Tag Archives: Naples

Mind the gap

15 Oct

 

I had never considered Chicago on the top list of places I really wanted to visit, until I met “accidentally” Natasha and Natalie;

This article is not about a travel story, but it is still really important since you will be able to understand why I ended up in Chicago.

Two years ago I promised two American girls in Naples that I would have visited them soon. Why? Here comes the story.

It was 26th September 2010; I had just left Barcelona for good, a city where I had lived many years.

 

It was time for a change, and meanwhile I decided to be pampered by mum and family and stay for a little bit in Naples.

 

During that time in Naples, Cecilia had come to visit me together with Anders, a lovely Finnish guy we had both met at a party in Barcelona few months before.

 

On a Sunday night we first took Anders to the airport and then we headed to the station since Cecilia had to take a train to get to Rome.

 

We didn’t find any availability on the trains that were about to leave and we had to wait more than an hour instead.

 

It was good so we could stay a little bit more together. We hanged out around the station. Spending time with her is always so precious.

 

Cecilia has appeared in my life in one of the toughest moments, and has made my life more beautiful, she has been able to make me laugh at every single moment even when I thought I had no reason for.

 

I met her for the first time at Lavazza offices in Barcelona, where I had gone for a job interview. It was love at first sight. One of those person you understand immediately you have connection with.

From that moment we started to work together but also to live in symbiosis and do everything together. It was funny running up and down on her horrible motorcycle in Barcelona.

 

Coming back to the farewell with Cecilia at the station of Napoli (I don’t know if there is a more romantic and sad place where to say goodbye to somebody) when time came for her to leave, I took her up to her wagon.

 

She went on the train and was waving me goodbye and making funny faces to me. We couldn’t stop laughing as usual.

 

Until my attention diverted on two girls running along the train. They were carrying big backpacks.

 

I listened to the train conductor’s whistle but at the same time I noticed that the backpack of one of them was stacked in the train doors.

 

I could not understand why the train conductor did not stop.

 

Until suddenly I saw one of the two girls falling down on the platform and the other one falling down the train moving.

 

I thought that would be the worst day of my life.

 

I had few seconds of black out.  I was so dizzy and scared and didn’t want to go and see on the track, I was afraid to see a smashed body. But I took courage and went to check out. And incredibly, that girl was there, apparently alive.

 

She was of course in shock and full of blood and she was even shouting. She had a big wound in her head, but this didn’t stop her to stand up on her legs. The scene was from a horror movie, but I was comforted.

 

I am normally very sensitive to blood, I nearly faint when have to do blood tests but that time I tried to keep calm and bright.

 

Just for you to have an idea, Natasha’s head looked like a big Easter egg. You know when you break it in the top and see the inner of the egg and the surprise? Unfortunately I have no better picture that reminds me of that. And it was not a chocolate egg, but a crane and I could see all the inner part of the it full of blood – terrifying.

 

I called immediately the ambulance, words were difficult to come out, I was freaking out but I was at least able to say to hurry up at the platform 16 for a serious accident.

 

Luckily the ambulance came pretty quick and while I was trying to calm down the girls, I also tried to collect their belongings spread out everywhere. Mostly their passports, I opened them and I found out they were American citizens and only 21 years old.

 

I also found a necklace and a pair of earrings from Natasha – completely red from the blood. Later, when I told her I had them in my purse she would be so happy.

 

Even though Tosh (I will call Natasha like this from now on) was evidently shocked she was really brave and bright, she kept telling me to take care of Natalie (it took me probably minutes to get the name, she kept saying in a very American accent “Nedeli” and between the noises of the station, her broken voice as well as the fear and shock, I barely understood it).

 

It was also so funny while we were waiting for the ambulance, Tosh said in a really American way: “Wow, how comes you speak this fucking English in this fucking country?” She made me laugh.

 

I had always loved to study foreign languages, especially English. And I never thought that this could be useful for someone else’s life one day. I am so glad I was able to communicate with them and being helpful.

 

She started to ask me many questions such as: what’ s your name and where are you from and then she prayed me to stay with her and assist her with the language at all times. I promised her I would.

 

I hooped on the ambulance with her.

