Things You Find At The Mine

What do you find at the mine?

You find rocks. And resources. And buildings and trucks and bulldozers and utes and bogans and water fountains and wacky tattoos and wrinkly faces.

And you also find….

Toilets that look like they belong in Ballantine Hall

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Live toads and dead toads

Cane toads are an invasive species that have destroyed and threaten many native flora and fauna in the country. Many are so angered by their presence that there are said to be pubs that offer free beers in exchange for caught toads. Some of my coworkers’ favorite pastimes was trying to run them over on the way home from the  mine.

Cockroaches

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This is nothing compared to some of them that I saw. Fast moving, wiggling and pitter-pattering around laundry and cleaning supplies, I never got used to their disgusting presence. There was one that lived in the men’s changing room that, I kid you not, was as big as my hand. “MARTHA CHECK OUT THE SIZE OF THIS THING!” I yelled every time.

Moldy Food

Hey, that’s nasty! Yes, yes it is. Technically as cleaners we were prohibited from removing items from the fridges. One night, Martha had enough. We had a rubbish dumping free-for-all, filling up two 182L black bin liners full of moldy food. Miners need to throw old stuff out!

Ants

Ants in my room, ants in my pants, ants biting my back, ants all of a cleaned plate, ants in my coffee. Ants are everywhere, unavoidable, and still baffle me on how they seem to figure out where something delicious is. And how do they call all their friends to come join them?

SPIDERS. And spiderwebs

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You know how everyone you told that you were going to Australia told you to be careful about spiders? They were right. There are some giant, squirm-inducing arachnids that not only crawl all over your life but build their homes on top of it, too.

HOTTIES TAKING SELFIES

Just kidding! That’s against company policy. But really, hotties still do. I am not ashamed of my temp agency uniform, I’m proud to be an almost-tradie. I feel like I finally fit in in Darwin. High vis for life. High vis way is the only way. High vis is my biz. High vis is deliz..ious .


Confused about what this “mine” is and why am I finding things there? Read the first Mine Camp Diary and while you’re at it, read all of them!

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Yasmine Got a New Look

If you’ve already gotten this in your inbox and you see that it’s empty, rest assured: that wasn’t a passive aggressive way for you to get to my blog and see what this “new look” is really all about. In an poorly planned out series of events of putting my hand on my keyboard, WordPress accidently published the post.

After playing around I decided to change up the photo, try  something new. If you can’t bear the thought of never seeing that blurry, odd picture of me with a camel toe again, here it is for you to enjoy:

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Outfit:

Shirt: €1, Cala Llenya flee market

Leggings: free, gift for Christmas ’13, Express

Sneakers: free, hand-me-downs from the previous au pair in Ibiza

Sunglasses: free, momentarily borrowed from my friend Lisa for the purposes of this picture

Underwear: You don’t need to know that! (probably from a free coupon for Victoria’s Secret)

Now that’s budget travel!

And now because that’s too much sarcasm and truly, I am wishing you happiness and a fulfilling day (but most importantly entertaining), here’s a quote to end with:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” -Albert Einstein

Guest Post: Facebook Behavior Around The World

Editor’s noteIn this special Saturday guest post, Lisa Calabrese shares her Facebook experiences engaging with friends from different parts of the world. If you’ve traveled or lived and worked in other countries, you probably added new friends on Facebook. Did their online behavior seem interesting to you? Just as I was preparing this post, a friend Natasha shared a story from when she returned to visit her family in India: “Over there there’s no formality! ….People will see you tagged in a photo, and even if they don’t know you, they’ll add you. I got so many random friend requests.” And yet, another example of how when confronted with other cultures, the differences manifest digitally as well. Reading Lisa’s article makes me wonder…what kinds of behaviors am I exhibiting on Facebook? 

After living abroad for the past few years I’ve collected a smattering of Facebook friends from across continental Europe. And besides now having a multilingual newsfeed, I like to use that one Anthropology class I took in college to pretend I know anything about intercultural human behavior. So using the tiny sample size of my friends list to make broad-sweeping generalizations, comparing different Facebook online presences has lead me to believe that a lot of our Internet selves depend on the social norms around us.

