#TBT – Yard Art, Swans and Mennonites in Southern Ontario

(Note: I was working at the Toyota Plant in Woodstock, Ontario as a Japanese interpreter at the time I wrote this post in 2008)

March 26, 2008: It was a beautiful day and I got off work at 4:00 and decided to head out on a small road trip around the region.  A couple of days ago I met with Cathy Bingham, Director of the Oxford County, Ontario Tourism Office in Woodstock. She had contacted  me about my Jakeman’s Syrup page and wanted to meet with me to give me more ideas.  We had a wonderful visit and she gave me some unique ideas, told me about the history of the area and focused me in on some different places to see, both in Oxford County as well as the surrounding counties.  One of the DEFINITE MUST VISITS was to see the Tundra Swans near Aylmer,  Ontario.  So, I decided to do that along with a couple of other side  trips.  Following is an overview map of the route I took…about 78 miles all together.

The first place I visited was just outside of Woodstock.  I left Toyota and headed down Highway 2 (Dundas St.) into town all the way to the Highway 59 turnoff heading north (Vansitart Rd.).  I crossed over the Thames River and up a couple of hills to see  another place that Cathy had recommended to me, based on my  yard art interests.  This particular place is the home of Cliff Bruce and his wife.  Cliff Bruce has an eclectic collection of Windmills, whirly-gigs and other oddities scattered throughout his yard. Following are just a few shots of the place:

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Welcome sign over the main driveway tells you where you are.
Push button
Push button to Open Gate – Do I dare?
Bruce Windmill Hill
Fun entry sign. I am still alive, so I must have missed the double shot gun day!

He calls it Windmill Hill.  There is a gate that keeps visitors out and  the dogs in, but the sign in the driveway says to “Push the Button” to open the gate.  I did that, but the gate did not open.  Since I did not know if today was the two double shot gun day, I decided to just walk around the outside and get a few shots of his yard decorum.

The first thing I noticed from the driveway was the working walk/don’t walk lights and the railroad crossing lights…which came complete with the bell ringing.  I wondered if the neighbors got tired of hearing the railroad bell go off every two minutes…for yes, there  are neighbors.

Walk/Don’t Walk Lights inside Windmill Hill
Railroad lights
Functioning Railroad Crossing lights go off occasionally
I would have walked had I been able to get inside the gate.

Then came the front yard.  He not only has windmills, but lots of unusual statues, etc.  Fun fun fun.

Fred Flintstone
Fred Flintstone waves at a whirly-gig from Cliff Bruce’s front porch
Bruce Windmill doll
Rent a birthday mannequin complete with the lingerie!
This cowpoke guards the place from American photographers…I had to be sneaky

From there I had to trudge through the foot deep snow around the south side of his house.  I was walking through some kind of field.  As I walked along the fence, the Bruce’s dogs paid me a visit (from the other side of the fence).  But I kept shooting away.  So many things…in so little space.

Windmill Hill
Numerous whirly-gigs and an old Texaco sign adorn the south side of the Bruce Windmill Hill landscape.
Tired snowman
A homemade Michelin man? Or is it a “tired” snowman??
Fascinating whirly-gig contraption.

One could really spend a couple of hours looking around this place. So many little things everywhere.

A red metal butterfly adorns the snow covered yard
A Clydesdale whirly-gig atop a pole
Fred Flintstone in flight

Cliff seems to have a fascination with flying things and moving things. He had a few small amusement airplanes and helicopters in the yard, like Fred Flintstone (above) and the plane and helicopter below.

A large toy plane floats above the yard at Bruce Windmill Farm
Planes, helicopters and other flying things.
A large amusement park style helicopter flies around. Even has a live-in pilot!

The menagerie in his yard  goes on and on.

A LIVE dog protects the whirly-gigs
A colorful tire adorns the yard
A wide shot of a part of the Cliff Bruce Windmill Farm.

From Windmill Hill I headed back into Woodstock and then on to the 401 freeway to head west towards London.  I got off at exit 203 to head south on Highway 73 (Elgin Rd.) towards Aylmer, Ontario (which the locals pronounce as “Elmer,” so I was initially confused in trying to find the place).  Along the way I went through the small village of  Harrietsville.  I was surprised to run across more yard art…in fact, a  place that fabricates yard art out of sheet metal and scrap metal.  I just had to stop!!