 

The nurses advised me to talk to Natasha as much as possible because she was bleeding very much and falling asleep or closing her eyes could have been dangerous.

 

Well, for those who know me you might be sure that was not a big deal for me :-), I started to chat to Tosh about ordinary things.

 

I asked her why she was in Naples and she told me she was living for few months in Rome and studying at the University of Chicago campus. She had just been to Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri and she had liked it.

 

She added that she loved travelling and that she was meant to visit Barcelona soon. I told her about my experience there and that I would have given her a lot of suggestions on where to go.

 

I remember her asking: do you think I can go to Barcelona? And I told her not to worry that everything was going to be all right.

 

These girls were phenomenal, with my eyes I kept seeing an open crane in front of me but with my ears I had to listen to beautiful trip planes. Wow.

 

I was amazed on their positivity, force and bravery; I thought they were two amazing girls.

 

While with Natasha, of course I had not forgotten about Natalie, who had beaten her head on the ground and was bleeding too.

 

She had lost her consciousness for few minutes.

 

The operators on the ambulance were just amazing , once we arrived at the ER we all went straight to a room where a doctor would see the girls and decide what to do.

 

The girls had both ultrasound studies, and thank God none of them had serious internal damages. They only got stitches in the head to close the wound.

 

It was quite hard for me to stand there, it was scary and tried to leave the room but as soon as tried to, I heard Natasha shouting my name and saying: don’t leave, stay here! And so I stepped back.

 

I guess she might feel uplifted to see me beside her and helping her translating from Italian to English. I would not like to be in a foreign country and being in a hospital where doctors and nurses speak a language you can’t understand !

 

Tosh had so much energy. She transferred it to me and I knew I would feel a special feeling for them from now on.

 

The funniest part was when the doctors were trying to shave Tosh’ scalp and she was worried about not looking good with the shaved head. Women, we are so vane – she was so comic, with a head opened, scratches and abrasions everywhere, worrying about her (beautiful long and curly brown) hair.

 

I translated to the doctors Tosh’s wish and luckily they could avoid cutting them.

 

It was quite late when nurses came to me and told me that the girls should overnight in the hospital but unfortunately there was no room for them and they would probably have to stay in corridors.

 

Loreto Mare Hospital in Naples is quite rough, I couldn’t imagine leaving those two young girls all alone in corridors, and this would have demoralized them. Even if the structure is decadent, I have to admit that doctors did a really good job and the girls were taken care of properly. I prayed the doctors to give us two beds since the girls were already too shocked, far from family and did not speak a word in Italian. I insisted and finally they give us two spaces in a room, where there was an old lady in a bed and a young girl with her mum. It was pretty depressing and squalid.

 

The bathroom had no toilet paper, the bed had no pillows. “we run out of them few hours ago” nurses told me.

 

I went few times to chase the doctor for this matter, and he finally gave us one pillow and we created another one with a blanket. When in need, is always good to open up to creativity!

 

I went to buy some drinks for the girls and when I went back upstairs the they already looked a little bit more relaxed, I found them laughing about how bizarre the situation was. And it was.

 

We contacted their school in Rome, I explained them what had happened and they were grateful I was there helping the girls.

 

I spoke to Cindy, the direct student representative, I told her not to worry as I would be with them as much as possible that night.

 

At some point I had to leave and go back to my house. I went back to the hospital after few hours with a Nutella cake for the girls that my twin Rubina had baked. I brought some extra toilet paper and a pillow.

 

Cindy took the first train for Rome that morning so to join us at the hospital. We both took the girls to do different exams.

 

I had promised the girls to buy them a pizza from “Michele”, which had been lately appeared in the Julia Roberts movie Eat Pray Love. In the afternoon I made their wish come true and brought a pizza to their hospital room. They looked so happy, as two children – and so was I.

 

When they got better, doctor released them and I took them back to the station where they would return to Rome.

 

After few weeks they all came back to Naples, this time with Natasha’s dad with two sisters as well as Natalie’s mum. They had all came from Chicago.

 

I took them up and down in the city for some sightseeing, and we all went for lunch to get a pizza at Michele’s. This time not in a hospital room. It was nice. We had a lovely time.

 

I knew I would see them both again anytime in the future, I promised them I would visit Chicago one day. They promised me to take me around their city the same way I had done with them.

