Category: Contrasts

Reising = selvrealisering

For noen år siden ble jeg i overkant opptatt av turismenæringens utvikling og hvordan reiseliv påvirker både oss mennesker som er så heldige å kunne reise, og de som ikke er like heldige, men som er i kontakt med oss reisende hele tiden.

Tidligere har jeg skrevet mye om temaet på engelsk (ta en titt hvis du vil), men etter å ha bodd i hjemlandet i over ett år nå, er det på høy tid å droddle om det på morsmålet også. Det er dessuten ganske vanskelig å oppdrive norske artikler som handler om reiselivnæringens utvikling og dens påvirkning på verden, ulike samfunn og mennesker. I det hele og det brede fokuseres det pinlig lite på viktigheten av ansvarlig/ etisk turisme i norske reisemagasiner, og på nettsidene til store turoperatører.

Før jeg kommer inn på dette med reiselivs påvirkning, og tilbake til hva konseptet ansvarlig reiseliv handler om, vil jeg i denne artikkelen presentere noen ideer om reising og selvrealisering, inkludert littom hvordan reiseliv har utviklet seg frem til i dag.

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Familien på bildet over, reiste i følge Pinterest, land og strand rundt i 1886 på søken etter et hjemsted i det store – den gang ganske så – ubebodde Amerika. Uten å ane hvordan historien endte for dem, kan jeg bare anta at de fant en flekk å bosette seg på, hvor de selvrealiserte seg etter datidens målestokk.

Hopp hundre år frem i tid, og reising betyr noe ganske annet for de fleste av oss. I Nord-Amerika som i store deler av Europa, var det å reise i 1986 forbundet med ferie og rekreasjon, gjerne til solfylte steder i mangelen på eget godt klima.

Hopp tredve år til frem i tid, til dagens Norge og nordlige Europa forøvrig, og vi forbinder reising med et velfortjent – og ganske selvsagt – gode. Det å ta fri fra livet vi vanligvis lever og reise vekk, er noe vi mener vi både fortjener og trenger, og noe mange av oss ser på som nødvendig for vår menneskelige utvikling og utfoldelse.

Med andre ord; reising = selvrealisering. Uten å gå videre inn på en høna og egget-tankerekke, la meg bare nevne at markedsaktørene selvfølgelig har blitt dyktige på å fortelle oss nettopp det.

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Det skal sies at vi nordmenn er havnet i en eksepsjonelt heldig situasjonen ved å ha retten på fem ferieuker (!) i året – samme hvilken sektor vi jobber i. Og enten vi snakker om ferieturer vi tar i løpet av de ukene, helgeturer til europeiske storbyer et par timers flytur unna, eller en lenge etterlengtet permisjon eller ryggsekktur vi har spart til i månedsvis,  så er poenget at mange i dagens Norge ser på reising som nødvendig for at vi skal kunne ha det bra i livet ellers.

En litt fiffig tanke er forøvrig at korte storbyturer ikke engang ses på som ferie lenger; de er bare turer vi tar på søken etter et avbrekk i en ellers hektisk hverdag. Og sånn har det nok vært en stund i land der folks privatøkonomi er god og markedet er tilrettelagt slik at vi kan reise ganske langt på veldig kort tid.

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Etter min oppfatning har altså det å se, oppleve og spise noe annet enn vi gjør her hjemme blitt like selvsagt som det er mulig for oss. Men hvordan kom vi hit?

Reising har naturligvis blitt regnet som viktig for menneskets velvære og selvrealisering i århundrer, men dens internasjonale utfoldelse var kun forbeholdt de rikeste i samfunnet frem til 1950-tallet. Da var oppfinnelsene av såkalte turbovifte-jetfly blitt en realitet; fly som bragte mange mennesker over landegrenser og hav på én og samme flyvning.

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photo credit: http://www.hiwtc.com

På samme tid hadde arbeiderbevegelsens kamper i Nord begynt å gi frukter som bedre lønninger og ferieavløsninger for folk flest, og slik fikk stadig flere råd til å reise på romantiske byferier i Sør-Europa, for ikke å snakke om pakketurer til Syden. I løpet av 70- og 80-tallet fortsatte reisendes muligheter å eksplodere i omfang, og etterhvert dro de litt modigere til og med på lengre ryggsekkturer til mer eksotiske land som India og Thailand, til slektningers store forundring.

