Tag: college

“Sea (ob)Sessions”  – My ocean life

“Sea (ob)Sessions” – My ocean life

I had my first swim lesson when I was around 4. My Mam told me the story of how I was latched on to the side of the pool, terrified for my life, bawling my eyes out, looking at her with “why would you do this to me?” in my eyes. All my Mam wanted to do was take me home, but if she brought me out of the pool she knew that I’d never get back in the water.

16 years later, I’ve done kayaking, surfing, scuba, snorkelling, coasteering,  and kept up the swimming. Over the next few months I hope to keep up the trend, becoming a beach lifeguard, surf instructor, D** scuba diver, small boat coxswain, do a triathlon and join the Irish Navy reserve.

I’ve spent the vast majority of my life in and around the sea. I’ve always been around the sea air, and I even get headaches when I go inland for too long. I could never get the hang of field sports; hurling, football, soccer and rugby, I just couldn’t get the knack for it. But once I got in the water it didn’t matter anymore, when I got into the water I never wanted to get out, I was comfortable, I was home

I started kayaking when I was 11, it became a Sunday ritual to go down to Aghada pier and drag this kayak twice the size of me into the freezing October water (cold water is a re-occurring theme in Ireland). I did this every sunday for 3 years and became comfortable with the currents, waves, tides and being out of my depth. I then got my own kayak and took it out on my own when I was old enough that my parents wouldn’t have a heart attack when I went out. The most memorable moment I’ve had is being a few 100 metres offshore during a hollywood sunset, and spending ages staring down into the dark blue water underneath. I was completely transfixed, and hooked for life.

Kayaking was is great to relax but it didn’t feel immersive enough to just sit in a boat and scoot around the place. To experience and harmonise with the Sea fully, I started surfing. Surfing is one of Ireland’s fastest growing sports, and easy to see why; the thrill of catching a wave and being shot forward towards the shore is addictive to say the least, and the surfing bug infects everyone that tries it. I can remember the first time I stood up on a board back in 2013 was for a wobbly 2 seconds, but that was all it took. That summer I spent a total of €700 on surf gear(!) but it was €700 well spent and paid off over the past few years. While my board is not a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, the bright blue deck makes the usually dull water in Ireland look that little bit better. It makes me feel a bit better.10898243_877506875633219_8028826309748516072_n

For that bit of extra thrill, Coasteering is hard to beat. This encompasses my love for both the sea and the cliffs I always end up climbing or exploring. It involves traversing a stretch of rocky coastline both in and out of water… Yep, cliff jumping. It’s the best way to see the coast not normally accessible any other way, never mind the fact it’s mental and hilarious! There’s no need for clunky boats or equipment, just a life-vest and helmet. Simples!

This year when I got back to college I had a little spare money from working all summer, I also live in the city too which meant I had all the time in the world to go with that spare cash! UCC has a massive range of clubs, but one that caught my eye as a fresher was UCC Sub-Aqua club. The club consists of scuba divers, free-divers and snorkelers and offer CFT (Irish underwater council) qualifications to its members for much cheaper than it would be to start through private instructors. Through the club I’ve managed to go snorkelling in Lough Hyne, Ireland’s oldest marine reserve filled to the brim with life, and done scuba training in the NMCI ahead of D* qualifying dives after christmas. Apart from that, I’ve met some fantastic people. The club is like a family, where everyone participates, is welcoming, helpful, and friendly.

This is something I’ve never had on this level with any of the other watersports I’ve tried; In surfing people will always watch your back and give tips and a helping hand, but because as divers we place our lives in each others hands every time we dive, and need that level of trust. But mostly I’ve found that people who share a love of the sea are all just genuinely nice, down to earth people? It’s the only walk of life where I haven’t come across someone I’d cross the street to avoid, whether it’s surfing, scuba or otherwise!

My obsession with the ocean has defined who I am for the past number of years and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to balance my study while swimming like Michael Phelps to train for a beach lifeguard qualification starting in January. Surprisingly for someone so aquatic, I’ve the lane swimming skills of your average rock, so this is an intense challenge but means next year I’ll be a qualified lifeguard which I’ll follow-up with a surf instructor course. All going swimmingly *pun alert* I’ll be a professional lifeguard and surf instructor come next summer.

