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Month: April 2017

Delft mama of the week: Xiaolin

Raising children in a foreign culture is always a challenge, and this week’s DelftMaMa Xiaolin is actively working to help Chinese children in the Netherlands have a strong and positive relationship with their cultural background.

I first met Xiaolin at the library last year, as she was showing some Chinese moms around, and I felt from the start that she was an astute leader and organizer. The more I have had the chance to speak with her and see her in action, the more this impression rings true. In the past two years alone, she has created a vibrant social media chat group for Chinese mothers in the Netherlands, organized many activities including a Lantern Festival celebration for over twenty families, coordinated a monthly children event on different topics (art / story / technology) and also coordinated weekly yoga class for mamas. Now, she and other like-minded moms is on the way to creat Chinese Mama’s in Nederland (CMN) association.

Xiaolin, originally from the city of Datong in Northern China, first came to Delft ten years ago as a student of chemical engineering at TU Delft. On her first day in Delft, she was paired in a group with Junju. He is now her husband, and they are parents to Yojan (2.5 years) and Minghe (11 months). Xiaolin has experiences in bringing together the best of different cultures not only as a Chinese native living in the West but also in her own marriage as Junju is from Taiwan, which is culturally similar to mainland China but does have many unique traditions.

The couple have lived all over the Netherlands, but are now happy to call Delft home once again. “After I graduated, I moved to many places including Leiden, Apedldoorn, Arnhem, and Rotterdam. But when we decided to settle down, we chose Delft, as it is an attractive city that contains both youth and old, modern and traditional. Therefore we made Delft our new hometown.”

She manages to feel very comfortable living in the Netherlands, although it is bittersweet to be separated from the rich cultural tradition of her homeland and the caring hands of her folks. She finds, “the Netherlands is a country that is not only attractive, it is also a country with values that resonate such as openness, honesty, and a balance between work of life that make us want to stay. ”

Friends describe Xiaolin as smart, dedicated, helpful, and cooperative. I would add that she is highly curious person, while she describes herself as a decisive person, “I am quite strict thinking-wise. If I think something is right, I will do it immediately. I do not think very deeply into the pros and cons of an issue. Once I have decided something, I go for it.” All of these traits surely helped Xiaolin in bringing together Chinese moms in the Netherlands.

Once Xiaolin became pregnant she decided that she needed to find a new group of friends who were either already moms or moms to be “I managed to meet many Chinese moms and decided to create the Chinese mamas moms in the Netherlands WeChat group. At that moment, I never imagined there were so many Chinese moms locally.” After only two years of existence, the Chinese Moms WeChat Group is already a large and active community with over 160 members. For those unfamiliar with the technology, WeChat is a social media application that is extremely popular and widely used in China and by Chinese speaking communities.

The moms wanted to go further, though, than simply chatting online and started to meet and discuss how they could channel their talents, interests, and shared goals into something larger.

As Xiaolin explains, “First-generation immigrants generally have a clear identity; we know who we are, we know our hometown, and we know why we came to the Netherlands. Culture-wise, though, our children are second generation immigrants, and very often the second generation of immigrants country feel lost. From their appearance, our children are from China, but from their education and experience growing up abroad they are completely different from their parents. We Chinese moms thus want to help educate our children to be a bridge between Chinese and Western culture. We want to help our children to be confident, aware of their Chinese heritage, and be proud of this identity.”

In the coming days, CMN will start its institutionalization process by publishing its mission and vision statement on a WeChat-related blog. The mission is to: 1) provide events and activities for Chinese families in the Netherlands; 2) create a shared platform for Chinese families in the Netherlands; 3) create development opportunities for Chinese families in the Netherlands and encourage and help them in the immigration process; 4) welcome foreigners and share the Chinese culture with the broader community.

The group is already actively organizing events to help transmit the beauty and richness of the Chinese culture and equip children to successfully integrate their double identity. “We worry very much that our children may forget the Chinese language and culture. We have thus decided to give the children courses and opportunities to play together. This way one day when they have started to think about their own identity and philosophy, they have not only parents to consult with but also their own friends who have similar background. These children will grow up together and share the same experiences. Hopefully, they will then not feel as lonely in their experience as second-generation immigrants often do.”