Now, the few times a month I post a picture or get tagged at that one friend’s birthday party, I know for certain half of the likes I get will be from my Facebook friends in Turkey. Does it matter that we haven’t spoken in months and they know no one else in the photo? No! They’re happy I’m alive and want me to know it with a like. So when I see their new selfie from their weekly prof pic update, I’m right there to give them a like back. (Selfie game in Turkey is strong. Once on a first date, a Turkish guy stopped in the middle of the street to take a selfie with me. Ah, modern romance.) And they loved connecting on Facebook. I had requests from the entire staff at work by the end of the first semester. I once stayed at a hotel and by the end of the week I had requests from the kitchen staff. That really happened.

And quite a few times after newly becoming Facebook friends with someone from Istanbul, I’d come back to my computer with 15+ notifications. Had an old friend trying to resurrect old embarrassing photos trolled me? No! My new Turkish buddy had genuinely gone through all of my pictures and liked them all the way back to 2009. And as baffling as I found this I have to commend them for their honesty. Because in all fairness, do I peruse albums of new friends? Of course. Do I remain completely undetected in fear that it’ll be perceived as creepy? Sure do. We even say ‘Facebook creeping’ to mean looking at people’s profiles, but isn’t that the entire purpose of a profile? So cheers to you, Turkish friends, for using Facebook as it was originally intended and having no shame in it.

So cheers to you, Turkish friends, for using Facebook as it was originally intended and having no shame in it.

All this seemed even more apparent to me coming to Turkey straight after a semester abroad in Italy. The few Italians I managed to add on Facebook seem effortlessly cool. I’m talking just a few pictures total that were probably taken with a film camera and don’t even really show their face. And that sepia lighting surely isn’t even a filter it’s just the Italian sun making me wish I could look that good in photos. I never think about how many photos of mine are the classic ‘smile straight into the camera in front of pretty background’ types until I creep on my Italian friends profiles.

And as for España, my current home and love, I think people here are as different on Facebook as they are between regions of this country. Some love that share button while others seem to have forgotten their passwords entirely. So hey, what do I know.

Everyone’s favorite blogger, Allison, asked me to write something for Yasmine because god bless her she found some things I said to be funny when we both lived in Ibiza. An unexpected perk of living abroad for me has become meeting other Americans that have also lived or traveled in other parts of the globe, and being able to share interesting stories about different cultural norms and practices around the world with peoples whose perspectives are similar to yours (You know, because nothing says casual dinner conversation with new friends like blanket social commentary of other cultures).

Featured photo: My friend Kimberly took her computer to the mac store to be fixed last december. She was disappointed to see this message show up....

About the Author

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HOW’S THAT FOR ARTSY PHOTOS, LISA? (Allison took this last year in Ibiza)

Lisa is a 23 year old from California and currently teaching English in Spain. She studied abroad in my last semester in Italy and later started teaching English in Istanbul and Ibiza to keep the expat life going.

(The Lack Of) Penis Graffiti In Southeast Asia

After traveling in Europe last summer, I was overwhelmed by the amount of penis graffiti I saw. Next to churches, on trash cans, on sacred sites. Penis, penis, penis. I deemed it “the ever-present penis graffiti.” In this post, I explore the lack of penis graffiti I witnessed in Southeast Asia and hypothesize why I didn’t see any. It is important to note that I give a simplistic answer to a topic that deserves a much more in-depth analysis.

On my recent trip to Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos), I only saw one penis graffiti. A month and half into my trip I stumbled upon it in Pai, Thailand. It could also be that they existed, and I just didn’t see them. I mean, I’m not all people everywhere. However, if they did exist, they were so apparent as in Europe.

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Penis graffiti seen in the public restrooms at the Pai Canyon. This was a site with many international visitors, perhaps playing a role in its appearance.

Southeast Asia isn’t best known for its graffiti and street art (I’m also not part of that community, but speaking as an outsider). Still, there is a scene. A lack of street art in general can’t explain the lack of penis graffiti, because that isn’t the case. I only saw one penis graffiti in four countries, but something tells me there’s more to the story.

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Street art in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In my previous post on penis graffiti, my analysis of its meaning hypothesized that although penis graffiti could be drawn by a bored teenager, its greater significance is worrisome. The Western culture, the penis is a symbol of dominance, power, and to some extent even violence. On the other hand, the vagina is typically seen as erotic and sacred (want to read AN ENTIRE BOOK about what penises mean in Western culture? I just came across this book. I can’t vouch for it, but I can say that if you’re interested in the topic it seems to be cover all the bases).