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While all this is going on, at the same time I’m training to build my fitness levels to a standard high enough to enlist in the Naval Service Reserves in the next few weeks. I’ve always had an interest in volunteering with the RNLI or Coast Guard, but restrictions mean I’m too far from any station to join. The idea of the Naval reserves came to mind at the end of summer during the maritime festival in Ringaskiddy, where I got the chance to go on board the LE Samuel Beckett and speak to the personnel. It’s a new opportunity to push myself even further both physically and mentally, and to train to a level high enough to go out into the North Atlantic. Along side weapons training, it will also include sea survival, fire fighting, damage control as well as foot drill, and further opportunities in small boat handling qualifications (RIB and sail yacht).

The next few years of my life will undoubtably revolve around the sea, and the more time I spend there then the deeper my obsession will become. Thanks to my Mam for not pulling me out of the pool on my first swim lesson.

Update:

  • I’ve started my beach lifeguard qualification with Ardmore Adventures every Friday night, and training for it 3-4 times a week.
  • Navy reserve selection has been announced and due to receive a date for fitness tests in the next few weeks.
  • One dive away from qualifying with CMAS D* diving cert, hopefully done in next month or so.
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“A Grand Day Out” – Weekend guide to Kerry

“A Grand Day Out” – Weekend guide to Kerry

Remember when Wallace & Gromit built that rocket in their basement to go to the moon? All they brought were some armchairs and cream crackers and they were happy out, and we can do the same! Ok, maybe not the moon part, or the rocket part but I mean a trip with only the bare essentials and still have a good run of it.

This is for all of us out there who wonder what to do with our lives every second weekend and scroll through Facebook for hours instead of getting out there. We’re students. We’re poor. But we can still make the most of what pocket change SUSI gives us.

For those of us in and around the Munster region I’d recommend a roadtrip to Killarney, via scenic West Cork of course, I did something similar over summer. In Killarney there is of course Killarney Park. It’s free in for cars and no entry fee either, perfect for cash strapped pockets. The landscapes and walks around the park can easily take up a day and all you need to bring with you is probably a lunch and not much else.

If you don’t have a car, Killarney is pretty well connected with public transport and wouldn’t cost a bomb. There’s also more hotels and hostels you could shake a stick at, and range from €10- €200+ so take your pick.

Cafes, chippers and restaurants galore in the town center so no excuses for going hungry! Killarney also has a lively nightlife with your usual pubs and clubs, being very tourist orientated you’ll find something to your liking.

Just a short run up the road is the seaside village of Dingle, or at least it used to be a village before a certain dolphin decided to move in. You could easily fill a day here wandering around the village between the knick-knack shops, restaurants, aquarium and waiting for Fungi boats to load up.

While in Dingle, be sure to try the craft ice creams in one of the many parlours around the place… and don’t be boring with your chocolate chip and vanilla scoops, try raspberry and brown bread flavors, trust me! Something else to try is the infamous deep-friend Mars bar with ice cream, just do it.

Visiting Dingle also constitutes a compulsory boat trip to see the man, ahem dolphin, himself. Student tickets are €15 and it’s a no-see-no-fee, i.e: If you don’t see Fungi, it’s free. A very worthwhile trip and a chance to see an amazing animal up close, just be aware the harbor entrance is very choppy 90% of the time and sea legs are an advantage.

So you’ve 2 days filled up, this is where you can call it a weekend and go home to the beige overlay of normality, or you could go adventuring. You’re in Kerry: mountains, beaches, forests, and castles? Climb a mountain, Go camping, try surfing (or go swimming in the lovely Kerry weather). Or re-enact the Shrek and Donkey scene with the dragon when you find that castle!

Use your imagination, what happens in the Kingdom, stays in the Kingdom. 

“She’s so stupid!” – The Blame Game

“She’s so stupid!” – The Blame Game

I’m not normally one to voice my opinion on society’s inner workings. I don’t get involved in feminism, animal rights or religious debates normally, I have my own opinions on them but doesn’t mean I need to tell everyone I meet. But a story that recently popped up on the interweb and how people have reacted to it have rubbed me up the wrong way.