In March, CMN hosted their first art class with approximately thirty participants and are now lining up more art, storytelling, and technology classes. The challenge is not so much finding volunteers but catching up with the demand from all all interested families. According to Xiaolin, “we have some very professional and talented moms. These amazing women are willing to share their talents and help create activities for the children, but every time we announce a new class on WeChat, it is full within a half hour.”

The organization is focused on growing step by step and following through with its mission, but “there are a lot of things we don’t know yet. It is the first time we are moms, and this organization is something we can grow up together with our children.”

Xiaolin, who is active on the DelftMaMa Facebook group and has attended DelftMaMa playgroups, sees opportunities for mutual learning and sharing. “I have learned a lot so far from DelftMaMa, even just on the Facebook Group. It is a mature organization, and there is a lot we can learn from DelftMaMa. There are a lot of professional moms involved in DelftMaMa, and I would hope that one day we can sit down together and share experiences and lessons learned. I would be very enthusiastic about that.”

Juggling her career, raising two children, and being very active in associational life is a challenge, but Xiaolin shared one very effective insight that has have helped her maintain time for herself and be so effective even with such a busy schedule. “A useful hack is to find what you want to do instead of letting life push you. In this way, you find yourself more a master of your life.”

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His Royal Highness Willem Alexander King of the Netherlands is 50! and we are all celebrating him

Citizens of the Kingdom of the Netherlands*, vassals of the King Willem Alexander “the first”, let your hair down, dress up in orange from top to toe and celebrate that His Royal Highness is hitting 50 tomorrow Thursday the 27th of April.
If you arrived in the Netherlands after that date of April 2016, you should know that on Koningsdag nothing is bizarre.

(*that includes Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten)
Read more

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Happy May holidays!

The Delft MaMa blog is celebrating its first anniversary this April. Agnès Batllori Benet and I started this blog with lots of plans and even some structure, but most of all we learned most valuable lessons on the way. Agnès is moving onto other challenges while Marie Kummerlowe will take her position as one of the blog leaders.

During this past year, we have been lucky to have such great diversity of writers joining us regularly and temporarily and this is something we’re very much looking keeping this up in the future as well. Tuesdays blog posts will be published on Fridays from now on biweekly alternating with the mom of the week, which will have a bigger team of writers behind it as well.

Currently most children are enjoying their May holidays, which include the celebration of King’s Day. The toddler playgroups on Tuesdays and Fridays will go on normally during the holiday weeks, so if you’re looking for a few hours of downtime with other parents while kids are getting to know each other, that’s your place to go. If your plans aren’t still locked down, but you find yourself in the need of a day trip idea within the Netherlands, check out the DMM Pinterest page made just for this. For crafty parents (any skill level) the 2nd of May DMM is organizing a mosaic workshop. Also, don’t forget DelftMaMa Cinema Club is always open on Facebook for new and familiar faces! More ideas on what to do throughout the year, subscribe for the Delft MaMa newsletter at the bottom of this page!

Happy Spring everyone!

With lots of love to each and everyone,

Tarja van Veldhoven

 

 

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23rd of April, World book day. Let’s celebrate!

Books, roses, writers and lovers will literally take the streets of Barcelona and every city big or small in Catalonia tomorrow Sunday the 23rd of April, to honour our patron, Sant Jordi (Saint George).
Well, not just quite only to honour the patron, as we are not that devoted to patrons or saints anymore.
It is Catalans lovers’ day, and we are certainly devoted to love. Love for culture, love for history, love for flowers and love for love’s sake.

So, we will take the streets in the name of love, books and roses.

Why roses?

We give blood-red roses to our loved ones following Saint George’s legend, who fought and killed a dragon to save the Princess. From the blood that sprouted from the dragon’s neck, a rose bloomed. Saint George, a real knight, cut the flower with the same sword with which he had killed the beast and, gentleman as he was, offered the rose to the Princess, who hopelessly fell in love with him. They lived happily ever after and blood-red roses became an international symbol of love.