Tredve år etter er det heller uvanlig at ikke (nord)europeere har vært utenfor Europa minst én gang i livet. De fleste 25-åringer jeg kjenner – for ikke å nevne 45-åringer – har besøkt mer enn ett sted mormora mi aldri visste fantes. De aller fleste jeg kjenner har til og med tatt seg et halvår eller år fri fra jobb for å tråle Sørøst-Asia rundt på jakt etter slitne bungalower og ville strandfester.

I tillegg har mange jobbet frivillig både i Bolivia og Sri Lanka, forelsket seg minst én gang i en latinamerikaner, ridd kameler i Egypt, danset med Masaier i Kenya, paraglided i Nepal og sist men ikke minst: giftet seg utenlands.

photo credit: nomad.sleepout.com

photo credit: nomad.sleepout.com

Kort oppsummert har min generasjon av nordeuropeere (og mange nordamerikanere), vokst opp med den klokkeklare forestilling om at verden ligger for våre føtter. Og det er sant. For oss. Dagens selvutviklingsvaluta nummer én er reising, atter mer reising og én tur til. Til og med indre reiser bedriver vi stadig nå til dags, fordi vi hele tiden higer etter å utvikle oss som mennesker.

Hvorfor?

Fordi vi kan, og fordi vi blir fortalt at vi kan. I disse sosiale medier- tider har du kanskje lagt merke til at vi i det hele tatt ofte blir fortalt at vi reise…?

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Personlig er jeg skyldig i å ha vokst opp, for ikke å si bygget videre på, den nevnte forestilling. Dette til tross for at de fleste i min familie – med unntak av moren min – ikke har reist stort lenger enn til europeiske destinasjoner, med kanskje én og annen tilbakelagt USA-tur en gang i tiden.

Interessant nok er forresten noen av de jeg kjenner som har reist minst, de som har sterkest meninger om hvordan verden henger sammen; et tema jeg tok opp for en stund siden. Hvorvidt folk som reiser ekstensivt egentlig lærer så veldig mye om verden, kan også i aller høyeste grad diskuteres; noe jeg skriver en tekst om etter mitt nylige møte med backpackere som flokker seg sammen hvor enn man beveger seg i Sørøst-Asia… Mer om det senere en annen dag, altså.

Men tilbake til de som reiser mye. Visste du for eksempel at nordmenn flyr mest i Europa? Jepp. Nordmenn har et særs heldig utgangspunkt samme hvor vi kommer fra i landet, og kanskje nettopp derfor har vi utviklet et spesielt verdensbilde hva økonomiske muligheter angår. Reising som gode – og spesielt med fly – anses nok derfor for mange av oss som kommet for å bli.

Like fullt er det viktig å minnes på at konseptet reising er en usannsynlig luksus for de aller fleste på kloden. Skal man tro organisasjonen Atmosfair, har kun 5% av klodens befolkning vært ombord på et fly, hvilket setter reiseluksusen vi tar helt for gitt i perspektiv.

Og det er her jeg beveger meg inn på temaet ansvarlig reiseliv. For som i andre gigaindustrier vi nyter godt av, bør vi forbrukere innse at vi har et ansvar i å passe på at det vi driver med/ kjøper/ forbruker, ikke ødelegger for verken kloden vår, eller mennesker på den.

Eller hva mener  du?

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Interessert i mer? Les her om hvordan jeg fikk øynene opp for ansvarlig reiseliv.

 

When your grandmother dies and you’re miles away

The reason for the sudden silence during my adventure in Mexico is that the trip took a brutal turn when I got the message from Norway that my grandmother had fell ill. And this time they said, she didn’t seem to be willing to recover.

I was biking around in Tulum at the time, soaking in the cliche looking Caribbean landcape, chugging coconut milk, petting stray dogs and bumping into iguanas, swimming in the turquoise sea and drinking mezcal with random locals I met on my way.

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Needless to say, I was far away in all senses from even thinking about Norway where autumn was turning into its last colorful shedding. I’ve probably not said it out this public by now, but after an amazing trip to the US since the end of summer (of which Ive shared some stories already), I was for good reasons – yet now suddenly unexplainable to me – very dedicated to go through with a solo trip to Mexico. I’d been living through a difficult emotional time as my man and I had decided to separate from each other after the US trip, and thus my mind was completely set up on the journey to Mexico. I felt happy and free in a beautiful and frightening way while I took off.

To be honest, I didn’t think much about others than myself while in Mexico, and on how to make sure to explore as much as possible about both myself and this – to me – new country.

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Therefore, when my mum told me three days before granny passed away that it looked serious, none of us actually understood what was about to happen. Or perhaps we were in a state of denial? It wasn’t until Friday October 18th, after a phone call from my mum and a text message stating the situation had gone a lot worse over night, that I finally understood I had to get my ass out of Mexico.