TCM Metal Art in Harrietsville, Ontario
A metal flamingo…but not too pink
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida!! An iron butterfly!!
A steel heron…or is it an egret?

On my stop at TCM I met an older man who said that he was one of four who owned and worked the place.  He makes the items with the stones while others do some of the metal work.  He told me about how he had a heart attack and the doctor said he could only be saved if he stopped smoking.  I asked if I could get his photo, but he declined.  Nonetheless, he was quite the talker.

Metal and stone flock of birds at TCM Metal Works in Harrietsville, Ontario
Lovely metallic flowers
Look at that snapper!
Metallic sunflower

i got a kick out of the guitar playing metallic dragon below:

Guitar playing dragon looks like he’s singing his heart out.
Opposite view of the singing dragon
A metallo-raptor?
Front view of metallo-raptor
Metallo-raptor head

Time was flying and the sun was beginning to get lower in the sky, so I shuffled off to Aylmer to go see the swans…the main goal of this  little excursion.  In speaking to Cathy, she told me that from her experience, the best time to see the swans is in the afternoon as they are the most active.  So, I took her word for it and hoped that my afternoon visit would pay off.

I drove down 73 until I got to Glencolin Line and at that corner was a nice blue sign with a swan on it and an arrow pointing left.  I followed Glencolin about 5 km to Hacienda Dr., where there was another sign pointing to the left.  Just shortly up the road was another sign pointing to the right.  This was the place – the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area:

Aylmer Wildlife Management Area – Aylmer, Ontario
The Blue Swan sign pointing to the Aylmer Wildlife Management area

A small jaunt down the road led to some viewing stands.  One was open and a couple more were enclosed with open windows. As I got out of the car I could hear an assortment of honks, hums, whistles and various other noises emanating from the small pond (named  Tundra Pond) where there were literally thousands of Tundra Swans (in fact, there is a group of volunteers that feeds them and counts them daily — today’s count was 4268).  In fact, the Aylmer Museum sponsors a Tundra Swan Line which allows people to call in and get a daily migration report and count of the visiting swans.  I had never seen more than one or two swans at a time, so this pretty amazing to me to see thousands of them.  And mingled in with them were a number of Canadian Geese.

First view of swans at Aylmer
Swans mingle with geese
Lots of swans in the Tundra Pond
Another view of swans and geese at Aylmer

I learned that the swans are in different groups.  Since they mate for life, the “married couples” are in one place, the singles are in another and then the young ‘uns are just out playing in the water.  Watching them fly was also cool as these birds are so graceful and their huge size really adds emphasis.  It was really an amazing visit!!

My return trip took me through the booming town of Aylmer.  I went through Aylmer and then ventured back along the back roads of Elgin County, Norfolk County and Oxford County, before returning to Brant County and Paris. Along the road I encountered Mennonites in their horse-drawn buggies.  Aylmer actually has a Mennonite Furniture Store.  I think the photos speak for themselves.  All told, it was a wonderfully adventurous afternoon and a beautiful one at that with partly cloudy skies and 45 degree temperatures.

A lonely Mennonite buggy on a road in Elgin County, Ontario
Look carefully and you can see a head through the window
Doesn’t look like a Canada Goose to me!!
Another Mennonite scene

The back roads of southern Ontario always offer some wonderful scenes.  So glad to have visited in 2008 and to be able to look back at these great memories.

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Sumoflam Flashback – Adventures in Southwestern Ontario: Oxford County

Tobacco Barns in SW Ontario Canada
Tobacco Barns in SW Ontario Canada

In 2008 I spent about nine months working as a Japanese interpreter in Woodstock, Ontario at the new Toyota Plant that was being built there at the time.  Over the course of that nine months I had many opportunities to visit dozens of places in rural Ontario and made my way to Toronto and some if the larger towns in the area around Toronto.  I have posted a number of “Travel Journals” with extensive details about all of these visits on my Sumoflam Trip Journals site.

