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Never Stop Dreaming

I haven’t posted for a while. The blog has gone into a state of slumber. Not so much because I suffer from writers block , lack of motivation or topics to write about. I’m not exactly spending my days twiddling my thumbs around here, just simply too busy being a mom to two very active […]

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  • Umm GamarApril 23, 2014 - 5:53 am

    Such a heartfelt post. I sincerely wish Saudi Arabia would grow some balls and let its women attain their God given potential and dreams! Ahhhh!

    Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.

    Eugene IonescoReplyCancel

    • DaniaApril 24, 2014 - 12:09 pm

      That is the nicest thing I have read for a while!
      you go girl, follow those dreams and glad you got out of the forced marriege.

      Thank you Layla for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Louise Schullery CoxApril 23, 2014 - 8:05 am

    I am so pleased you shared this correspondence. Layla, you are a bridge to women in the world and help us in the West remember we are so much more alike than different. I would love for you to share a ‘new and good’ each time as well.

    While there are many things each society is working on, change often comes slowly. And, at the same time, there are delightful things as well. While Saudi was very difficult for me in many ways there were always positive things as well. You have covered so many on your site. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Sunny J.April 23, 2014 - 2:05 pm

    MashaaAllah. I’m also glad you’re back to Blogging, Layla. Please dont ever stop. You and Susie’s are some of the very few I look to for inspiration while living in Saudi Arabia. Your words are a gift <3ReplyCancel

  • MunthasirApril 23, 2014 - 3:46 pm

    After taste of rebellion is always ‘sweet’.

    God given potential to individual is meant to acheive, so that you can use them in the service of ALLAH. How can we start appreciating the hardships & acheivement of individual in their pursuit of excellence, if the very genesis of their acts is in disobedience of ALLAH’s Commands ?

    Ofcourse, My question seems to infer that individual’s pursuit of excellence often commences with disobedience to ALLAH. But if somebody has acheived excellence in their lives within the boundaries set by ALLAH, then it is good thing for them.

    I am afraid more of the sense of rebellion than the pursuit of excellence itself.ReplyCancel

  • KendraApril 23, 2014 - 10:42 pm

    Hey, Layla. I’m also glad you’ve finally posted. I’ve been checking your blog everyday since March 8th, so it was a nice surprise to finally read your thoughts. They are a treasure.

    I know you’re busy, but I’m also still waiting to hear about your friend from the Philippines who is obligated to be a caretaker for her sponsor family’s mother. I think and worry about her… I hope she’s able to leave soon, and get back to living life with her own family back home. She deserves to be happy.


  • KristineApril 24, 2014 - 10:47 pm

    Thank you for sharing! You never know how your words or actions can make such a big difference in another’s life. And bravo to J for her courage and determination. She expresses herself so eloquently, I’m sure she will make her dreams come true. :-) ReplyCancel

Riyadh International Book Fair 2014

It’s time for Riyadh’s annual International Book Fair! The 2014 Book Fair is being held at Riyadh’s International Convention and Exhibition Center (RICEC). For the Google maps location click here. GPS coordinates of RICEC: 24.7510400, 46.7255270 With over 600,000 books by 900 publishing houses, represented by 400 exhibitors; the Riyadh International Book Fair is one of the largest […]

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  • J.MohsenMarch 19, 2014 - 11:14 am

    Wish I would have known about this, would have loved to go!ReplyCancel

  • Mohamed Al Saadoon (@burning_phoneix)April 3, 2014 - 2:00 am

    I was surprised Author Services Inc. managed to get a booth. For reference, Author Services is the publishing arm for L Ron Hubbard, the founder of scientology.ReplyCancel

  • KysyyApril 18, 2014 - 12:26 pm

    You wrote about culture shock in one article and how you finally saw that some things are actually in better way in SA compared to Finland. It would be very interesting to read such an article. What is better in/about Saudi society and customs compared to Finland and the other way around?