 

And I kept the promise. In my American tour I couldn’t miss the city of Natasha and Natalie, my two new little American sisters.

If I can make it there…

14 Oct

 

On the 11th October I took a train from Naples to Rome as the following day I had my  flight to New York from there. The first flight of my  upcoming three months adventurous trip.

Rome is usually for me an excuse to spend a night with my old beloved friends who moved there many years ago from our hometown Napoli.

This time I was able to meet just Valeria, Piera and Paola with Ursula, since Simona was away for work.

We don’t see each other very often since I live abroad, but they are definitely those kind of people I am sure I will have beside me all my life. And every time is such fun and great laughs. During the past 10-15 years we have grown up together and shared so many things that I would need another blog just to name them. They are just precious to me!

That night they took me to “Teatro Ambra Jovinelli”  to see a really cool and bizarre theatre concept called Dignità autonome di prostituzione, which in Italian means “autonomous dignities of prostitution” (http://www.dadp.it/it/):

A show/event with a very special format, where the public can interact with the actors by “purchasing” their performances with monopoly dollars. While holding those fake dollars in my hand I imagined myself few days later in New York spending the real ones in a yummy burger in Manhattan or while showing a barista my preference in coffee (“please very short, I don’t want a long nor a double espresso, yes, short, espresso. Please, thank you, I am from Napoli, I am addicted to coffee, and I like it bitter. Thank you, yes, my name is Giordana, , no, not with J. It’s G-I- O-R-D-A-N-A” )

That show  was in a pure Pirandello style: a great Italian dramatist also holding a Nobel Prize in Literature.

He was actually the first writer to break the invisible curtain that separates the audience from the actors, the audience from the stage and where the spectators are better called “participants”. It was amazing to see such a show that night.

So, suddenly the theatre took the shape of a brothel, with red lights and a burlesque environment. I am glad it was just an “art brothel” though.

Every artist was acting like a prostitute, offering a 20 minutes performance to enthusiast clients/ spectators in exchange for few (fake) dollars.

Artists were running up and down the stairs with eccentric dresses trying to gather as much clients as possible and performing in an assigned room.

They acted as prostitutes on the streets shouting  sentences to draw the clients’ attention and convince them to attend their personal show instead of other’s. It was pretty funny!

The biggest surprise was to spot Daniele Russo among the amazing artists; we were friends at the time of school, I had not seen him for ages but it was lovely to see him grown up and find out he is a great actor now.

It was about 1 a.m., I had been in that theatre  for about four hours enjoying and laughing with old friends but I  was also a  little confused and excited thinking a lot about my trip, my “jump”, my adventure; thinking about what I was leaving and what I was expecting. But all of those feelings were only positive to me!

At the grand finale the actors went on the scene and started to sing all together.They sang twice a song that in another moment would have not affected me too much. But this time felt like a nice coincidence. While I was lost in  thoughts and fantasies, they start singing

Start spreading the news I am leaving today I want to be a part of it New York, New York”

These vagabond shoes are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York

I want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill top of the heap

If I can make it there I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you New York, New York

So, I also thought that if I made it to find a way to plan my trip, my dream as a child, I could probably make it anywhere. Listening to that song  was emotional, one of the  actors  even came to pick me up from the stage in the crowd and danced and sung with me.

I was full of euphoria, it felt like dreaming, I took a look at my beautiful girlfriends who were laughing and I felt so blessed. Blessed to have them there in that moment and hoping they will be forever. But also   lucky to be in that bizarre place just the night before such an important day. It was pure energy for me!

I was about to start a three months trip on my own, with New York as the first stop. The start of everything. Pure adventure, pure unconsciousness. Only me, few belongings and a cute mascotte.

I wish I could “make it” and stay away for at least the three months in my mind and so realizing my biggest dream ever.

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If you can dream it you can do it

7 Oct

Somebody said it’s not important the destination, but the journey. And somehow I agree.

The journey to my forthcoming trip so far has been amazing, and I can tell that it lasted nearly a life. Actually, it is my life. And that is exactly how I want to start with the first article of this blog.

My passion for traveling and getting to know new cultures influenced me every single choice in my life, from the academic, professional and personal point of view.