Despite of being in a state of panic and self-judgement, I managed to get dressed while throwing my things into my backpack and order a taxi to the airport with good help from the hostel manager. While waiting for the taxi I was on the phone with Delta airlines that after only twenty minutes could confirm they had found a flight for me leaving Cancun within 2,5 hours. It meant I would be home in another 16 hours.

As we hugged farewell the hostel manager kept telling me everything would be alright, one way or another. I left the hostel crying and sat in the taxi on the way to the airport crying. The taxi ride took about 45 minutes and what I remember the most is holding a neatly packed sandwich in my hand that the hostel keeper had prepared for me before leaving. I spent the trip looking down at it, thanking the beautiful soul of its maker, while occasionally looking outside the windows at the numerous hotel chains along side the highway in Playa del Carmen.

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Now and then I begged to all major forces I could come up with that I’d reach all the way to keep my grandma company during her last breaths. I knew she was ready to leave us now, and I hoped she weren’t suffering. Still, in my selfishness I wanted her to live some more hours so that I could be there with her and hold her wrinkled hand.

The coming flight was obviously the longest of my life. I spent the hours both thinking and trying not to think too much, until I found a way to focus on my gratitude for having had a grandma like the one I had. I watched childhood pictures on my Mac and reflected over how much she actually had meant to my life. To my personality. This isn’t a new thought to me in any way, but under such circumstances they feel quite different.

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Cancun from above the day I went

When I arrived to Amsterdam for my connecting flight and hadn’t got any answer back from my mum to my text message sent ten hours earlier, I understood it. Grandma was dead. I figured my mum would have told me in a message if she still lived, but not if she had died. By realising Ill never talk to my grandmother again – a moment I’ve feared since I was a teenager, I felt like a part of me died. I had never felt anything like it, not even when my grandpa died.

My grandmother was perhaps like any other grandmother in many senses; at times a little narrow minded and old fashioned, out of tune with what youth is up to, and worrying too much about what if this and what if that. To me in my life though, she has been my dad, my second mum and the funny sister all in one. For some reason we’ve had this special connection since I was born and I can recall years of making a lot of silly jokes of one another.

I knew it would happen, and now I can confirm it: I’ll miss her as deeply as I’m ever grateful for everything she has given me of love and caring.

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When I arrived to Norway my phone didn’t work as I had left my sim card in Mexico DF where I was supposed to go back after four more weeks of traveling. I asked a random lady to borrow her phone, and she had to stand there watching me getting the message from my mum that I was eight hours late to sit by granny’s side. The lady wept as I finished the phone call and gave me the warmest hug before I ran off to find my mum outside on the parking lot. I will never forget that lady and her hug.

By realising that my longtime fear ahd turned into reality: That my grandmother died while I was on one of my many travels, I began on a new journey. Tthe exhausting journey of a guilt trip. Yes, I know: There is nothing I can do about it! And I know I had the right to live the way I wanted, to travel and to say goodbye to her time and time again. I also know my grandma knew that I loved her deeply and that she loved me regardless of my gipsy lifestyle.

Still, it will take me some time to reconcile the fact that I wasn’t there with her.

Fortunately she had a close person with her until she took her last breath: Thanks to my wonderful and caring mum, granny was in safe hands until her very last breath. And as for the things I wanted to repeat to her and thank her for, it was delivered by my mum instead. I can’t express how happy it makes me to know that she finally could relax and let go to the sound of my humming and story telling mother, without fearing to meet death on her own.

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How Ill remember her. RIP Else Evelyn.

It’s only been three weeks since she passed away. I’ve tried to look back at where I came from prior to this time, but find it difficult. What’s weird when a far-away-trip ends tragically like this, is that your mindset about the whole journey instantly changes to something very blurry. Meaning that the place you left behind – full of so many inspiring and joyful memories – suddenly feels further away than ever before.

I look forward to going back to Mexico one day. With peace of mind and plenty of desire to explore again. But as for now, the only place I want to be is home, close to my beloved ones. After all, that’s one of the best side effects traveling comes with.

Fashion without pollution, please

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I’m thrilled to see the fashion industry trying to take more responsibility for their impacts on the world we live in. The reveals about poor working conditions in textile fabrics in Asia have been going viral, huge corporations have signed codes of conducts for improved practices and high-profiled fashionistas and bloggers are writing about brands that seem to take some extra steps.

Good!