Pippa McKinney went viral after she met Matty Steven on a night out in Manchester a few weeks ago. The pair met in a nightclub and hit it off straight away, got the shift, swapped numbers and went their separate ways at the end of the night. Next morning Pippa discovered the number she got was wrong and didn’t work when she tried to contact him. While she got a number, she also got a photo with him and decided to post this on Facebook to try track him down.

Granted if most people got a dodgy number they’d say “Ah well” and 200move on, but she was hoping Matty would be her prince charming or something and this photo the glass slipper. Not long after the photo went up, he was found!… after his girlfriend was tagged in the photo!

So Pippa got with Matty while Matty already had a girlfriend. Scandalous! This came up in conversation during the week after college one day. The articles were read and outbursts of laughter exchanged. As far as I could gather, the general consensus was that Pippa was to blame for being so stupid.

Comments were passed along the lines of “She’s so stupid! How could she think that it was a good idea to post that photo? She’s only herself to blame for all the abuse she’s getting now!

At this point my blood was boiling. I had to excuse myself from the conversation to avoid an argument. Why was it all Pippa’s fault? Why did she deserve abuse? She’s human, she did what thousands of us students do every week: Fall for someone on a night out. I’m not in full support of everything Pippa did, she could have easily dropped the whole thing and not posted to Facebook. And she could’ve handled the aftermath a bit more discretely.

But I don’t think Pippa is the bad guy here. Yes she got with a guy that has (had!) a girlfriend, but she didn’t know that. Matty went to the club and cheated on his girlfriend, how is he not the bad guy? Anyone that knows me will know my stance on cheating: Zero tolerance. No excuses.

Cheating as far as I’m concerned is the lowest of lows. Any credibility a person has in my eyes is lost the second they cheat on their partner. I don’t care what their reasons are, Goodbye and good luck!giphy

While everyone was ranting about Pippa being so stupid and naïve, my head was screaming “HE CHEATED! HOW ARE YOU NOT NOTICING THIS?” Not only did he show complete disrespect for his girlfriend, he also roped in Pippa who I feel is taking the brunt of this whole thing, even receiving death threats which is way out of order.

This whole affair is a prime example of the “Blame it on the other girl” situation, where the girl gets the blame instead of the boyfriend.

This isn’t a once off, it happens every day. Girls are often seen as the bad guys in situations like this. The word ‘Slut‘ is thrown around a lot nowadays and it is one term I can’t stand. Use as a joke between abusive best friends, fine.. but as an adjective or insult I feel is just bad form. Guys don’t get called sluts when they go out every week and come back with a different girl each time, no. It needs to stop, it’s 2015 people!

While the whole Pippa vs Matty thing isn’t over yet, Matty is still to give his side of the story. He’s taking his good sweet time so let’s hope its at least filled with dragons and shit!

Getting Inked – My Tattoo Experience

Getting Inked – My Tattoo Experience

I remember as a 5-year-old, my Nan asked me if I’d ever get a tattoo. Looking at my neighbours tattoo’s I shook my head and said “No Way!“. That lasted all of 15 years!

I’ve wanted to get a tattoo with about a year now, my concepts started off as massive tribal shoulder pieces and geometric psychedelic doodles. Every new design I made I’d say “This is the one!” then get sick of it after a week. I started to drift from the idea while I did the Leaving Cert and settled into college, but came back to it in the new year. I changed my styles and themes when I had a change of mind. I’m studying Zoology in college, zoology is all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life, so it made sense if I was going to have an artwork on my skin forever it should be animal/zoology related.

I started playing around with different animal shapes and did a fair bit of googling and doodling and eventually came up with my design: the Phylogenetic tree:

phylogenetic tree or evolutionary tree is a branching diagram or “tree” showing the inferred evolutionary relationships among various biological species or other entities

Basically it visually shows the relationships between all forms of life as it evolved out over millions of years. I hate using the term ” a calling” but that’s what Animals are to me, I feel I’ll never do anything that doesn’t tie back to them so it was the perfect choice. But my design was still too broad, the phylogenetic tree covers all life and even though I love every branch, the tree needed to be clipped somehow. So I highlighted the animal branched with an arc and removed the virus branch (Viruses aren’t strictly speaking “living” things), and voila!CMJrUOZWwAAbckr

I then set the design as my screensaver for 6 months to be 110% sure I wouldn’t get sick of my design.