I will be glad to share with you the journey since the early beginning. The journey who made the person I am now.

I believe that regardless everybody’s roots, blood, habits and education there is an important factor that defines people: it is other people. People who inspire us and drive us towards what we like. Sometimes people let us discover what we don’t like. But still is good and helpful.

I always loved to discover and to learn. When you discover something for the first time, it is when you learn it. And it is when you understand whether you like it or not.

So, it is thanks to some things and some ( special ) people if I understood that my greatest passion ever was traveling.

Further on, I will tell you about the first steps in my life, the first inspirations and key factors that took me here, today, with few days left to the 12th October 2012: when I will take the first flight of this adventure: Rome – New York.

Just to start from the very beginning, my mother always told me that the first song I sang when I was three or four years old was in a broken English – “I just called to say I love you” – from Stevie Wonder. It is clear that I always loved music and singing but to me is more interesting the fact that even though I didn’t even understand the difference, I preferred speaking in my non native language

I started to like English language soon. I remember that whenever I listened to a new song I liked to find its lyrics in the back of cd. Music was always a great passion for me, and apparently it was also very helpful.

When I was 12 years old I joined an afterschool class of “Singing English“. Basically, we learnt English practicing and singing The Beatles, Queen’s lyrics and other British bands’. Still now, when I have a doubt on how to pronounce a certain word, I remember those lyrics perfectly. I am sure this influenced my love/also called obsession for Karaoke.

Since my early age, during my 3 months summer holidays at school I used to go to Ischia. I had cousins, brother, sisters to spend time with, but I enjoyed becoming friend with kids from other countries. I was so curious of understanding all the difference and similarities with them. I have lost the path of some of them but I am now still in contact with a lovely German girl called Carol, who also used to come often to Ischia with her family from Bonn in summertime. God bless Facebook for making it easier.

In 1995 I started to feel the need to have foreign friends also during the rest of the year, not only during summer. So I participated to a nice programme at school and started to have my first pen-pals from all over the world: Spain, Holland, England, France, Germany, Australia, Ghana and many others.IMG_3261Letter from Australia, 1996

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At that time, the postman had to come upstairs to knock at the door and give me by hand the mail since there was not space enough in the mailbox. Sometimes I even received 10 letters per day.

Most of my allowances were actually used to buy stamps and cards for my little friends, together with money for buying international music magazines such as Rolling Stones.

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Something that remained in my mind is that once I told my pen friend from Ghana that I had received a Walkman as a gift from my dad, and from that moment he kept telling me he really wanted to see one because he had never seen any. I don’t think I have never been a spoiled girl, I thank my parents for giving me a good education, but probably that was the first time I really realized that some people, especially in less developed countries were less fortunate than me. And I realized as well that I was a lucky girl.

Some of the pen pals even came to visit me, like Sabine, a lovely girl from Holland. She always gave me precious suggestions on what to do when I was facing some problem. Patty, another  beautiful typical Dutch girl became part of the family. She was  tall, blond with blue eyes. All my male friends were the happiest to accompany me and take her around, guess why.

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Patty used to come once or twice a year to spend some weeks with me and my twin sister Rubina. She taught me so much of English; we used to write each other letters even long 10 pages.

Patty and the other pen friends were talking about their lives. About their habits, their tastes in Music, their friends, their way of living.

I was so fascinated to see and realize that I was living in a country that was so different from all the others, where people ate differently and spoke differently. But some things like adolescence problems were the same everywhere.

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When fourteen I was a great fan of Take That, as most of the teenagers those years. Robbie Williams was my favorite, I adored his voice and tattoos, his naughty face and his rocker attitude. Tastes seem to be still similar nowadays. After many years I fell in love with his look alike, with Argentinian blood. I will talk about him later on.

Returning to my pen friend life, there is something I liked very much: Patty and I had a very cool way to get new pen pals.

With the excuse to swap Take That pictures, information etc., we used to start a chain where you first had to put your name, address and the name of the favourite of the band.

I would then send it to one of my pen pals; she would do the same with her pen pal and so on. In the end, the rule was sending it back to the person who had started it.