Now Greenpeace are running a campaign too, and I just saw they had posted this:

Around the world a growing movement of people are using their creativity, design skills and purchasing power to demand fashion without pollution. United by a shared belief that the clothes we wear should carry a story we can be proud of, activists, bloggers, designers, scientists and models have been able to convince big brands including Zara, Mango, Valentino, UNIQLO and H&M to commit to toxic-free fashion. There is still a long way to go, but our successes so far prove that when we work together, big brands are forced to stand up and deliver.

Here is the video to the campaign:

 

You love fashion too? And consider yourself a concerned consumer? Then please engage and help spread the message!

So much for the Nobel Peace prize, Obama

To wake up in a hotel in the United States of America this past week, watching CNN while eating breakfast is one of the saddest affairs so far on this journey. First of all because I’ve got reminded how full of shit CNN is with its twisted cold-hearted journalism. But most importantly it has been sad because Syria is on the agenda. And we’re told it’s bad.

Zoomed in pictures of kids and adults that supposedly are victims of chemical weapon attacks in Syria stream into the room where we are sitting with our bowls of cereals. If the pictures are real these are awful news from a fucked conflict in need of help. But the pictures aren’t what’s saddest. What is saddest is that they are accompanied by news reporters’ repeated concerns about the situation in Syria and arguments about the need for the US to “take action.” They try to convince us that because hundreds of kids are supposedly murdered with chemical weapons, the U.S army has to engage and attack the country. In order to protect future victims and calm the situation. Come again?

It all makes me sick and Ive struggled to finish my cereals.

Then again, when searching for less biased media sources and even walking the streets here in San Francisco there seems to be a rather aggressive opposition to the congresspersons’ pending decisions these days. We’ve seen posters around about upcoming protests in San Francisco and even headliners of newspaper telling Obama to take a chill pill. This all delights me, yet somehow also surprises me. You may think I’m ignorant, but more people then I’d expect seem aware that this whole fake “protect ourselves from the middle East enemies” -rhetoric is just a puppet show made up by greedy capitalists with their oil needy straws.

Today I even came across this video clip that has gone very viral on social media.

Coming from Fox News (!!) it’s a complete MUST SEE! The channel that always have applauded whatever war an American Republican president suggest to start or engage with, is now against it. And they even come up with some good, almost humane, reasons. Of course the presenter here isn’t not asking complex questions like Goodman from Democracy Now or alike does. It’s a lot simpler than that. However, what is so appealing with this (and probably why it has gone so viral) is that even your grandmother can understand the speech!

Please just watch and spread!

And to Mr. President, here’s a little message from me: You should have done it instantly but it’s not too late to turn. GIVE BACK that Nobel peace medal you were rewarded! NOBODY thought you’d deserve it anyway, and now you’ve proved it again, no matter what your final decision will be on Syria after this week.

This is America, the rest is a lie

Departing LA today was fun. We had googled a selection of Walmart stores located North of the city as we needed to stop by one to purchase important camping equipment for our upcoming two nights in the Yosemite National park, followed by a week in the Black desert city. Finally buying stuff at Walmart felt like biting the bullet, yes, but trust me, we tried for days to find second hand equipment on Craigslist first.

We found our store in Van Nuys on our way out of town, and already there we felt so far away from LA the way we’d got to know it. The area seems to be inhabited by a massive group of Latin Americans, yet due its urban history also represents a hot spot for many young professionals. Driving through the area however, most avenues offer sights like densely situated small houses, many of whom have a flag hanging high in the garden. Part from that you’ll see shopping malls, car shops, areas of trailer houses and a bunch of cute little men with their cowboy hats on strolling the streets.

We started to feel like we were in America.

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An hour later on our way to Fresno, our 3g stopped working. Soon we had no service at all. So much for T-mobiles’ promises of working anywhere in the US. For another two hours we cruised up highway 5 surrounded by a flat and mostly uninhabited landscape, before it got dark and hundreds of signs of fast food chains and motels were the only lights that illuminated our way.

Though I dislike branding overall, I’ve loved my first US road trip experience in which my old dream of staying in a typical motel now is to be fulfilled.

Here from a gas station close to Fresno. How authentic!

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Next to it we spotted a motel and went to check out their vacancy. Nobody was in the reception however, yet a group of truck drivers had thrown a party and welcomed us to join them. Unfortunately due to our tight travel schedule we had to reject their offer.

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However, a little later we found the perfect motel downtown in Fresno.

We’re only stopping by here to get some sleep, just like everybody else does in this city – on their way to, or from – Yosemite National Park. I’m so excited to finally be on a road trip, and so excited to be going to Yosemite tomorrow!

G’night!

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Greetings from Los Angeles

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Wow, Los Angeles. You are a lot. And you are huge.