    Olisi todella kiva, jos kirjoittaisit tuota asiaa koskevan jutun :) ReplyCancel

    • LaylaApril 22, 2014 - 5:22 pm

      Moikka! kiitos ehdotuksesta! Yes time willing, I would be glad to write such an article :) ReplyCancel

Guide to Janadriyah Festival 2014

Some of the frequently asked questions about the Janadriyah Cultural Heritage Festival answered! What is the Janadriyah (also spelled Jenedriyeh, Jenedriyah Al-Jenadriyah, Arabic: مهرجان الجنادرية) Heritage Festival? It’s an annual cultural heritage festival of Saudi-Arabia, held this year for the 29th time in Janadriyah village on the outskirts of Riyadh. The area covers 1.5 sq km and has replicas […]

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  • KhadraFebruary 19, 2014 - 10:02 pm

    Hi Layla, Is there a schedule for the different shows? I.e the region dances, camel races etcReplyCancel

  • KhadraFebruary 19, 2014 - 10:05 pm

    Ps: Congrats on your nomination xxReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 20, 2014 - 1:20 am

      thank you Khadra! I’m not aware of any schedules but the camel races are only on the first few days. The regional dances begin around 5 in each area, and they continue with short breaks in between ALL NIGHT ;) Have fun! I especially recommend the Al Baha region dances.ReplyCancel

  • caspar smeetsFebruary 21, 2014 - 12:12 pm

    It is nice to read a positive approach about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I am a bit skeptical however of entering the realm of slamming down the grumpy Expat, however much I agree with the fact that if one does hate the life, it is better to leave. At the same time one is not always immediately in the position of doing so.
    Anyway, what I miss on your website is an “about us” section, but perhaps I have overlooked it.

  • Farooq Hassan BangashFebruary 21, 2014 - 4:10 pm
  • News-2014-02-24 | SUSRISFebruary 24, 2014 - 7:47 pm

    […] Guide to Janadriyah Festival 2014 – Blue Abaya […]ReplyCancel

  • News-2014-02-24 | SaudiBritFebruary 24, 2014 - 7:49 pm

    […] Guide to Janadriyah Festival 2014 – Blue Abaya […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Guide to Janadriyah Festival 2014 – Blue Abaya […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Check out new on Blue Abaya: Janadriyah 2014: Complete Guide for expats! Location, maps, directions,… […]ReplyCancel

  • Average Joe BodybuilderMarch 2, 2014 - 11:09 am

    Child jockeys
    Children are often favored as jockeys because of their light weight. It has been reported that thousands of children (some reported as young as 2 years old) are trafficked from countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, and Sudan for use as jockeys in the Persian Gulf States’ camel racing industry.[1] Estimates range of 5,000 – 40,000 child camel jockeys in the Persian Gulf.[2][3]

    Many child camel jockeys are seriously injured by falling off the camels.[4] The child jockeys live in camps (called “ousbah”) near the racetracks and many are victims of abuse.[2] Hundreds of children have been rescued from camel farms in Oman, Qatar, and UAE and taken back to their original homes or kept in shelter homes.[5] Many however, are unable to identify their parents or home communities in South Asia or Sudan. Some countries have issued penalties for those who trafficked child camel jockeys and ordered the owners responsibilities for returning the children back to their home countries. However, they report that in many instances the children rescued were those who had been sold away by their own parents in exchange for money or a job abroad. If they were returned, the children would again be sold for the same purposes. Other children did not speak their native languages, or did not know how to live outside the camel farms.

    A prominent activist for rehabilitation and recovery of the jockeys is Pakistani lawyer Ansar Burney. He has focused a portion of his work on eliminating the use of child jockeys.ReplyCancel

Red Sands Flower Fields

Last weekend we were driving around a village West of Riyadh looking for a plot of land we wanted to check out. Because of the beautiful sand dunes nearby and lovely weather, we decided to explore the area further. Following a small road past some majestic rock formations we proceeded on to a dirt road […]

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  • Karen CrociFebruary 15, 2014 - 2:56 pm

    Wow. Thank you for taking me away from a New England winter for a while!ReplyCancel

  • Jim LesterFebruary 15, 2014 - 3:01 pm

    You pictures and descriptions make me want to be there…someday, perhaps.ReplyCancel