Southwestern Ontario in the Red
Southwestern Ontario in the Red

Southwestern Ontario is centered on the city of London. It extends north to south from the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron to the Lake Erie shoreline, and east to south-west roughly from Guelph to Windsor. Other significant towns and cities in the region are Brantford, Cambridge, Chatham, Goderich, Ingersoll, Kitchener, Owen Sound, Sarnia, St. Thomas, Stratford, Tillsonburg, Waterloo, Windsor, and Woodstock.

Snow Countess - large cow statue in Woodstock, Ontario
Snow Countess – large cow statue in Woodstock, Ontario

In this first edition of my “Adventures in Southwestern Ontario” series, I will take a brief trip around Oxford County, one of the fifteen counties/municipalities comprising Southwestern Ontario.  Oxford County has been a municipality (rather than a county) since 1991. It covers a little over 787 square miles and has a total population of just over 100,000 people.  It is almost in the center of the Southwestern Ontario region and is one of the land-locked counties.

A typical road in Oxford County
A typical road in Oxford County

Oxford County is predominantly agricultural with dairy being one of its industries (Thus the big statue of the Snow Countess above). Also in the area is a famous “sugar bush” where maple syrup is made.  Corn and tobacco are also crops in the area. While in Woodstock I became good friends with the Director of Tourism at the time.  She was gracious enough to provide me with plenty of ideas on where to visit, when to visit, etc.  I was also honored by inclusion of three of my writeups on their website.

Woodstock, Ontario water tower
Woodstock, Ontario water tower

I was fortunate enough to experience three seasons in Oxford…I arrived in the middle of a cold and snowy winter.  But, I enjoyed the spring and the flowers.  I also enjoyed the wonderful summer and even sometime into the fall.

Giant pile of snow in Woodstock - February 2008
Giant pile of snow in Woodstock – February 2008
Winter scene in rural Oxford County, Ontario
Winter scene in rural Oxford County, Ontario
Summer scene in rural Oxford County, Ontario
Summer scene in rural Oxford County, Ontario

Oxford County is chock full of history with some unique museums — including two National Historic Sites.  The Woodstock Museum is one of the National Historic Sites.  Located in the old town hall, the museum, though small, houses the 1879 Council Chambers, a number of historical artifacts from early settlers and even a rifle display.

Woodstock Museum - The Old Town Hall - Woodstock, Ontario
Woodstock Museum – The Old Town Hall – Woodstock, Ontario
1879 Council Chambers in old Town Hall (Woodstock Museum) - Woodstock, Ontario
1879 Council Chambers in old Town Hall (Woodstock Museum) – Woodstock, Ontario
Relics in Oxford Rifle Museum - Militia Uniforms and drums from early 1800s - Woodstock Museum
Relics in Oxford Rifle Museum – Militia Uniforms and drums from early 1800s – Woodstock Museum
Old Wagon Wheel in the Building a City Gallery of Woodstock Museum
Old Wagon Wheel in the Building a City Gallery of Woodstock Museum

The other National Historic site is the Tillsonburg Museum – the Annandale House, which I did not get a chance to visit (there are so many great places to visit in SW Ontario!!!).  But, I did get a chance to visit the smaller Beachville District Museum in the small community of Beachville, Ontario.  This small town has the unique status of claiming to be the home of the first ever recorded game of baseball in North America. According to the museum, the group of men who gathered in a Beachville pasture on June 4, 1838 to enjoy a friendly game of baseball had little idea that they were making history. Their match was the first recorded baseball game in North America. It occurred one year prior to the famous Cooperstown game.  The museum has a number of artifacts from this game and even has an annual game on the land outside the park, using the original 5 base configuration.

Welcome to Beachville, Ontario
Welcome to Beachville, Ontario
Beachville Museum - Beachville, Ontario
Beachville Museum – Beachville, Ontario
Beachville District Museum sign
Beachville District Museum sign
100 year anniversary jersey of Beachville baseball game
100 year anniversary jersey of Beachville baseball game
Old Chest Protector in Beachville Museum
Old Chest Protector in Beachville Museum
Old baseball and mitt in Beachville Museum
Old baseball and mitt in Beachville Museum

The Beachville Museum is also home of a number of agricultural implements and old vehicles.