And if you’re not artistic enough to draw out the design yourself then don’t worry, most artists will help you with it during a consultation.

Once I got to 4 months into the 6, I went looking for artists. My piece is all linework and needed someone who specialises in it. Tattoo artists come in a few different specialities: Linework, watercolour, portraits, lettering, the list is always expanding and many artists have one or two specialities. The most important thing is to find an artist that is most suited to your style, no use getting a water-colour artist to do a linework piece.

I tried 5 different parlours around Cork before settling. Always shop around because different specialist opinions are no harm. For example the first artist i went to said my piece would blur in a year because the lines were too thick, therefor I reduced them before parlour two. The second parlour said point-blank that they wouldn’t do it, no explanation, they just said no. After another 3 I decided on Inkaholics, they were super friendly and helpful when I approached them initially and assigned my artist, Juri. After looking through his portfolio it was a no brainer! I ended up booking my tattoo that day and an hour later had a “What the hell did I just do!?” moment.

Considering the placement and size of my tattoo I was quoted €150. Most parlours have an hourly rate of €100 an hour or €80 minimum charge. When it comes to tattoo’s, you get what you pay for. This is going to be on your skin forever, don’t be a cheap-skate!

Next thing you need is a partner in crime, be sure to bring a friend along to keep you company.. and to hold your hand when you cry!

D-Day came on the 13th of August, still unsure of what to expect I headed into battle and signed away my soul on the declaration form! The forms are just an “I know it’s permanent and not going to blame you when it doesn’t wash off” form. Once the paperwork is done the artist will prepare a stencil, this is done using carbon paper and a light adhesive to stick the design to your skin.

Now, the one question everyone asks: Does it hurt? The answer is yes, a lot. It’s agony. It burns. You will cry. And you will realise that I’m actually lying and it’s not all that bad. I got my  tattoo on my chest which is a particularly sensitive area, and the way I’ve described it to people is like getting scratched by a toothpick. And that’s really it! Of course, the chest being a soft area meant there were some sore parts, but even these painful areas were tolerable. As a whole, it’s more uncomfortable than painful. I personally like it, and many others I’ve spoken to agree! If you are still worried about the pain, you can get a numbing cream which is just a local anaesthetic the artist will apply 40 minutes beforehand.

The tattoo machine sounds like an electric toothbrush, and when it starts you’ll tense up and maybe even start to twitch. Try stay relaxed as possible and the artist will let you know when they’re about to start and where the first touch will be. Sit back, ask if they can put on some music, and settle down for the needle to do its work!

ijnJAMzZAfter your tattoo is done, it’ll be all red and maybe even puffy or raised and this is perfectly normal. Now it’s time for aftercare. Once it’s done the artist will cover it in a moisturiser and  wrap it in cling film. On your way home from the parlour you’ll need to stop in the Pharmacy and get some Bepanthen, a nappy rash cream. A tattoo is an open wound, and bepanthen moisturises and produces a barrier to friction and dust.

Each parlour will tell you their own version of aftercare instructions, the initial wrapping must be removed after two hours and the tattoo needs to be washed with sterile water and antibacterial soap (boil tap water to disinfect and add some of the soap and then lather). Wash using kitchen roll or a soft cloth and dab, don’t rub! Pat the are dry and put on a thin layer of bepanthen then re-wrap. Although most people recommend the wrappings be changed 3 times a day for the first 2 days, a tattoo is still an open cut and exposure to the air will help the healing process. So if after the first day you feel it’s ok not to wrap and it won’t rub on your clothes too much then you’re ok, just be sure to use the bepanthen!

The bepanthen must be used 3-4 times a day for 2 weeks. Your tattoo won’t be 100% healed until 2 weeks, give or take a few days. You know it is healed when it has stopped peeling and the skin goes shiny, the bright vibrant colours will also dull a bit but don’t worry about that.

During the healing process:

  • Don’t scratch the area, as itchy as it may be.
  • Don’t pick the scabs, you’ll pull out the ink and ruin the design.
  • Avoid friction/rubbing on the area.
  • Do not expose to direct sunlight.
  • Do not submerge in water, fresh or salt. For showers, don’t let the water hit it directly.
  • When people ask, no they can’t touch.
  • Keep the area moisturised.