And that’s how we all got in touch with many new friends. Now Facebook and social networks might make it easier, but it was so amazing when those sheets came back to me after many months and after have travelled around the world.

Another important episode of  my life was in 1998, when at my school arrived a bunch of Belgian students for an interchange.

Being already opened towards people from other countries, I showed off my interpersonal skills and  immediately became friends with most of them even if they were not my direct temporary classmates.

I fell in love for the first time for a guy who was not Italian, Wouter. He had long blond hair and light blue eyes.  He looked a little bit like Kurt Cobain, a little bit beautiful and damned, but in the end he was extremely sweet. I used to write to him and to receive so long letters, we were sharing our lives through mail, pretty romantic. And I cannot forget one of his best friends Vincent, who became my bosom-buddy instead. He was so sweet and we are also still in contact nowadays.

I have always been a wordy. I used to talk a lot and used to write a lot. I have written so much since I was a teenager. But those I most enjoyed were the travel diaries. When I read them now, I remember of little details in such a vivid way and I absolutely love it!

Just before my last year at school I met a guy who was much older than me and became my boyfriend for about 2 years. I still think he was the Prince Charming for me.

He was very open minded, he taught me a lot. He was an entrepreneur and used to do business trips when I did not even understand their reason, when my greatest worries were probably studying homeworks and pass exams.

He used to send me often lovely postcards from the places he was visiting around the world and when returned back home he used to tell me about all the different things he had seen in those countries and bring me typical presents.  He was a GREAT inspiration for me. Maria Rosaria, his mother, is still a kind of a guru for me. She is smart, independent, passionate and intelligent and I look up to her as the greatest counsellor I could ever desire. She is always present in my life, and sometimes we agreed on the fact that she sees herself younger in me and I always thought I wanted to be like her when older. Of course she travelled a lot and you can tell she is very open-minded which is reflected in her house decorations and in her lifestyle.

As I was getting older and more independent, I finally decided what to study after the high school; I wanted to study modern languages at the University in Naples.

I did few exams, but then I felt I was not ready to just start to study; I applied for the EF Au pair programme in Boston, USA.

I filled all the forms, did all the interviews and when it was time to start the correspondence with the host family, things were getting a little complicated in US after the 9/11.

And after that, the first city I really wanted to make an experience in Europe was Barcelona. I had gone there just once with a school trip in 1999. So I bought a one-way ticket to Barcelona where I was supposed to stay 5 weeks. I came back home after 8 months. At the International School of Spanish “Enforex” I had one of the best times of my life. My class was made up mostly of Swedish and German people. It was so fun, and it is then when I started to have a special interest towards North European cultures.

I liked the way they were, the way they dressed and their food. Kotbullar (Swedish meatballs) became my favourite food so far. When they told me for the first time that their government used to pay for studies and travels abroad in order to incentivize the youth discovering of the world, I thought it was amazing. In Italy that sounded like a dream: basically, in most of north European countries, young people would take a sabbatical year after school and would borrow money from the government and return it on the first job contract. I found it unbelievable! That was civilization to me!

When my teachers at the Spanish school told me that my level of Spanish at Enforex was too good and had reached the apotheosis (  modestly, hehe) , I dint have any more excuse to stay in Barcelona. But I really wanted to.

And I really wanted to show to my dad that I was not a kid, and that was not a joke for me. And also, I had a good example from my new north European friends that I could also work and pay for my trips, so I started to look for a temp job and worked as a waiter, baby-sitter as well as hostess at congresses and fairs.

Until I found a more stable job as Sales Assistant in Paseo de Gracia. It is there that I improved my “espanol de la calle”, Spanish from the road. It was just my first work contract abroad!

My boss was a lovely lady, she helped me to open a bank account and with all the logistics. I worked during all summer 2003, until October, when I went back to Italy to start a course at the university in Rome as Linguistic and Cultural Mediator, basically a degree for Interpreters and Translators.

It is taken for granted that Culture is the best way to open your mind and enjoy travelling. One day I was walking in Barcelona and I saw a book on a bench. I took it, opened it and found a flyer with a number and all the explanation for Book Crossing. Another cultural crossing. People who takes part of this programme leaves the book in a public place after have read it, maybe leaving it in a random place for the sage of lucky book lovers who would find it and enjoy it. The mission was that this book would travel around the world trough the hands of reading lovers. I was fascinated to imagine the faces and stories of people finding and leaving it in different corners of the planet.