Old Sign in Beachville Museum - Beachville, Ontario
Old Sign in Beachville Museum – Beachville, Ontario
Old farm implement at Beachville Museum
Old farm implement at Beachville Museum
Old fire truck in Beachville Museum
Old fire truck in Beachville Museum

Baseball was not the only game that got some fame in Oxford County.  The game of Crokinole celebrates its annual World Championships in Tavistock, a town in northern Oxford County.

Crokinole World Championships
Crokinole World Championships

What is Crokinole?  Basically, Crokinole is an action board game similar in various ways to marbles with elements of shuffleboard and curling reduced to table-top size. Players take turns shooting discs across the circular playing surface, trying to have their discs land in the higher-scoring regions of the board, while also attempting to knock away opposing discs.

Crokinole Board from World Championships in Tavistock, Ontario
Crokinole Board from World Championships in Tavistock, Ontario
Flicking the disk with a finger
Flicking the disk with a finger

The earliest known crokinole board was made by craftsman Eckhardt Wettlaufer in 1876 in Perth County, Ontario. Several other home-made boards of southwestern Ontario origin, and dating from the 1870s, have been discovered since the 1990s. It seems to have been patented on April 20, 1880, in New York City by Joshua K. Ingalls. In 2006, a documentary film called Crokinole was released. The world premiere occurred at the Princess Cinema in Waterloo, Ontario, in early 2006. The movie follows some of the competitors of the 2004 World Crokinole Championship as they prepare for the event.  Ironically, a former work associate of mine in the 2000s in Lexington was a participant in the championships and has been noted in books and the movie.

Crokinole Trophies
Crokinole Trophies

Tavistock is home to a number of Mennonite Churches and groups.  Indeed, Oxford County has a number of Mennonites and Amish in the area. Here are a few shots I have from my visits with them (some may be from neighboring counties)…

Mennonite father and daughter selling Maple Syrup
Mennonite father and daughter selling Maple Syrup
Mennonite Maple Syrup stand
Mennonite Maple Syrup stand
Amish cart in front of house in Oxford County, Ontario
Amish cart in front of house in Oxford County, Ontario
Amish folk shopping in Oxford County, Ontario
Amish folk shopping in Oxford County, Ontario
Amish buggy in modern neighborhood in Oxford County, Ontario
Amish buggy in modern neighborhood in Oxford County, Ontario
A Mennonite Buggy
Amish buggy and horse parked in a lot in Oxford COunty
Amish buggy and horse parked in a lot in Oxford County

On one trip south of Woodstock, I was on a dirt road and came across an amazing tulip farm.  Here are some shots…

Tulip farm in southern Oxford County, Ontario
Tulip farm in southern Oxford County, Ontario
Tulips in Oxford County, Ontario
Tulips in Oxford County, Ontario
Tulips and daffodils
Tulips and daffodils

Woodstock is also home to one of the more unique “Yard Art” menageries – The Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill.

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill - Woodstock, Ontario
Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill – Woodstock, Ontario

The Bruces have amassed a quirky collection of windmills, whirl-a-gigs, railroad implements and more…all in their yard.  There are few places like this that I have run across over the years and miles (Hamtramck Disneyland in Detroit is another).

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill "warning" sign
Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill “warning” sign
Scene from Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill in Woddstock, Ontario
Scene from Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill in Woddstock, Ontario
Cliff Bruce main entrance
Cliff Bruce main entrance
Clydesdales and a superhero whirlygig
The Bruce’s version of the Michelin man?
Whirlygig Maximus
Cats and more at Cliff Bruce Windmill Farm in Woodstock, Ontario
Cats and more at Cliff Bruce Windmill Farm in Woodstock, Ontario
Old Cowboy Statue at Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Old Cowboy Statue at Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill

In the form of entertainment, I had the opportunity on two occasions to visit the Walters Dinner Theatre in Bright, Ontario (Bright is also known for its Cheese Factory)

Walters Family Dinner Theatre – Bright, Ontario

The Walters Family offers a little taste of Branson in the back woods of Ontario. They have established a fun program…a country dinner buffet and then an hour and a half of live music, sometimes from some great guest musicians. From June to October they put on six shows a week through the end of October and then in December they put on a Christmas extravaganza. (You can see more of complete writeup here)

Bradley Walters – the Leader of the Band
The Walters Family putting on a show in 2008

It all started a number of years ago when father Garry had his three children Bradley, Kimberley and Darren form the Walters Trio. Soon Garry and his wife Shirley were learning drums and bass guitar and joined the kids in performances. As a family they have toured with the Osmonds and have performed with Lawrence Welk and other groups.