Sinta, The Indonesian Prisoner-Housemaid Part Two: Escape Plans

The story of Sinta, a remarkably strong and kind woman that had become a prisoner confined in a small hospital room somewhere in Saudi Arabia continues. For part one click here. As time went by Sinta came to terms with her new environment in the hospital. She developed a very strict daily routine for her […]

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  • zara sFebruary 4, 2014 - 2:54 pm

    I read the first part months ago, and have bee waiting for this ever since. This is just so sad and I really can’t believe people treat other humans like this. I just can’t understand why some people have no heart or empathy. I hope Sinta got her happy ever after, and reunited with her family in Indonesia.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 5, 2014 - 4:15 pm

      Sorry for taking so long to post the second part! I’ve been incredibly busy with a lot of things lately, but hope to have the third part out sooner than this one took :) ReplyCancel

  • JeanFebruary 5, 2014 - 4:37 am

    It’s a heartbreaking story so far. I’m so glad you could provide her friendship and some stuff you didn’t need.ReplyCancel

  • RawyahFebruary 5, 2014 - 1:13 pm

    This is so heartbreaking. How heartless a family can be to their mother. How cruel can they be to their mother’s loyal caregiver. The family and staff are so cruel that I almost think I am reading fiction.
    Thank you Layla for sharing this and opening our eyes to such hard realities. And thank you for your kindness to Sinta. May Allah bless you.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 5, 2014 - 4:08 pm

      Thank you. It really is sad isn’t it, but I want to point out this is certainly NOT the norm here or even common! Just a heart-breaking story.ReplyCancel

  • SaraFebruary 5, 2014 - 11:25 pm

    Hello! I have been reading your blog for some time but I have never commented.
    Sinta’s story is so heartbreaking that if it was on TV or in a film people would say that it’s too dramatic to be true. Like a soap opera. It’s horrifying that this (and worse) happens right now. Absolutely terrible.
    I’m looking forward to read the third part. I hope it will be a happy ending.ReplyCancel

  • Umm GamarFebruary 6, 2014 - 11:44 am

    What baffles me is, why on earth would the nurses be envious of Sinta? The fact that you forged such a wonderful friendship with her shouldn’t be a reason of envy, instead it should hv encouraged some empathy from those nurses. And I thought nurses were suppose to be caring and selfless when it comes to dealing with other people. It’s weird, Laylah!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 7, 2014 - 1:50 am

      they are jealous/envious of the things and money I gave to her.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 7, 2014 - 1:53 am

      Not all nurses are caring and selfless, nothing near that!! Unfortunate but true. Also, it was just some of the Asian nurse that were jealous, maybe something to do with income too.ReplyCancel

  • Maureen BurneyFebruary 8, 2014 - 6:44 pm

    Hi, my name is Maureen and I worked at RIyadh Military Hospital in the late 80′s early 90′s. I have an unusual request :) I am trying to find a source for fridge magnets which were made and sold by an expat in Riyadh, they were of a Saudi man and woman’s face constructed of fabric and complete with head coverings etc. Very cute. Sadly because I left during the Gulf war I did not take them with me! If anyone knows where I can get them please let me know on facebook. Thank you so much.ReplyCancel

  • KhadraFebruary 11, 2014 - 9:48 pm

    So sad.. The mistreatment of Asian workers here is just so depressing. Hats/Hijabs off to you for helping her out Layla.

    PS; Lovely blog you have here. It’s my families go-to place when we’re looking for things to do here in the Kingdom. Keep up the good work! xxReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 11, 2014 - 9:55 pm

      Thank you Khadra for the comment! All the best to you and your family :) ReplyCancel

  • samyFebruary 16, 2014 - 2:40 pm

    Hi Layla,
    Got to read a very interesting post, I believe there are many Asian women like sinta out there who are living like prisoners. Thanks for sharing sinta’s story and spreading awareness.ReplyCancel

  • Thom BastianFebruary 28, 2014 - 4:49 pm

    Sadly I think you’re right Samy. There are a lot of similar Asian women out there with a similar story to Sinta. Thank you for helping to raise awareness of this Layla!
    Thom Bastian recently posted…CNA RegistryReplyCancel

  • Sandra Al MeaarekApril 20, 2014 - 1:21 am

    May Allah the Merciful bless you for your kindness in this life and the next. May Allah the Merciful reward Sinta for her pain and suffering in this life and the hereafter. I am very sorry to hear such a heartbreaking story, God only knows why this is happening, Wishing you happiness :) ReplyCancel

Bring the ‘Magic Kingdom’ into your home!

