One flew over the British Virgin Islands  

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wanderer
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February 2, 2016 2:28 pm  

This is the third installment in my "Living like a ..." series. My previous Caribbean adventures have been chronicled here:

Living like a Crucian:
https://www.vimovingcenter.com/talk/read.php?4,219260,page=1

Living like a St Johnian:
https://www.vimovingcenter.com/talk/read.php?7,238131,page=1

This time, I am spending a month in BVI (Feb 1st to March 2nd, 2016), with a home base in Tortola.


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wanderer
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February 2, 2016 2:36 pm  

Day 1.

The first noticeable thing about Totrola is that there are no mosquitoes. None. Not a single one. I have not used any repellents, and I have no bites.

On St John, these vicious animals (the mosquitoes, that is) took real pleasure in victimizing me. They never let go, inside or outside, day or night.

On the scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the the least problematic with mosquitoes, and 10 being the most problematic with mosquitoes, I would rate the islands as follows:
St Croix: 5
St John: 15
Tortola: 0

Why such dramatic variation in the intensity?


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wanderer
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February 2, 2016 4:49 pm  

Day 1 (continued).

Found a beautiful beach. There are just a few people. No flies. Plenty of shade. The sand is super soft. Occasional black stones, polished and smooth to the touch. The air is moist. It smells like sea, plus some sort of feral animal smell, although I can't identify the source. The temperature is perfect 24 degrees Celsius. It's peaceful. No gangsters.

My sight is fixed on the sea. I try not to think about anything, but the mind races from one thought to another.

Random thought #1:
When it is minus 50 Fahrenheit in Siberia, you can't think about anything but the cold and how to overcome it. The brain activity is revolving around the most important thing: how not to freeze to death. The brain shuts off the blood supply to the limbs (presumably considered the least important organs), and pumps the blood to something else. Heart? Liver? Itself?
To me, the most wonderful thing about the Caribbeans is not the weather itself, but what effect it has on my mind. No longer obsessed with the efficient blood redistribution, the brain is suddenly free to be playful and creative.

Random thought #2:
All islanders are blessed with the same thing: the ability to focus their eyesight on the horizon. What's typically referred to as "multi-million dollar views" in real estate are simply the homes from where you can see the horizon. Why are people willing to pay such high prices for these views? It's simply because you have more informational content in your surroundings. You can make better decisions, and you have higher chances of survival. You'd be the first to spot the Godzilla emerging from the sea, and to take action.


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janeinstx
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February 2, 2016 5:29 pm  

BVI's are better at border protection?

Day 1.

The first noticeable thing about Totrola is that there are no mosquitoes. None. Not a single one. I have not used any repellents, and I have no bites.

On St John, these vicious animals (the mosquitoes, that is) took real pleasure in victimizing me. They never let go, inside or outside, day or night.

On the scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the the least problematic with mosquitoes, and 10 being the most problematic with mosquitoes, I would rate the islands as follows:
St Croix: 5
St John: 15
Tortola: 0

Why such dramatic variation in the intensity?


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JohnnyU
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February 2, 2016 5:30 pm  

Random thought #1:
When it is minus 50 Fahrenheit in Siberia, you can't think about anything but the cold and how to overcome it. The brain activity is revolving around the most important thing: how not to freeze to death. The brain shuts off the blood supply to the limbs (presumably considered the least important organs), and pumps the blood to something else. Heart? Liver? Itself?

To me, the most wonderful thing about the Caribbeans is not the weather itself, but what effect it has on my mind. No longer obsessed with the efficient blood redistribution, the brain is suddenly free to be playful and creative.

Shukhov or Kostoglotov?


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wanderer
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February 2, 2016 5:40 pm  

Day 1 (continued).

The supreme leader of the British Virgin Islands is the queen Elizabeth II. Every morning, when Elizabeth wakes up in her Buckingham palace, the fist thing she does is making a list of executive decisions pertaining the BVI. The typical items on the list include things like the new road construction, the price of orange juice, and what to do about the Zika virus. Then she calls John Duncan, who is the BVI governor, and asks him to execute her decisions.