This legend that belongs to the universal literature was turned into a Catalan tradition on the year 1436 (15th century), marking the first roses-for-love exchange. It went uninterrupted until today, 600 years after.

Nowadays, and thanks to the Dutch flower market, roses are in as many colours as you can imagine, including black and rainbow. But the blood-red or rouge passion remain the most popular.

 

Why books?

This is a “new” tradition that started in the beginning of the 20th century (1929). It was nothing but a marketing campaign from a Valencian book publisher who thought people were not reading, hence buying, enough books.
My apologies for killing the romantic mood…

As Saint George Day was a very well-established tradition in Catalonia, and men were getting nothing in return from giving away a red rose, he took it to his advantage asking women to buy men a book to show their love and keep them culturized. It was well embraced by the Catalan society and happily celebrated by authors and publishers, who helped to keep the new tradition alive. Soon the ladies got book treats from their significant others too. This “new” tradition was never cancelled, not even during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) and the Franco’s dictatorship era (1939 – 1975), when the Catalan language and its traditions were forbidden.

In 1995, Unesco declared the 23rd of April to be the World Book Day to celebrate the deceased anniversary of universal literature writers Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote de la Mancha and William Shakespeare author of Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, … They both died exactly 401 years ago.

So, if you happen to be in Catalonia tomorrow, expect crowded streets smelling like books and roses and a festive like working day

Saint George it like a local

If you would like to embrace this lovely Catalan tradition, you only need to do the following:

  • Ladies, Inform your loved one that you, your daughter(s), mother in law, and … are expecting to get a blood-red rose.
  • Go on a family trip to the bookstore and get each of you a book.
  • Stroll around town with your flowers, books and a broad smile on your face.
    Expect to be smiled back by other fellow citizens who are celebrating Saint George too.

They are easy to spot as, like you, they will walk with a rose, a book and a smile on their faces.

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Three easy ways of becoming an active part of Delft MaMa community

Delft MaMa Children and Maternity Clothing Swap

This Saturday Delft MaMa is taking a head start on King’s Day by organizing a Children and Maternity Clothing Swap at the playgroup location KDV de Vlinderstruik in Delft on Lodewijk van Deysselhof 165. It’s a well-organized and an easy way to be kind to the environment and to our wallets by joining our efforts together.

“If one million people bought their next item of clothing secondhand instead new, we would save SIX million kilograms of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere.” [1]

What to bring? Good quality clothing in all sizes for children and expecting mothers that no longer serve you. The seasons change and you just might find yourself staring at your child’s closet trying to find out if any of the last years shorts fit them. Or perhaps your maternity pants are only hogging the space and you’d much more benefit swapping those elastic jeans to a pair of sandals and rubber boots for your toddler. Whatever the case may be, everyone’s welcome!

Image: pixabay.com

How much do the items cost? The short answer is zero. Many of us don’t have families close by and find ourselves lacking the otherwise natural circles of clothes swapping with relatives. Swapping with cousins rarely cost anything and neither does this. We encourage people to bring what no longer serve them and hopefully find the pieces that will be just right for them as well. Pieces aren’t counted, so swap will be strictly based on taking whatever serves your purposes. You’ll simply pick what you need!

The items that are left in the end you’re free to bring back home or you can choose to donate to the Delft MaMa King’s Day Sale.

More information about the swap is available here.

[1] Source

Delft MaMa King’s Day Sale

Last year Anna Kõvári of Delft MaMa organized the first King’s Day Sale all by herself.

“I just cleared a bit our house and sold the items. It was more like an experiment for me to see how I would deal with selling things to strangers. I was completely surprised by myself; I did not know that I love bargaining and selling,” Kõvári says.

It took a few hours, Kõvári made some money, which she then decided to donate to Delft MaMa. Call it a success? Absolutely!

This year DMM decided to turn on the big gear and start preparing well in advance. Tatjana Lisjak has taken an excellent lead in the project and gotten people to dig through their closets in order to support the organization. Want to learn how to donate items and more? Click here.