The best part is the wonderful buffet

The buffet line for Rolled Ribs (with sage stuffing), roast beef, cole slaw, potatoes and gravy, veggies and fresh baked bread. They even had creamed horseradish which I slathered on my rolled ribs…yum!

The Rolled Ribs

Perhaps one of the best things about the Woodstock area is internationally known Jakeman’s Maple Products, located in Beachville. I got to visit Jakeman’s on a number of occasions and love their fresh maple syrup.  Back in 2008 I even had a nice page about them (see here).

Jakeman's Maple Products - Beachville, Ontario
Jakeman’s Maple Products – Beachville, Ontario

Jakeman’s is owned by Bob and Mary Jakeman, who are fourth generation Maple Syrup farmers. As their history states in their brochure, Bob’s great grandfather George and his wife Betsy Anne Jakeman came from Oxfordshire, England to Oxford County in Ontario. They were taught the maple syrup making technique by local native Canadians. Back then they collected the sap and boiled it down in an iron kettle over an open wood fire until it was golden brown. The family business has grown throughout the years and now the Jakeman name is known all over Canada and throughout the world. They have over 1000 taps.

Mary and Bob Jakeman in 2008
Mary and Bob Jakeman in 2008

Their shop is housed in an old rustic building. Originally built in 1855, it used to be the Sweaburg General Store and post office in Sweaburg. In 1976 the Jakeman’s moved the entire building to its present location. Inside is a maple gift shop, a small museum and a pancake house (much different than a IHOP!!). My first thought as I entered was WOW, look at all of the different products made from maple syrup…cookies, candies, wine, snacks, etc. Of course, they had a great variety of 100% Maple Syrup, which is drawn from trees on site, boiled on site and bottled there as well. You can see a good variety of their products (and order them as well) at their website: www.themaplestore.com. Unbeknownst to me, their #1 Medium Maple syrup was named the best tasting in Canada among 8 national brands by the National Post newspaper in 2004.

Best Syrup in Canada
Best Syrup in Canada

Trees are “tapped” to get the syrup.  On one of my visits, Bob explained the process in detail.

Bob Jakeman explains the tapping process
Sugar Shanty where maple syrup is processed

Fact: It takes about 40 liters of Maple sap to make 1 liter of Maple Syrup.
Fact: They don’t start boiling it down until they get at least 500 liters of sap.
Fact: A tree is tapped once a year in a different place each year. The trees have scars from previous years.
Fact: The sugar bush is self-generating. They do not plant the trees. Rather, the trees seed the ground and grow.
Fact: The Jakeman’s Maple Bush has about 1000 trees that are tapped. They contract with many others in the area as well.

Pancake Breakfast at Jakeman’s

On Saturday and Sunday mornings in March every year Jakeman’s offers a pancake breakfast along with small tours of their facility. The pancake breakfast is a fundraiser for the local 4H Club and all of the members are there to make pancakes, take orders and serve. There is room in the Jakeman’s store for about 35 people.

Some of their products

On a final note, I would like to introduce the flower called a Trillium.  A white trillium serves as the emblem and official flower of the Ontario. It is also an official symbol of the Government of Ontario. One wonderful place to see an abundance of trillium in the spring is the Trillium Woods Provincial Park south of Woodstock.

A walking trail at Trillium Woods Provincial Park
A walking trail at Trillium Woods Provincial Park
Ontario's Provincial Flower - The Trillium
Ontario’s Provincial Flower – The Trillium

The Trillium only blooms for about two weeks in May and can be seen dotting some rural areas.  The Nature park is unique in its variety of trillium, not only the white ones, but some of the more colorful ones as well.

A Red Trillium - seemed very rare in the park
A Red Trillium – seemed very rare in the park
A Yellow Trillium
A Yellow Trillium
Beautiful White Trillium

So, head to Woodstock, learn some history, eat some maple syrup, listen to some great Branson entertainment, take a wlk through a flower garden and go learn the game of Crokinole!!  You’ll be glad you did!!