Once the 2 weeks is done, that’s it! Your tattoo is ready, healed and good to go! Unfortunately, one does not simply get “just one tattoo, they’re addictive. Mine is only fully healed and I already have 3 more planned!

It’s like the mafia, once you’re in there’s no getting out!

“Surf’s Up!” – Beginners guide to Surfing

“Surf’s Up!” – Beginners guide to Surfing

Surfing is Ireland’s fastest growing sport, and with 2,500km of prime Atlantic coastline there’s no shortage of surf to be had. The west coast draws the world’s top surfers every year and we’re quickly becoming a Mecca for surfers! Surfing is a fantastic way to stay fit and works your core and upper body, including muscles in your shoulders you can’t work any other way. And obviously, gives you the balance of a Flamingo atop the Eiffel Tower.

52-97-Rileys-100614091831-P4093572I’ve been surfing for just over 2 years now, and in that time I’ve noticed the difference already. When I was learning back in 2013 with Swell Surf School in Inch East Cork my lesson groups were relatively small, from 6-10 per lesson. After recently returning to the school and talking to my old instructor, he told me the groups have at least doubled, with the lesson that day being a group of 26! I was also on the committee for UCC Surf Club during 2014/15 year. In 2013/14 the club had roughly 350 members, which grew to 680 in 2014/15.

Not many of my friends surf, but many would like to and just don’t know where to start. So this is my guide to anyone interested in starting surfing!

  1. Find your Surf School: Professional instruction is the best way to go. There are surf schools on many surf beaches up and down the coast, and their friendly staff are there to help and make your learning as easy and fun as possible. Schools are usually open between April and October and provide all gear and instruction for less than €30 a session or will do package deals.
  2. Be confident in the sea: This sounds pretty basic, but be confident in your swimming ability before signing up. It is kinda important.
  3. Find a Surf buddy: When I started surfing, none of my friends surfed or had interest, so I did lessons on my own. Of course I wanted someone to go with, but if I waited on other people every time I wanted to do something, I’d get nothing done! I ended up making friends with the instructors because most other learners were well below my age, and they made things much easier. Having someone you know with you makes it more fun, you have someone to laugh at when they fall off!
  4. You will fall off: Everybody falls off sometime, and in Ireland be prepared for a chilly shock when you do! It’s all about muscle memory, and like with regular memory we all learn things at different paces. One of my instructors told me, “You could fall off a hundred times in a row, but it only takes a hundred and one tries to stand and stay standing“.

So if you’re no longer a grom and want to move up in the world, you’ll probably be drooling in the surf shop window at a shiny new board right about now. You’ve caught the Surf bug. You’re addicted. There’s no turning back.original

Ok, hold your horses. First you’ll be looking for your own gear, so run into the nearest surf shop and ransack the place right? Wrong. Shop around, both in-store and online for all your bits and pieces.

For your board: In-store is really your only option, unless you want to pay €100 in P&P! There will be a surf shop within spitting distance of any large surf spot. Tramore, Clonakilty, Lahinch, Bundoran, and all places in-between, a surf shop will sell surfboards. When getting lessons you’ll be on a foam board, high buoyancy and high volume. When buying your first hard-board you’ll be looking for the same qualities to make the transition smooth and wave count high. Avoid shortboards as a first board, I know they look cool but try a minimal or longboard, save yourself the frustration.

Don’t be afraid to look at used boards, especially if you’re on a budget. I bought my board brand new and it cost a cool €400… yeah, check DoneDeal.

For your Wetsuit: I bought mine online*. I have 2 wetsuits, a summer and a winter. My summer wetsuit is 3mm/2mm thick and has a zip on the back. My winter suit is 5mm/4mm and has the zip on the chest.

I personally wear my winter suit all year round, it’s warmer and more water-tight, but both types have their pro’s and con’s. Back-Zips are cheap and easy to get in/out of, but they leak icy cold water inside soon as you dive in (Nice!). Chest-Zips are more pricy and take practice and patience to get in and out of, but they are basically waterproof! Make your own decision on what style, but I’d recommend at least 4mm thick. Boots, gloves and hood are good for winter too! A decent, full wetsuit set (suit, gloves, hood, boots) will set you back about €200 and will last years with proper care.

