Having arrived at the village of Rum inside the nature reserve, we board  4X4 jeeps, driven by professional Bedouin drivers and journey to the sandstone area of Wadi Rum. Here we go off-road into its unique landscape and get right off the beaten track to explore rarely travelled ancient merchant routes. The enchanting Wadi Rum is an area almost surreal in its distinctive beauty. We cross red sand dunes and explore the beautifully eroded pillars of sandstone rock. It was this area of Wadi Rum that so inspired T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Wadi Rums beauty remains intact and its breathtaking scenery is still an inspiration for those who travel there. Lunch is enjoyed en route in the great outdoors. The tour includes the Seven Pillars, Khaz Ali canyon and Jabel Um Asharim. Returning by evening to Eilat.” *Info provided by Desert Eco Tours

Wadi Rum was so much fun! First we stopped at the “visitors center” and saw the Seven Pillars. Then we drove through the village where Timothy and I met our camel guide! We had a private camel ride through the desert. We rode for about 30 minutes, then took a “shie” break, and then we took another 30 minute ride with our camels! It was a really cool experience. We really enjoyed it! Then we drove to HUGE sand dune that we got to play on and raced down. It was really cool. Then we hiked through a canyon. It was really neat. Also, I did some pretty scary rock climbing. Tim was not happy. Then we had an amazing desert barbeque (and we saw another DESERT FOX). It was delicious! After lunch, we hiked up a pretty large rock formation that had a “bridge” we got to cross and take pictures on! Then it was time to head home. On our way back to Eilat, we stopped at the 1916 train station where a train from the movie Lawrence of Arabia is still located.

While Timothy and I have been blessed to go on so many adventures over the years, it’s hard to believe they just keep getting better and better. We highly recommend Desert Eco Tours (http://www.desertecotours.com/English/ ) and Jordan Experience Tours (http://www.jordanexperience.com/), who work together.

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We are so excited about 2015! We have so many plans for the new year and we are excited to share our new adventures with you all! We are really hoping 2015 will be a BIG year for us and you! Happy New Years!

Here are some Israeli memories from the past year (pictures from our friends Dan & Shirley!)…

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Merry ChristmasDear Family and Friends,

Over the past year, Timothy and I have experienced several ups and downs. Living in Israel has been wonderful at times, but also difficult especially when my mother was sick, and when she passed away. Or now with Timothy’s mom going through treatment again. However, we are thankful for being able to spend so much time with family, despite the distance.  Tim got to spend time with his family at Easter and at the end of May, while I got to spend 7 weeks with my mom and dad, then another 8 weeks with my dad. Plus my dad visited us in Israel! (See pictures in post below).

We truly appreciate all of the love and support you have given to us, and both of our families during the hard times, but also during the good. We are especially excited about moving to London and Tim’s job! We are ready for a new beginning, and some new adventures.

We hope and pray that your 2015 will be as exciting as ours, filled with lots of love, health, and family.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Years!

Love- Laura and Timothy

Manns Dec. 2014

This past week, I got to spend a wonderful week with my dad in Israel. It was a trip both of my parents wanted to make, but I’m glad my dad was still able to come before we move. What was really cool about this trip was that it was Timothy and my first time visiting Ceasarea, and my first time visiting the Sea of Galilee area. It was nice to have some new experience with my dad. Below the itinerary for my dad’s trip along with information about the different sites we saw and of course pictures.

December 6- Dad arrived in Israel and Lunch at the beach

Day one of dad’s trip, we went to the Beach (Hof HaCarmel) for lunch/dinner and walked the promenade. It was a great way to start my dad’s trip.

December 7- Ceasarea and Hof HaCarmel Beach

On day two, Timothy, my dad and I took the train from Haifa (Hof HaCarmel Station) to Benyamina, and from there took a taxi to the Ceasarea National Park. On our way back we enjoyed drinks on the beach and the sun setting.

About Ceasarea: First founded as a small Phoenician port city, the city was called Stratons Towers, an apparent distortion of the name of the Sidonese god Ashtoreth. In 90 BCE, the town was captured by Alexander Jannaeus and annexed into the Hasmonean kingdom.

In 31 BCE, after winning the Battle of Actium, Augustus Caesar gifted the town, along with the entire shoreline of Eretz Israel, to Herod. Herod, for his part, named the town for Augustus. He built the city between 22 – 10 BCE, constructing a major port, numerous recreational facilities, bathhouses and temples. The port was built in Ceasarea because of its location in the center of the country, in close proximity to agricultural lands and convenient access routes. (From National Park Website)

December 8- Laura’s Personal Tour of the Old City- Jerusalem

Day three, Timothy had an early flight to Montreal, and my dad and I took the bus from Haifa to Jerusalem. I was pretty impressed with my ability to communication and navigate the trip, while not getting us lost! Since I have been to the Old City several times (even on an official tour), I felt confident enough showing my dad around the city by myself. We entered through the Jaffa Gate, and visited the Via Dolorosa (Stations of the Cross) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We then went to the Western Wall to pray and to see a good view of the Dome of the Rock. Then we went out the Lions Gate and walked to the base of the Mount of Olives to see the Eastern (Golden) Gate. We walked throughout the old city, enjoying the sites, sounds, and the holy places there.