Travel literature soon became my favourite. My first travel book was from a guy called Dario Rucco, “Da Capo a Capo” – from Cape to Cape, from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska by bus – . Exciting.  But many others followed, such as Bill Bryson’s “Down Under” and “Neither here nor there – Travels in Europe”, or Rolf Potts’ “Vagabonding”. These books have certainly been a great inspiration and made me dream of possible future adventures all over the world.

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When I moved to Rome for studying I found a way to stay in touch with a different culture: I started to practice Capoeira and at the same time I started to study Portuguese from Brazil at the University. I loved “that kind of fight/dance” accompanied by popular music from Brazil. I used to attend some “rodas” on Saturdays and some nights with Brazilian people, with the first caipirinhas hang overs on weekends.

In 2004 I had another great chance to be part of a world unique moment. I worked as hostess for the European Constitution Sign in Rome. During those days the city was blinded, but I was lucky enough to be at Campidoglio together with all the head of states witnessing an historic moment: the signage of Constitution, that will probably be one of the things I will be very proud to tell my kids.

And I will also tell them about my work experience in a resort in Maldives for few months in that year, as shore excursions manager, until the Tsunami on the 26th December interrupted what was for me among the best life experiences. I had to deal professionally for the first time with people from a very different background culture and religion.

Once back in Rome, I focused on studies since I had been missing for few months, and finally I had again a chance to move.

Next stop: Barcelona for the Erasmus. Again my lovely Catalan city. It was another endless memory. And when it was about to finish the 6 months of Erasmus exchange, I decided to request to stay another semester. It was quite tough as Barcelona was the preferred destinations for Erasmus students, but at the end I got it. The day I got the prolongation approved, I went out to celebrate it with one of my best friends who was just there those days visiting me: Piera. At that time, she was also studying in Paris for the Erasmus programme.  At that time we were the perfect symbol of the carefreeness, joie de vivre and the BLOOM. We took a bike and run through Barcelona off to a club who had been recommended to us, a gloomy and underground place behind Ramblas. Just on that night I met a nice Argentinean guy who became my boyfriend for many years. I mean the Argentian version of Robbie Williams, his look alike. As Walt Disney stated, if you can dream it you can do it. And so it was, I met an Argentinian rocker looking like Robbie Williams. With him I grow up, we gave each other so much, many laughes and many pain as well but I will love him forever. Through him I discovered so well the Argentinean culture, and I went to his country few times. Loving somebody with another culture is a great way to get involved in another culture 100%, and honestly, he has been the key for my modestly very good Spanish today. But good and bad things come to an end. Two years ago,  I left Barcelona for good, and try a new challenge: London.

I worked there for a cruise line until the end of my contract. Then I applied for a position for the Olympics and Paralympics games. This part is probably one of the most important of all.

I don’t remember to have enjoyed a job so much; I met the best people ever, from different ages, background and cultures. But all of them had in common the passion for travelling, languages and adventure.

Inspirations : London 2012 Olympic Games

A special thank goes to the London 2012 Iluka for EDF Energy Team. On the first days of training I was so inspired by all of them. I will never forget the day when we had to do team building and we were asked of saying some ordinary and extraordinary thing about ourselves. All their ordinary things were the most extraordinary ever. I thank them all because (not to minimize the other inspirations) is on those days that I effectively decided to leave, and in particular do  it just after the games. I had finally decided to jump instead of waiting for the perfect moment.

Working in such an epic event I had the chance to see the world meeting for sport, culture and leisure. I saw many games, including Phelps swimming, Bolt and Farah win their gold’s, to see Paralympic games, living unforgettable moments and even see amazing artists such as Coldplay at the extraordinary closing ceremony.

And now I am here, in Naples, packing for this adventure, and feeling so anxious. I think I have never been so nervous before a trip in my life.

I have done this “little” introduction before the start of this great trip just to remember myself and you that we can all achieve what we really want. Mick Jagger says: you can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes..

That’s how I got what I always needed and wanted in my life. And I wish you all to do the same ..

Enjoy the reading!

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