Considering your size, I’d say your infrastructure for public transportation is rather poor. Then again, I didn’t try it. Thing is, we just assumed we had to travel by car because that’s what everybody do. And we knew that already. Before going here everybody (especially Europeans) warned us about the need of a car to travel between neighbourhoods, because that’s how everybody travel there.

As always I was thinking “Nah, Ill see it with my own eyes, and it’s probably not that bad, there must be ways” etc. But then I quickly noticed how people-empty the streets are in L.A.

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Is it really true that there is no way to not have a car here? With no time to wait for an answer, we rented a car.

And man, driving in LA is hectic! The streets are full of cars, the avenues full of lanes and massive intersections, crossing people, motor bikes, trucks and trailers in addition to endless car horns surrounding you..

The first day I told myself this really isn’t my kind of enjoying a city.

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Then I got used to it throughout the week.

With a functioning AC, Google maps on your phone and a great selection of music it’s extraordinary how spending most hours of a day inside of a car in one insanely huge city can turn into a habit.

credentials: blogs.laweekly.com

With our little compact car we crossed the more central parts of the city. From West to East to North and downtown. We drove to the Runyon Canyon park for a run and got familiar with sites like Hollywood, Mullholland Drive, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Los feliz, Silver Lake, Downtown…

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LA seen from Mulholand Drive

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And Venice beach & Santa Monica. 🙂

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Reason I liked Venice beach & Santa Monica so much is due to seeing the last two pictures in reality from a bike seat as opposed to a car seat. The possibilities of biking around or strolling the streets while seeing so much – and most importantly meeting people – is priceless! Although you could say traveling by car in LA is traveling like a local because that’s the way everybody do it, I can’t say I’m a fan.

In fact I wrote about how I met my prejudices in Venice beach yesterday.

Venice Beach, baby

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It may be a touristy cliche strolling down Venice beach with an ice cream, gawking at the rollerblading girls in bikinis, the street performers, the body builders at Muscle beach and getting surprised that the Baywatch towers and cars look exactly like in the series.

But I loved it!

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Spending a day in Venice Beach also made us realise its neighborhoods are more fun than the ones of West Hollywood (where we stay), though it’s true we haven’t got our head around local things in Hollywood yet,  part from understanding that the area – just like Venice beach – truly EXIST on earth (and not only on Television).

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Indeed, I’ve been way too prejudiced about this place. Somehow I wasn’t specifically interested in neither Venice beach, Santa Monica or Hollywood. I simply thought I knew them.

You know, when you’ve got a destination so interpreted (involuntarily or not) through images for so long you think you know it. That’s one of tourism’s logics. The travel industry lives on people’s imaginations of places. Depending on your interest, tastes and presumptions, you’d think of a destination as different or indifferent, a-must-see, or not interesting at all, paradise or hell.

Personally I think most destinations are interesting even though I don’t picture myself loving that specific place due to my assumptions of its features and energies. Still, I always desire to see new places, so I can understand them better and make up my own mind about them.

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Thus,  I really found myself getting surprised while walking and biking around on Venice beach. I kind of expected Hasselhof and the bike cops from that stupid series (I watched when I was 17) to turn up around every corner. I understood I had many more prejudices than I was aware of. And I’m starting to realise that L.A is everything and nothing like the stereotypes we’ve been told.

The places from telly do exist. Yet, it’s all so much more low key than it is on telly… (hah!)

In real life, lots of interesting, chill & fun people turned up wherever we went, with big smiles on their faces – interested in chatting. Everybody I saw and talked to struck me as very welcoming towards the hordes of tourists occupying their streets.

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Now, I’ve not doubted Americans friendliness. I certainly became aware of that during a visit to the country (East side) in 2006. I guess I’ve just forgot how important that is for a place to feel good – especially when you’re only visiting a day or a two and don’t have the time to get under everybody’s skin.

Although, friendliness is one thing. I can honestly do without it when I travel, as long as people come across as genuine. Thing is, they do in Venice beach. Moreover, the locals (or whoever live here and create this place into what it is) seemed truly respectful towards the locality of the place.

Saying that I refer to the low branding on site and the vast variety of all kinds of random small businesses and organisations existing in one small place. Just a stone throw away from the touristy Venice beach strip there are plenty of more residential streets, all with colorful buildings and people, many with hipstery corners and small restaurants and shops.

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Coffee shop on Rose ave.

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Shop with a Green approach on Rose ave.

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And. The Californian cherry on the top is that extra liberal, somewhat edgy and always good old American outgoing touch of theirs.

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Really liberal.