December 9Tour of Masada and Dead Sea

Day 4 professional tour of Masada and Dead Sea. About tour: As we descend 1,200 meters from Jerusalem through the wilderness of the Judean Desert to the Dead Sea, we pass the Inn of the Good Samaritan and stop briefly at the “sea level” marker. In the distance we see Jericho, the oldest city in the world, perhaps due to its luxuriant oasis and its proximity to the Dead Sea, an ancient source of salt and we recall the conquest of Jericho by the Israelite tribes, lead by Joshua, who had just crossed the Jordan River into the Promise Land. (Josh 6) We continue along the shores of the Dead Sea to Masada. As we ascend in the cable car, we look down the Snake path which was used two thousand years ago when King Herod build this fortress like palace. In fact, there were two palaces, as well as a swimming pool and a well-preserved beautiful bath-house. Maintained by a small Roman legion after the death of Herod, it was seized by Jewish zealots at the beginning of the Jewish revolt against the Romans which culminated in the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE. We stand over the ramp, built for the Romans by their Jewish slaves, which facilitated the breaching of the wall after three year siege. The synagogue, which was built by Herod, proved conclusively to those who doubted that there were synagogues even while the Second Temple stood. We see where the first piece of the parchment to be discovered in an Israeli archaeological excavation was found… On our return journey we pass the oasis of Ein Gedi where David hid from the wrath of King Saul (1 Sam 24:1) and Qumran where the two thousand year old Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Finally we enjoy a therapeutic swim in the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, wehre the water is almost 35% salt and even those who can not swim can float. (From Bein Harim Tours website)

December 10- Tour of Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee

Day 5 professional tour of Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. About tour: Passing Herzliya and Netanya, we travel north along the scenic coastal plain and then turn eastward through the plain of Armageddon (Rev 16:16), with a view of biblical Megiddo. (11 Ch. 35:20-27) As we make the assent to Nazareth we briefly stop at the Mount of Precipitation (Luke 4:28-30). Our first stop in Nazareth is the beautiful Church of Annunciation built on the site where the angel Gabriel appeared before Mary (Luck 1:26). Adjoining it is the Church of St. Joseph, recalling the carpentry where Jesus and Joseph worked. As we leave Nazareth on the way towards the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, we pass Cana, site of the first wonder performed by Jesus, the turning the water to wine. (John 2:1-12). On the sea front at the Mount Beatitude, we visit both Capernaum, home of Peter, and the Benedictine Church commemoration the miracles of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fish. (Mark 6:30-44). Continuing along the shores of the Sea of Galilee we recall how Jesus calmed the stormy waters and walked on them. (Mark 4:35-41 and 6:45-52). With the Golan Heights in the background, we pass modern Tiberias, built on the ruins of the city built two thousands years ago and named in honor of the Roman emperor Tiberius. ON the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, at Yardenit, there may be an opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River. (Mark 1:9-11) On our return journey we will pas Mount Tabor, site of the Transfiguration. (Matt 17:1-9) (From Bein Harim Tours website)

December 11– Acre (Akko/Acco) (Happy Birthday Lyle!)

Day 6, since I have been to Acre several times, I gave my dad a personal tour of Acre, also known as Akko. We took the bus from Haifa to Akko and back. About Acre: It is a city in the northern coastal plain region of northern Israel at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. The city occupies an important location, as it sits on the coast of the Mediterranean, linking the waterways and commercial activity with the Levant. Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world. Historically, it was a strategic coastal link to the Levant. In crusader times it was known as St. John d’Acre after the Knights Hospitaller of St. John order who had their headquarters there. (From Wikipedia)

December 12– Bahai’ Gardens and German Colony

Day 7, Fridays can be a tricky day to travel since at sun down shabbat starts, so we stayed local and visited the Bahai Gardens which is about a 20 minute bus ride from my apartment. After the garden tour, we went to the German Colony for a drink before taking a bus home and preparing for shabbat. About the Gardens: The Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa comprise a staircase of nineteen terraces extending all the way up the northern slope of Mount Carmel… At its heart stands the golden-domed Shrine of the Bab, which is the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith. (From Gan Bahai Website)

December 13– Relaxed on Shabbat and visited the Technion Campus (Timothy’s work)

December 14– Flight back to the US

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