The stereotypical Brit, in the eyes of the Americans, looks as follows. Battered fish in the left hand, chips in the right hand, tight upper lip, stiff and unemotional. Sings "God save the Queen" at the first opportunity. When approached, the Brit would say, "Sorry, but why are your knickers in such a twist?".

Ever since the Revolutionary War, Americans have been paranoid about the British aggressors colonizing the land of the free and the home of the brave. The prospects of the British taking over, crossing out "we the people" and substituting it with the "we the Queen" in our constitution are frightening. For this reason, we Americans have been arming ourselves for the last 230 years. Over this period of time, we have accumulated over 250 million firearms. And that's just in the civilian hands. If this does not deter the British invasion, we have over 5,000 nuclear warheads, each hundreds of times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Should the Queen decide to send her battleships anywhere near to the shores of the United States, we'll drop all 5,000 nuclear bombs on London, evaporating the monarchy for good.

When I landed in BVI, these ideas, instilled in me by the American media machine, made me feel like an American ambassador in the UK. Perhaps it should be my mission to communicate the strong resolve of the American government with respect to the imminent British aggression, which would, no doubt, originate from the British Virgin Islands, as it's the British land closest to the United States. If not me, who would issue a stern warning and a threat of a nuclear Armageddon to the islanders who are the puppets of the queen?

Imagine my surprise when I met the first islander who utterly defied the British stereotype. He hates British food, does not know who the Queen is, does not speak English, does not wear knickers, and is animated. All these years, I have been indoctrinated by the American propaganda to think in a certain way, and it all fell apart on my first day in the BVI. Such is the power of open international relations from the first hand experience, as opposed to listening to American cable news.


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watruw8ing4
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February 2, 2016 6:14 pm  

Day 1 (continued).

> . . . The stereotypical Brit, in the eyes of the Americans, looks as follows. Battered fish in the left hand, chips in the right hand, tight upper lip, stiff and unemotional. Sings "God save the Queen" at the first opportunity. When approached, the Brit would say, "Sorry, but why are your knickers in such a twist?".

Ever since the Revolutionary War, Americans have been paranoid about the British aggressors colonizing the land of the free and the home of the brave. The prospects of the British taking over, crossing out "we the people" and substituting it with the "we the Queen" in our constitution are frightening. For this reason, we Americans have been arming ourselves for the last 230 years. Over this period of time, we have accumulated over 250 million firearms. And that's just in the civilian hands. If this does not deter the British invasion, we have over 5,000 nuclear warheads, each hundreds of times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Should the Queen decide to send her battleships anywhere near to the shores of the United States, we'll drop all 5,000 nuclear bombs on London, evaporating the monarchy for good.

When I landed in BVI, these ideas, instilled in me by the American media machine, made me feel like an American ambassador in the UK. Perhaps it should be my mission to communicate the strong resolve of the American government with respect to the imminent British aggression, which would, no doubt, originate from the British Virgin Islands, as it's the British land closest to the United States. If not me, who would issue a stern warning and a threat of a nuclear Armageddon to the islanders who are the puppets of the queen?

Imagine my surprise when I met the first islander who utterly defied the British stereotype. He hates British food, does not know who the Queen is, does not speak English, does not wear knickers, and is animated. All these years, I have been indoctrinated by the American propaganda to think in a certain way, and it all fell apart on my first day in the BVI. Such is the power of open international relations from the first hand experience, as opposed to listening to American cable news.

That's the biggest crock of bovine effluvia I've seen you lay out in a long time. The US media's laid nothing of the sort on you. Were you over-celebrating your arrival? What's the regional cocktail that's caused this mis-impression?


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wanderer
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February 2, 2016 6:22 pm  

Day 1 (continued).

On both STX and STJ, it's a myrmecologist paradise. Leave a few bread crumbs on the kitchen counter. Wait. In about 25 minutes, hundreds upon hundreds of ants will roll in, double file, in a continuous bi-directional formation. They move like soldiers, in a deterministic way, motivated, disciplined, convinced, unquestioning. Their motto is "My ant queen, my colony, my labor". Semper fidelis.