To make the most of your time in the water, do some push-ups every day or so. It’ll make your pop-up stronger and keep away fatigue. Outside of that I can’t offer much else! Just go out, be safe, and have fun!

(*Buying wetsuit online: make sure to get your measurements right before ordering!)

For more: www.irishsurfing.ie

Where Worlds Collide – Summer 2015

I’m a country boy, I live in the back-ass of East Cork in a little village called Ballymacoda. Never heard of it? I’d be surprised if you had. It’s very small, out-of-the-way, and different to most other places I know.

Ballymacoda is in the Knockadoon peninsula, we’ve got ocean on three sides and fields on the fourth. I’ve grown up surrounded by greenery and never more than 2km from the sea. I stayed at home for first year for one big reason, I love where I live. I have the sea, the smell of agriculture, and immense freedom in rural living.

Every summer, there are endless mazes of back-roads that have to be explored, roads where we might encounter a car once every hour. There is one point on top of a hill where I can see from Whitegate, to the Comeragh Mountains, to Ardmore, and the curvature of the Earth over the sea. 30km of visibility in all directions ‘aint bad if you ask me.

The nights are so dark and so clear at home I’m utterly gutted being in a city at night. Where I might see five stars in the city (If I’m lucky), I can see billions at home on a clear night. On cool summer nights there’s nothing like stargazing after a long day.

There is the seclusion where nobody is around to give a shit when you’re in a Barley field at 9pm on a Saturday night. Sunsets from Barely fields are the best you can get.

This only scratches the surface of what we’ve done out here, can’t go into theses adventures in-depth because some are just too strange, and not always necessarily legal. But my point is, living out in the sticks is amazing in summer, I love where I live.

But

Spending every day in Cork city has changed how I see my home. When I started spending time in the city, it was scary to be honest. Why are there no tractors? Where are the fields? WHY IS EVERYTHING SO LOUD!?

I went from exploring the back-roads to the back-streets, I loved finding a new shortcut from Kent Station to UCC campus (without getting stabbed or mugged obviously). I loved seeing the same people every day on my commute and even got to know a few. I liked navigating the concrete maze and mastering public transport.

I loved having the freedom to wander the streets, go shopping, and do what I like without depending on my parents. It was a new freedom, different to the secluded freedom at home.. it was, better, dare I say.

One thing Cork is known for is J-walking, it is a (dangerous) method of crossing the road without the use of pedestrian crossings. In London it’s actually illegal, but in Cork it’s not just a way to cross the road.. It’s an art form, it’s a way of Life! J-walking is something I’ve adopted almost to the point of being run over a few times, and carrying on like I didn’t just narrowly avoid death.

The one thing I love most about Cork City, is the people. Not just Michael O’Regan ‘The Echo Man‘ who is cherished by all, I mean the people I’ve met through college in the past year: Friends, friends of friends, the acquaintances, the ‘don’t I know you?’s, and the ‘I don’t know you’s *walks in other direction*. Some of the people I’ve met this year are some of the best I know, all types of characters, opinions and attitudes. I’ve learnt something from everybody I’ve met and I regret meeting none……. except you there in the bushes, please stop following me home.

So when college finished for 2015 I was looking forward to an old-fashioned summer: Surf days, lazy days, long days on the farm, chilled evenings in fields listening to music and watching the sun fade out, the smell of fresh-cut grass and taste of ice cream. I wanted to immerse myself in rural living like I have for the past 19 years and become as much of a hermit as possible. But I was disappointed.. Something has changed. Today I went to the city for the fist time in 2 weeks to meet some friends for a chat and a drink, and on the way home I realised something: I miss the city and the people I’ve come to know. I don’t want to be a hermit, I want to be in Cork. I love the countryside, I do, I really do.. but I’m starting to like the city just as much.

I’ve become a mixing pot for rural and urban ways of life. I can navigate back-streets as well as the back roads. I can talk science with lecturers and agriculture with farmers. I can survive the streets and the silage.

So if you’re like me out in the sticks wondering what you’ll do torn between 2 worlds, there’s 104 days of summer vacation (I can’t believe Phineas and Ferb were right!) until college season returns. When you’re dying to get back to college it feels like a long time, but that’s 104 days of potential to stock up on cash, have a few adventures, and purge the system of old alcohol before we go back. Lets not waste it!

Summer 2015. Lets go.

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