On King’s Day you’ll find Delft MaMa in two locations: Nieuwe Langedijk and another to be announced spot. You can drop by to see the variety of books, beautiful dresses, clothing, toys and the rest that are available for small change at these two stalls. You will also find a Delft mama volunteer on the spot with coloring sheets, boxes of raisins and other wonderful things for your little ones. If you already have everything you could ever desire for, but you feel like supporting some of our projects, there will be a box for money donations purely for the upcoming mosaic project.

Crowdfunding for the mosaic

The mosaic project was previously introduced in the blog by Oriana van der Sande.

What’s the gist? Delft MaMa is turning 10 years in 2017. To celebrate, the organization wants to treat the city on our birthday much like the Dutch people treat their family, friends and colleagues in the form of “traktatie”. The current Delft MaMa substitute chairwoman Ildikó Wooning explains further: “We are taking a wall that is tagged with graffiti and make it a lot nicer. The location we chose is a playground, so it connects nicely to the spirit of Delft MaMa. The design is a picture of a bridge, children, a mother and ducks and it embodies the feeling of bridging the gaps.”

The current substitute chairwoman Ildikó Wooning. Image: Tarja van Veldhoven

Delft MaMa has asked funds from the city and various other charity foundations, but most of all we are relying on donations. You can contribute by donating your time, money or materials. [2]

  1. Nan Deardorff McClain, well-acclaimed mosaic artist in Delft, will be leading this project with the help of volunteers. There will be five mosaic workshops available for the Delft mamas in May. It will be an exchange of talents, time and materials, according to Wooning: “We give the materials and the volunteers give us their handiwork. Those pieces will go on the wall.” The first workshop will take place on 2nd of May. You can find more information here.
  2. Through this link you can donate, or you can choose to wait until King’s Day and drop by and donate money at designated box at the stand.
  3. Did you recently brake a mirror? Do you have a pile of outdoor suitable tiles you no longer need? Then hit us up and we’ll tell you where to bring your donations or when we can pick them up.

And of course once the crowdfunding videos Wooning has been working on are released to the public, you can help by spreading the word.

[2] Any extra donations will be forwarded to the next mosaic project.

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What’s your time worth?

Yesterday I worked fifteen hours without a break. No, I’m not a life-saving surgeon or the Prime Minister – I’m a working mother who is underpaid and undervalued. Who am I undervalued by? Myself.

In 2012 I began to work as a freelance Marketing Consultant while living in Spain. My girls were aged nearly three and five at the time and in full time nursery. I had survived the sleep-deprived baby years, my energy and health was improving and my kids could finally (more or less) feed themselves and wipe their own butts. It was time to forego the part time work, take the plunge and finally use my years of experience to become self employed.

‘My days are my own!’ I silently rejoiced. ‘I will finally be paid for everything I do outside of my mummy duties.’

Oh how wrong I was.


The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have time to work – nursery was 9-5. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have clients – I had plenty of work coming my way. The problem was that I underestimated how bad I was at valuing my own self worth, and what a pushover I would be at volunteering my time now that I didn’t have a boss managing it.

Time and time again I would find myself looking at my watch thinking ‘how can it be 3pm? I haven’t done any paid work yet!’

Then things got trickier. I received a three book publishing contract for my fantasy romance series ‘The Path Keeper’ and I temporarily moved to The Netherlands with my family. I continued working and getting new marketing clients, but now on top of work and mummying and writing my books I was now also promoting them. I was up until midnight every night trying to squeeze it all in…but my bank account didn’t reflect the amount of hours I was working

After a long hard think I had to admit where I was going wrong. Tell me if I’m alone here, but I think it’s fair to say that the self-employed, especially women, and ESPECIALLY mums are really really really crap at saying no.

I’ve often wondered why us mums are the worst when it come to recognising our own self worth. Is it because for years we’ve happily worked for free changing nappies and feeding babies and forgotten that our time is actually worth something? Or is it because once we finally escape the baby years and re-enter the workforce everything (yes, everything) seems easier and more fun than dealing with screaming newborns and tantruming toddlers, so we don’t see it as hard work but actually an escape? And who wants to charge people for work that doesn’t feel all that difficult?

Once I began working for myself I was so eager to please and prove my worth, show that my time out of the workplace hadn’t affected my ability, that I was putting in more hours than I needed to and earning a fraction of what I did pre-baby.