In BVI, this experiment produces no expected results. The BVI ants act like an Iraqi army. They don't show up for a fight. The soldiers are probably torn apart by their loyalty to different sub-regional ant queens and ant kings, or have no loyalty to any ant. How they survive as a colony is unclear. The bread crumbs on my kitchen counter are untouched.


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wanderer
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February 2, 2016 6:53 pm  

Day 1 (continued)

Please help me figure this one:

Is that a homosexual pride rainbow-colored closed umbrella in the front, and the open umbrella with the "Mount Gay" sign in the back?


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wanderer
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February 2, 2016 7:44 pm  

Day 1 (continued):

In British Virgin Islands, the crime rates are surprisingly low. For example, the BVI homicide rates are lower than the U.S. averages. By comparison, the USVI homicide rates are about 10 times higher than the U.S. averages. The USVI are separated from BVI by a 40 minute ferry ride.

Why such a disparity? The most common theory is that it has to do with the imported culture. The USVI imports the U.S. mainland culture, which amounts to, basically, "Shoot first for instant gratification, ask questions later". The BVI imports the UK culture, which is "Mind you manners. Avoid confrontation. Apologize."

Both USVI and BVI offer their unique appeal. In USVI, there is a certain thrill of surviving in a lawless land. If you don't become one of the 50 people murdered every year in USVI, you feel like a winner. It's an adrenaline rush comparable to riding a roller coaster with a known steady history of deadly accidents. At the end of the ride, you take a selfie and say, "I made it!". In BVI, the appeal is that if you do get murdered, it would be such a rare event that her majesty queen Elizabeth II will take notice.


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wanderer
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February 2, 2016 9:45 pm  

Day 1 (continued)

In BVI, I feel hungry all the time. Not that there is shortage of food. It's just that right after I ate breakfast, I fantasized about lunch.

It's 6 pm now, and the popular restaurants do not open for dinner until 7 pm. I head to the "unpopular" one, which is open all the time, and doesn't appear to have any patrons. I enter and ask for a menu. They don't have one. It's a spontaneous kind of thing for them, type of "we serve whatever we catch during the day", although they didn't put it this way. Today, it's fish and chips:

While consuming this staple of the British diet, I observe the hostess. She is West Indian. Some people like to study animals, plants, machinery, religion, art. I like to study people. If I were not a software engineer, I'd be either a preacher or an anthropologist.

Certain anthropological patterns emerged so far. The West Indians in BVI, just like their counterparts in USVI, like their music loud. Deafening loud. Quite amazingly, West Indians in BVI just love talking on their cell phones while enjoying their music at the same time. To what can this seemingly superhuman ability be attributed to?

The dominant music preferences in BVI are somewhat different from those in USVI. It appears that in BVI, the melodic qualities are preferred over the rhythmic qualities. In USVI, it's the other way around. Even when rap is heard, the BVI selections are decidedly gentler than the USVI selections.

For example,
In USVI: "don't fuking disrespect me you fukng bitch, I'll fuk you in your fuking ass and slash your fuking throat"
In BVI: "Oh, babe, I so loved to fuk you in the ass last night"

So far, I have not heard any Adele, Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, or Rolling Stones. Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe I am getting old.


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STTsailor
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February 3, 2016 12:27 am  

Fascinating blog.
Looking forward to the next episode.


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wanderer
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February 3, 2016 12:07 pm  

Day 2.

In the British Virgin Islands, people are classified as British Overseas Territory Citizens (BOTS), BVIslanders, Belongers, and Non-Belongers.

In the United States, it's simply citizens and aliens. It all started with the movie "Alien", made by Ridley Scott and released in the U.S. in 1979. In the movie, a Mexican dude named Pedro crosses the U.S. border, and makes it all the way to Cape Canaveral, Florida. Once there, he manages to sneak and hide in a spaceship ready for take off. In the outer space, Pedro (the antagonist) impregnates a Caucasian American astronaut (the protagonist). Now there is a dilemma: what to do with the alien fetus? Pedro insists on carrying the pregnancy to full term. The spaceship control center in Houston respectfully disagrees. Well, you've probably watched the movie, so you know how the conflict is resolved.