Dear Blue Abaya readers, As you may have noticed Blue Abaya has a whole new look going on for 2014! After some setbacks the new design is now finally (almost) finished. I ended up designing and building the whole website myself. More on that later! One of the new developments has been setting up a […]

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  • AliciaFebruary 2, 2014 - 2:48 am

    I love the new design ! Super job and thumbs up! I alos got the calendar, thank you for the blog

  • LaylaFebruary 2, 2014 - 3:09 pm

    Hello Alicia and thank you! Took me a while to figure everything out but slowly I am making sense of all this computer jargon :)

    Thank you for supporting Blue Abaya!
    Layla recently posted…Bring the ‘Magic Kingdom’ into your home!ReplyCancel

  • BrittaFebruary 4, 2014 - 10:40 am

    Hi Layla, I really enjoy your site. I have two questions!
    I will be visiting Riyadh next week and i want to go to the “Princess” Market of Used clothing… I read your review and i am a thrift shop kinda gal. Anything i updated i should know?
    Also at say an embassy party, should i have a dress under the abaya, or am i not taking it of?
    Thanks again for your insight!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaFebruary 8, 2014 - 2:28 am

    Hi Britta!
    Go to the princess souk as early as possible, since it opens already in the very early hours, you could even around 7 am! Take a man with you, or ask the driver to walk around with you.

    At the embassy you will take abaya off and then dress is according to the events dress code such as smart casual etc.
    Layla recently posted…Sinta, The Indonesian Prisoner-Housemaid Part Two: Escape PlansReplyCancel

  • Karen CrociFebruary 23, 2014 - 3:01 pm

    February’s photo was a joy to have in the kitchen. Soon we’ll be turning the page to March. Not peeking. Can’t wait to see it, however!ReplyCancel

How to Become a Miserable Expat in Saudi Arabia – A Step-by Step Guide

We have all seen and heard of them. Pathetic, ignorant, arrogant and grumpy; they strive on negativity and want everyone to be as miserable as they are. But how does one become this Miserable? What are the secrets behind becoming a prime specimen? Some expatriates residing in Saudi Arabia are naturally inclined to becoming ‘Miserable […]

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  • Yankee DoodleJanuary 23, 2014 - 6:21 am

    You forgot to include the step where they start tweeting pictures of them doing “haraam” things and thinking they are bad a$$!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaJanuary 23, 2014 - 9:01 am

      oh yesss! I’m sure I did that one too when was a ‘newbie’ lol

      But yeah, step four covers the over-sharing in social media part :) ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 23, 2014 - 9:03 am

    btw, Yankee Doodle, can you pls try and see if the ‘comment luv’ thing works and turn it on by ticking the box? It should show a link to your blog and your latest post.
    Layla recently posted…How to Become a Miserable Expat in Saudi Arabia – A Step-by Step Guide ReplyCancel

  • Yankee DoodleJanuary 23, 2014 - 9:52 am

    Ok I clicked the box! Your blog is so fancy now masha’Allah :)

    And I love the spirit of satire! I hate how some people don’t appreciate it.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaJanuary 23, 2014 - 7:16 pm

      it baffles me how some can’t seem to get it, no matter how much you try and tell them it’s a joke, people will just sit there with the stick in the a$$ and complain :P

      BTW, what you see on blue Abaya now has all been done by yours took a lot of trial and error, tutorials and hair-pulling, but I think I did a decent job for someone that has zero experience in web and graphic design :) ReplyCancel

  • Carol-Anne BirdJanuary 23, 2014 - 11:16 am

    Love “Don’t be afraid to open your mind! Your brain will not fall out”.