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People Shots from My Travels – Part 1 (Canada and US)

Street Person - Toronto
Street Person – Toronto

Throughout my travels in Canada and the US, I have run across many opportunities to get random shots of people.  Our world is made up of people of all types.

Strolling by Mo's Seafood Restaurant - Newport, Oregon
Strolling by Mo’s Seafood Restaurant – Newport, Oregon

So, for this entry and the next couple of them, it will be more about people, than places.  I hope you will enjoy this little cruise.  People are fun!

Soccer in the Shadows - Hoboken, NJ
Soccer in the Shadows – Hoboken, NJ
"Super" Family Trip - Metropolis, Illinois
“Super” Family Trip – Metropolis, Illinois
Old Man - Paducah, Kentucky
Old Man – Paducah, Kentucky

I got the next couple of shots while on a visit to Niagara Falls with my family.  I took quite a few, but these were my favorites.

Jewish Tourists - Niagara Falls, Ontario
Jewish Tourists – Niagara Falls, Ontario
Indian Lady - Niagara Falls, Ontario
Indian Lady – Niagara Falls, Ontario

On a trip to Dallas a couple of years ago, I headed west and got the following shots

Relaxing - Weatherford, Texas
Relaxing – Weatherford, Texas
Sitting - Mineral Wells, Texas
Sitting – Mineral Wells, Texas

In 2008 I had the opportunity to visit Toronto.  I found a good deal of opportunities there.  These were taken mainly around China Town and Kensington.

Walking by the Art - Toronto
Walking by the Art – Toronto
Relaxing - Toronto
Relaxing – Toronto
Street Person - Toronto
Street Person – Toronto
Store Front - Toronto
Store Front – Toronto

In the spring of 2012 I went to Arizona with my family.  We drove back through Tucson and then through Texas.  While in Tucson we stopped at the San Xavier del Bac Church, an old Catholic church built in the 1600s. I got a great shot of a man meditating in the church.

Meditation - San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona
Meditation – San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona

I had many other opportunities to travel around Ontario while there in 2008.  Here are a few more random shots.

Crokinole - Tavistock, Ontario
Crokinole – Tavistock, Ontario
Enjoying Lake Erie - near Port Colborn, Ontario
Enjoying Lake Erie – near Lorraine, Ontario
Fishing Trip - Caledonia, Ontario
Fishing Trip – Caledonia, Ontario
Sun Bathing - Port Dover, Ontario
Sun Bathing – Port Dover, Ontario

I have made a number of trips to Fort Worth.  Lots of Cowboys there.  And other types as well.

Cowboys - Fort Worth, Texas
Cowboys – Fort Worth, Texas
Street Person - Dallas, Texas
Street Person – Dallas, Texas
Standing -m Antlers, Oklahoma
Standing – Antlers, Oklahoma

Here are a few more random shots from trips

Resting on Train - Lima, Ohio
Resting on Train – Lima, Ohio
Amish Man - Charm, Ohio
Amish Man – Charm, Ohio
Street Musician - Seattle, Washington
Street Musician – Seattle, Washington
Mennonite Father and Daughter - Elora, Ontario
Mennonite Father and Daughter – Elora, Ontario

There are also many opportunities to snag shots of people right here at home in Lexington.  here are a few…

Sleeping on a Bench - Lexington, Kentucky
Sleeping on a Bench – Lexington, Kentucky
Sitting out the Day - Lexington, Kentucky
Sitting out the Day – Lexington, Kentucky
Homeless Lady - Lexington, Kentucky
Homeless Lady – Lexington, Kentucky
Walking the Dog - Lexington, Kentucky
Walking the Dog – Lexington, Kentucky
Hopeless - Lexington, Kentucky
Hopeless – Lexington, Kentucky
At the Parade - Lexington, Kentucky
At the Parade – Lexington, Kentucky
Parade Crowd - Lexington, Kentucky
Parade Crowd – Lexington, Kentucky

My next blog will be People Shots Part II – Photos I took of people in Cebu, Philippines.  Watch for it soon.

 

 

 

 

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