The public antipathy towards aliens, initiated by the "Alien" movie, was reinforced recently by the world's famous astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking. Using some clever deduction, he derived an equation which indicated that any contact between humans and aliens is likely to be hostile:
http://www.livescience.com/52439-stephen-hawking-hostile-aliens.html

When there is a popular belief held by the public and supported by science, the politicians step in and capitalize. In 2015, Donald Trump offered the final solution to the alien crisis: build a giant wall along the US-Mexico border to prevent the aliens from sneaking into our spaceships.

I will come back to the topic of BOTS, BVIslanders, Belongers, and Non-Belongers later today.


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wanderer
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February 3, 2016 2:58 pm  

Day 2 (continued).

Yesterday, the sea was relaxed. The waves moved gently, in and out, in a metronome fashion. The sea sounded like the Calypso music: no tension, steady flow, no unexpected melodic jumps. On the days like this, the sea is receptive to the exchange of the spiritual currency. You give something to the sea, and the sea will give you something back.

Today, the character has changed. The sea sounds strained and tense. No more Calypso. It sounds like a Beethoven's symphony: dramatic, full of the dominant 7ths and the 6ths, restless, unpredictable. Today, the sea doesn't want to engage in the spiritual exchange. It wants to be left along. I pick up and leave the beach.


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swans
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February 3, 2016 3:53 pm  

For acoustic appreciation, enter Beethoven....

"....Today, the character has changed. The sea sounds strained and tense. No more Calypso. It sounds like a Beethoven's symphony: dramatic, full of the dominant 7ths and the 6ths, restless, unpredictable. Today, the sea doesn't want to engage in the spiritual exchange...."


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wanderer
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February 3, 2016 5:54 pm  

For acoustic appreciation, enter Beethoven....

"....Today, the character has changed. The sea sounds strained and tense. No more Calypso. It sounds like a Beethoven's symphony: dramatic, full of the dominant 7ths and the 6ths, restless, unpredictable. Today, the sea doesn't want to engage in the spiritual exchange...."

Yes, that sounds about right.


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wanderer
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February 3, 2016 6:22 pm  

Day 2 (continued):

Another beautiful beach (forgot to see what it's called):

Suzuki, Suzuki, and more Suzuki:

My ride is a Suzuki, too. On STJ, it was Wrangler, Wrangler, Wrangler. I like Suzuki much better than Jeep Wrangler. The Suzuki ride is much more comfortable, and fuel economy seems better. On STJ, I had to refuel my Wrangler every 3 days.


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wanderer
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February 3, 2016 6:43 pm  

There is something really special about driving on the coastal road. Having no particular destination, and just feeling the moment. Windows rolled down. Moving slowly. Light breeze in the face. Clean air. Pelicans. Turquoise water as far as you can see.

I found it humorous. "What's the joke and where is the punchline?", I asked myself. Then I answered to myself, "Well, everybody loves these exotic places, and yet everybody lives everywhere else".

This is like going to the purgatory after death, and the dispatcher asks you, "Heaven or Hell?". You answer, "I'll work in Hell, and vacation in Heaven".


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wanderer
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February 3, 2016 6:51 pm  

This sign stopped me in my tracks. I thought about it for some time, but could not figure what it meant. It does say something about me.


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wanderer
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February 3, 2016 8:13 pm  

Day 2 (continued):

West Indians in both USVI and BVI hate letter "R" with all their guts. The pronunciation of "R" requires an effort. That's the case in Russian, German, English and French languages. In Russia, there is an army of speech therapists, and they do the same thing: teach the children to pronounce "R" correctly. What one has to do is unthinkable: bend the tongue upward, and blow out some air (through the nose, in some instances) in such a way which makes the tongue vibrate with a certain frequency. Then you quickly retreat the tongue to terminate the sound.

The second thing that West Indians hate is when there are two or more adjacent consonants in a word.

West Indians do not go to the speech therapists. When confronted with a necessity to pronounce a difficult word, they just change the word. For example, "mother" is pronounced as "muddah".

But what if there are both the "R" letter and multiple adjacent consonants? If you ignore both things, your speech would be unrecognizable. West Indians solve this problem by pronouncing one, but not the other. For example, the word "children" is pronounced as "chilren".