  • LaylaJanuary 23, 2014 - 11:23 am

    Thanks! But how come it’s not working for you.. Do you have blogger or wordpress? I have to take another look at the settings..
    Layla recently posted…Twelve Reasons You Should Learn Arabic!ReplyCancel

  • Elaine Fox LishmanJanuary 23, 2014 - 12:21 pm

    I’ve moved from Saudi and live in Abu Dhabi .. After 3 yrs I thought it would be an exciting change to move .. I cannot believe how much I miss the community spirit of expat life in Saudi .. What a fabulous experience it was .. I learnt to play golf , learnt some Japanese , improved my French and German and made good friends from all around the world .. Thank you for the chance ReplyCancel

  • Irina CazacuJanuary 23, 2014 - 12:25 pm

    Funny and so…so…true !!!!ReplyCancel

  • Karen CrociJanuary 23, 2014 - 1:44 pm

    Boring, boring, boring, boring! NOT! Great article. First Defense. LOL!ReplyCancel

  • Karen SmartJanuary 23, 2014 - 3:52 pm

    Fabulous article it made me laugh my socks off! I’ve been in Saudi 8 years , and have grown to love my life. It’s given me a fabulous new career and I have made loads of friends. We have a lifestyle we could never have afforded. For all those miseries, go visit the fabulous National Museum. I am however guilty of posting champagne pics on FB ! ReplyCancel

  • JulieJanuary 23, 2014 - 4:12 pm

    Laylah, Great post! I have no clue how, but I felt that though I went through the first step of culture shock, I didn’t go through the rest. The novelty of everything wore off, but I think I overdid all the reading and anticipating what to expect that the rest was easy! (Or I’m in denial haha) I don’t live on a compound either!
    Julie recently posted…Home Sweet Home: Jeddah!ReplyCancel

  • Yankee DoodleJanuary 23, 2014 - 6:08 pm

    Hey I think it is working! :) I just saw in my stats that I have referrals from your website. I have wordpress. Thanks :) ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 23, 2014 - 7:24 pm

    Hi Julie!
    Glad to hear the transition was easy for you.
    Is this your first time as an expat?
    Layla recently posted…How to Become a Miserable Expat in Saudi Arabia – A Step-by Step Guide ReplyCancel

  • Umm GamatJanuary 23, 2014 - 7:55 pm

    How dare you mock those benevolent expats…hehehe. I’ve missed reading your crazy satires. Need more of your tongue in cheek articles. I can’t stand people who complain about everything from the sun is too hot to why are these people so (allegedly) uncivilized. Had some uni classmates from Europe here (Malaysia) before who fit the bill. Constantly complaining our food are too spicy, the sun is too hot and the people are too short…Bah!!ReplyCancel

  • Umm GamarJanuary 23, 2014 - 7:58 pm

    Its Umm GamaR, with the R at the end.Now I m a miserable tab user!ReplyCancel

  • Susie Johnson KhalilJanuary 23, 2014 - 9:04 pm

    Love this post. Sadly I know a few expats like this. Why come here in the first place if you are not up for an adventure?ReplyCancel

  • Maria AnetaJanuary 23, 2014 - 10:51 pm

    I know saudis who are expats in Europe and behave exactly the same way ReplyCancel

  • AmberJanuary 24, 2014 - 4:38 pm

    This was hilarious…thanks Layla ! I am considering to immigrate to Saudi and I think this has helped me to know of the things which will make my life difficult and so am better placed to avoid them…for example meting locals rather than isolating myself on a compound or something.