So at what point do we drop the guilt, the sense of obligation and our embarrassment and say to clients/people in need of our time – ‘no, I can’t do that’ or ‘yes, I can….but not for free’?

Work is one thing and one thing only – an exchange of our time for money. That’s it. What we choose to spend time on outside of our allocated working hours is up to us, it’s our right to say no if we think volunteering on three school trips in one month on our only day off is too much. It’s ok to sit and watch TV on a Saturday night instead of answering emails or helping our neighbour with their CV. It’s perfectly ok to say ‘I’m sorry, I can’t’ and be kind to ourselves.

Our kids get enough of our time without having to thank us…so why should anyone else?

What happens if we let things go and say no? Nothing. No one is judging us, if anything they are realising that our time is precious and only we have the right to decide how it’s spent. Hey, they may even pay us what we deserve!

So I have made a vow to myself – from this day forth I shall no longer do things for free. Unless it directly benefits my family, business or my books I can’t (literally) afford to do anything more for nothing. I can’t.

But of course there’s always an exception…such as this article. Of course Delft Mama haven’t paid me for it, and it’s 9pm and I’m still working after having been awake since 6am. Dammit! There’s only one thing for it then, I’ll have to use this as a big advertising tool to shout about my next author event in The Hague on 1st June.

There, that’s better, I don’t feel like I’ve given away my time any longer. And now for the tricky part – how do I say no to  the PTA?

Natali writes as N J Simmonds and the first book of her YA fantasy romance series, The Path Keeper, is now available at all good English language bookshops and online (the second book ‘Son of Secrets’ is out February 2018). She will also be presenting a FREE talk about writing at the American Book Centre in The Hague 1 June at 6pm and signing copies of her book. For more information on her work, and up and coming events, visit njsimmonds.com. And to find out more about her Marketing Consultancy services visit natalidrake.com

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Delft mama of the week: Sine

Sine invites me to her house for the interview. When we step in the elevator she tells me many of her neighbours are older people. She loves it, as they are very curious about her son, Arda (4). Just like herself, her husband Faruk also originates from Turkey. When biological grandparents are a plane ride away, living among the elderly is giving their family some invaluable contacts that otherwise might be harder to come by.

It’s the first time I visit Sine in her home. The Sun is shining outside and laying rays on the two yellow armchairs in front of their living room windows. The style of the home is impeccable and it feels welcoming. Sine tells me she could’ve chosen her career path differently and pursue one of her dreams of becoming a designer. She sure has the eye and the taste level for it. However, Sine chose another one of her passions and decided to study English language and literature at the University of Gaziantep in southern Turkey. That is also where she met Faruk.

When I listen to her stories, she comes across like a bit of a nomad. Both of her parents are from Circassian descent, both of whom are born in Turkey. Circassia was a sovereign nation until the mid-19th century on the shore of the Black Sea with its own rich language and cultural heritage. Her name, Sine, is a typical Circassian name, so although born and raised in Turkey, her parents valued their heritage and Sine was already happily living between two worlds.

Her first experience outside Turkey by herself was her three-month trip to Alaska through a work and travel program and afterwards she knew she couldn’t settle in Turkey for good. During their University years Faruk applied U.S. Green Card lottery and asked her to try as well. She calls her last year at the University her “lucky year”, because not only was Sine granted a chance to study in Denmark, but she also won a Green Card. Instead of spending an entire year in Denmark, she spent three months there and then moved to New York with her husband.

The nearly seven years they spent in New York were great but tough. When Arda was born, the grandparents from both sides would fly from Turkey and babysit him one after another. “In New York we had fun, but we did work a lot. When I was studying in Turkey, I was reading about American history and about the American dream, but in New York life was different. You don’t have much time to spend with your family,” Sine points out. When Arda was born, Faruk didn’t get to see him almost at all. Luckily Sine’s work at a non-profit organization was more flexible, but in the long run something needed to change. Out of all places, the family relocated to Oklahoma.

The first three months in Oklahoma were great, but soon enough Sine realized she misses the big international community around her, which she had gotten used to while working in Manhattan. Some years in, Sine realized she wasn’t very happy in Oklahoma. The window of the opportunity to move to another country was closing in, because Arda was getting older and soon they would have to think about settling down for a longer period.