One day, when I am done with my other projects, I think I will design a new language. There will be no "R" or "TH" sounds in it, and there will never be two adjacent consonants in any word.


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wanderer
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February 3, 2016 11:52 pm  

Day 2 (continued):

For dinner, I stopped by D'Coalpot restaurant:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g147356-d6104456-Reviews-D_Coalpot_BVI_Restaurant_Bar_Grill-West_End_Tortola_British_Virgin_Islands.html

Excellent choice! Small, operated by 4 people, great selection of Caribbean dishes. Genuinely friendly service.

They said they have lobster as a special. The Caribbean lobster is caught in Anegada, one of the BVI islands. I don't know if it is a joke or not, but they say lobster can only be found in Anegada because the sea is sweeter there.

"Yeah", I said, "bring it on!" The waitress said, politely, in a hushed voice, "It's 90 dollars. Would that be a problem?" I said, incredulously, "nine-zero?" She said, "yes".

I opted for Jamaican jerk chicken, and asked them to show me the lobster if someone orders it. The lobster turned out to be a huge animal, and the kitchen can actually serve half of it for $45. I'll try that Anegada creature next time.

There were 3 women at the table next to mine. I intercepted a few Spanish words, but it was not Spanish. Maybe Portuguese. They turned their heads towards me, one at a time, and gossiped. Maybe they were thinking of including me in a foursome tonight. I thought about such a predicament and about how it's done. After some vivid visualizations, I concluded that at least one person would be bored, waiting for her turn. Or maybe they didn't talk about intercourse at all, and just said, "Look at that poor lonely bald dude".

Here is an idea: a mobile app that listens to the conversations around you in a restaurant, translates them to English, if necessary, and shows the transcript of those conversations. What do you think?


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wanderer
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February 4, 2016 12:52 am  

Day 2 (continued):

In the British Virgin Islands, the official currency is the United States dollar. That's puzzling. The British Virgin Islanders hold cautiously disapproving views of the United States, and especially about its foreign policies. The wars in the Mideast, the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, and all of that nasty stuff. Maybe you should back off a little, they say.

As a self-appointed U.S. ambassador in BVI, I patiently explain to them that we, the United States, are the superior nation, the last bastion of democracy in the world, and that our rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

In response to that powerful policy statement, British Virgin Islanders have no counter-arguments, except that BVI is so much more cultured, compared to USVI.


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wanderer
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February 4, 2016 1:24 am  

Day 2 (continued).

In BVI, just like it is in USVI, there is no house-to-house trash pickup. Instead, the islanders bring their trash to the giant community dumpsters, strategically placed around the island. Once a day, a big noisy truck comes along, empties the containers, and moves along. Where does the trash go? Same place as on the continent -- land fills.

My rental place has an unfortunate proximity to one of these community trash containers. Every day at about 9:30 pm, a highly curious phenomenon occurs. The residents of the surrounding properties, after a hard day's work and a good dinner, start flocking to the trash container. While dumping their garbage, they meet their neighbors, start conversations, and some appear to be dating. The youths start playing their favorite rap, full blast from their 200 watt car speakers. People laugh, socialize, exchange the news of the day. The dumpster site becomes the community geographical focal point. Then, abruptly, as if on schedule, it ends at 10:00 pm. The crowd disperses, and I can hear the tropical sounds once again.


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PeteyToo
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February 4, 2016 7:05 am  

Watch Out, You Might Get What You Ask For".


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wanderer
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February 4, 2016 3:35 pm  

Day 3.

On the beach, it's partially cloudy and breezy today. The tide is high. It's as if the sea is attempting to claim its territory. I feel chilly, and there are goosebumps on my arms. Who knew one can get goosebumps in the Carribeans. Then the sun comes out, and it's comfortably warm again.

I spot a surfer in the sea. She rides skillfully, confidently, with grace. She comes out of the water. Slender, muscular, boyish-looking. Her shoulder-length hair is bleached by sun and salty water. She leaves her surf board on the sand, and immediately goes back to the sea. She lets the waves carry her, as if she is the surf board. She looks like a mermaid in there, as if the sea is her home.


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