    JazakAllahukher !ReplyCancel

  • JajajaJanuary 25, 2014 - 9:30 am

    I have seen how some ladies destroyed talented girls by sending their gossip puppet girlfriend to spread false rumors. The funniest was a unsecured ignorant lady asking the talented beautiful to move to the corner while taking a group picture, while the lady that she ask was as skinnier as a toothpick. And the unsecured one posed in the middle of the picture that was publish on the local paper for an art group. How low and degraded a person must feel to do that to another because has a better talent or looks better!! Never seen so many insecure lady’s, thinking any other that is beautiful will take their followers puppets away.ReplyCancel

  • Antonio Martinez NiembroJanuary 25, 2014 - 10:39 am

    An excellent article to describe step-by-step things that you must not absolutely do!!!ReplyCancel

  • JustinJanuary 25, 2014 - 12:37 pm

    Great post!

    Step 13: As soon as you arrive start planning your vacations, only talk about leaving and how you’ll be miserable coming back. Once you are on the flight tell everyone, whether they care or not, how glad you are to be away and how the holidays are too short. On your return tell all of your colleagues how it’s so much nicer in the country you visited.ReplyCancel

  • PaulaJanuary 25, 2014 - 7:37 pm

    Thanks for all of the good info. We are scheduled to arrive in country this summer. I’m trying to gather any “doss and don’ts” that I can. Love your blog!ReplyCancel

  • JustinFebruary 17, 2014 - 9:10 am

    Dear Layla,

    Very funny indeed and true in many respects. During my time in Saudi I made friends for life and achieved goals that I am immensely proud of. Representing Saudi in rugby and singing in a band on Compounds and at Embassy’s ;-). I have nothing but fond memories of Saudi but I was also there when the compounds were bombed and attacked. Some of my A-Rab, Muslim friends were hospitalized in those attacks and almost died. Westerners were actively targeted in multiple attacks across the Kingdom. I am not a ‘miserable expat’ but am a very happy one, but would not want to live without the protection of a compound either, especially as this post shows how many Saudis view expats.


  • RobbyMarch 27, 2014 - 10:48 pm

    Very interesting read indeed!

    As a recent Masters grad in Petroleum Engineering, I have only in the last month been offered a position with Aramco, so I am still in the process of pondering my options. I went to a small engineering school in Rolla, Missouri, so the prospect of relocating overseas in a daunting, yet also exciting!

    Certainly, the American media’s portrayal of life in the Middle East is not nearly as engaging as first hand accounts from those who actually live there. Life on a “compound” does not seem all that bad to me on the whole. From the pictures I was shown, it is a far nicer place than my current apartment is, and more importantly, it would be free to me!

    I just worry about social opportunities being a single guy, and also one who tends towards being introverted (not uncommon among nerds like myself). I tend to play video games, exercise, and basically keep to myself. Some people mistake this for rudeness, but I am relatively shy is all, especially around people I do not know very well.

    Thanks for putting out such great information for all of us to access. It has been very helpful to me as I weigh my options. At then end of the day, I think good old fashioned American greed may win out in the end. I simply can’t make nearly the kind of money here that I can over there.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMarch 28, 2014 - 3:15 am

      Thanks for the comment Robby! i think you’d do just fine, you seem to be a down to earth guy with an open mind. Lots of people live very fulfilling and happy lives in compounds, and Aramco is especially nice. You just have to keep active and go out of the ‘bubble’ and try and take some interest and initiative to the locals/culture.

      Good luck and all the best!ReplyCancel

  • MylaMarch 29, 2014 - 8:10 am

    Love, absolutely LOVE this. I have come across exactly this sort of expat, whose attitude I found so offensive that I decided to stir clear of them and sort of went underground. My point is that if you feel so strongly about the country and its people then by all means, leave. Don’t make yourself so miserable that you make others around you part of your pity party.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 30, 2014 - 2:40 am

    My husband and I had a rather miserable time in our one expat assignment in a European country years ago. Both the expats and the locals were bigoted towards us as both a mixed-race couple and foreigners (we are scary, scary Americans!). Needless to say we learned to be pretty self reliant. So happy to hear you all are having a mostly positive experience. Although it was a rough couple of years, I think we learned a lot about people and grew quite strong, so in the end I consider it to have been a blessing.ReplyCancel

  • Safina Yasin MannanApril 16, 2014 - 1:51 am

    I loved this blog. Witty and extremely entertaining. I had many LOL moments. ReplyCancel

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