In 2014 the family visited Maastricht during their holiday in Europe. It was then the spark for the Netherlands was ignited. In 2016 Sine’s husband arrived in Delft for a job interview and in September they moved to this picturesque town. It wasn’t a smooth transition, especially with the housing and picking a school, but one of the aspects that made the move easier was a great online community happy and quick to answer Sine’s questions. “I found Delft MaMa when I was searching for how to do something in Delft. Whenever I had questions in my mind I asked them. I joined the group before I came here and they helped me a lot about many questions, and got me socializing quickly”, Sine says. Sine also took part in a DMM organized soft-landing in Delft, or SLiDe program for short, and after seven months of experience on living in Delft she felt confident enough to mentor another Turkish newcomer.

Because of her keen eye, Sine has been volunteering for the DMM even further to help with the 10-year anniversary preparations. “I like doing things like decorating and currently I have enough time to help with these kinds of things. A lot of other organizations in the Netherlands require a lot of Dutch. Delft MaMa is more international”, our mom of the week points out.

People often ask Sine if they moved to the Netherlands, because statistically some of the happiest kids in the world live there, but she tells me it wasn’t the reason. “To me it seems the kids are happy, because from my point of view it’s such a luxurious thing to spend breakfast time with family in the morning, then bring the kids to school that is at a walking or cycling distance, have time to stay at school for a moment, go to work and be back home for dinner.”

In the end, when I ask about Sine’s cultural identity, she says to me she feels more Circassian than Turkish, more American than Turkish, but when she must say where home is, it’s Turkey. “Maybe in 10 years I’ll say I’m more Dutch, who knows. To me, it’s having the best of both worlds. I want my son to grow up in an environment with people from different cultures. We had that in New York and I loved that aspect so much. Delft is no New York, but it has a big international community. I feel so lucky,” Sine says happily.

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Pieces of us

When you move places, countries, cultures, you know pretty much what you leave behind, but you never truly know what lays ahead. You get a bit excited, you gather information, you make plans. And no matter how good you prepare yourself, you find yourself at a certain point in this new place, away from what feels familiar, struggling to put back all the (missing) pieces in your life.

When I moved to Delft, I knew I needed an international community to help me with what I needed back then: to help my daughter the best in her international transition. For me, finding Delft Mama was just a few clicks away. I immediacy found gatherings and get togethers which made me meet interesting people. Later on, just a question here and there, and many Delft mamas were always eager to share their knowledge and information with others.

Building such a vibrant and strong community does not just happened by chance. But I am sure when Lucie Herraiz Cunningham started Delft MaMa 10 years ago, she could not imagine where it stands now. All the international parents involved in so many projects, helping each other, and helping the city of Delft as well. Because, there is what we all have in common,  the beautiful city we live in.

Image: Nan Deardorff McClain

One of the activities this year, to mark the 10th anniversary of Delft MaMa, is the nicest community project of making a beautiful, big mosaic on an “ugly”, empty wall. One of our Delft mamas, Nan Deardorff MacClain, who you might know from various mosaic art projects in the city centre, will be coordinating this project.

Image: Nan Deardorff McClain

The mosaic project is going to be a wonderful tribute to the awesome organization that Lucie started 10 years ago to help international women connect and support each other during the demanding years of mothering babies and young children. The mosaic, once approved by Gemeente Delft and funded, with a combination of grants and a crowd-funding effort, will be installed at the Achtertuin playground, a place that has a large, vandalized wall. We will be including neighbors, hopefully during their annual straatfeest, as well as Delft Mama members and their families at a picnic at the Delftse Hout on June, 25th. Other workshops will happen in May during the mama’s nights out and at the weekly playgroups. The installation of the mosaic, once it is completed will happen in August, if all goes according to plan!

Keep an eye on the calendar and the different events on our Facebook page. You all can participate, and add the little pieces of your own personality and artistic skills to this amazing collaboration. Because Delft MaMa is all of us. And this mosaic will be an unique, urban, work of art. Made by pieces of us.

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