Traveling in Southeast Asia didn’t mean I didn’t see penises. Penises were part of religious sites and ethnography museums. But they weren’t outlined with spray paint with a clearly disruptive intent (as was the case when inserted between cries for Leonese independence).

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These wood carved statues are found at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi.

What is the significance of the penis in Southeast Asian culture? 

In Asian culture, the erect penis is said to be a symbol of good luck and fertility. In Bangkok, Thailand, there is a phallic symbol known as the Chao Mae Tuptim shrine, which is said to “endow good fortune” on anyone who comes into contact with it. In Indonesia they represent harmony (one tourist/travel writer didn’t much like those phallic carvings in her trip to Bali, and then someone else didn’t like that she didn’t like it) and Bhutan attracts tourists with its phallic images that are said to ward off evil and help fertility. There is even a penis-themed restaurant in South Korea, and if I thought I’d seen enough penises while backpacking I wonder how I’d feel if I actually went there.

So if the erect penis has a positive connotation, why wouldn’t it be drawn even more? Don’t we all need a little more good luck? I’d take luck over the dominance and violence of the Western penis.

In the book Aestheticizing Public Space: Street Visual Politics in East Asian CitiesLu Pan writes, “graffiti and street art have personal and social connotations, reflecting the collective memories of a particular society.” Within that framework, graffiti and street art take elements that the people in a given society understand and relate to.

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Art such as these four women painted on the walls of the Cambodian Landmine Museum in Siem Reap speak to a collective conscience.

Reflecting upon my Spanish students in Ibiza, I recall they talked about penises constantly. It was used as an insult, a comeback and in casual speech. Even the Spanish language-including slang across Latin America- is inundated with versions of the word pene (penis) or bolas (balls) to playfully insult or degrade. So, wouldn’t it make sense there were so many penis graffiti around Spain? If its part of one’s daily speech, would graffiti be an extension of that, a personal and social connotation, as Lu Pan says?

Could we make this comparison with Southeast Asia? I am not familiar enough with Southeast Asian culture to understand if penis talk is part of their daily lives and linguistic patterns. Sadly, I can’t make the case that the penis is not part of their daily lives enough and for that reason they don’t draw it in all corners of their neighborhood.

But, there could be a hint at why it’s not around-if we consider penis graffiti as “vandalism.” According to the Bangkok-based street artist Foner in the short documentary Graffiti Asia, it’s more about graffiti than vandalism. “In Europe it’s way more aggressive,” he says, “here they don’t vandalize that much.” He adds, “Probably because they don’t get that angry at the system” (It is unclear what he is referring to by “the system”). If we hold what Froner says to be true, and if we assume penis graffiti, like the ones in Europe, to be acts of vandalism. That might explain why people don’t draw it; they don’t vandalize in general, and a penis is no exception.

There could be numerous underlying causes and dynamics I’m oblivious to that prevent penis graffiti from being drawn in public spaces. Maybe people have got more important things going on. Maybe spray paint is more difficult to find. Maybe people are busy working. Either way, I know that I’ve got another project to add to my list: in-depth interviews on the lack of penises.

There is something to be said about the stark difference between the penis graffiti and the way its drawn in Europe to the reverent and elaborate drawings in Bhutan. One feels slightly like an insult, meant to bother, while the other is of no comparison. It’s done craftily, respectfully, and with a completely different intent. Maybe there are enough sacred penises in temples and hilltop villages that there is no need for an absurd interpretation.

Do you know about penis graffiti in Southeast Asia? Do you know about its meaning in everyday life?

Featured photo: The T-shirt our waiter on Koh Phi Phi was wearing. I wasn’t sure how to describe it so I left it out of this post about T-shirts in Southeast Asia.

A WTF DIY Project Idea for 2016

Is 2016 your year of creativity? If it is, I’ve got an idea for you.

After traveling in Southeast Asia, I came home for the holidays. I walked in, put my stuff away, and looked around at my room. My walls still hold the same paraphernalia from high school. At that time, my motto was “if you like it, stick it to your wall.”

I have layers upon layers of concert posters, magazine cutouts and photos. I had flags of eight different countries and souvenirs from all around the world. I started to take it all down. 2016 is time for a fresh start for a room I might never live in again. Right?

Some of my stuff went to Goodwill, some of it I threw away, and other things I saved if I’m ever a high school Spanish teacher. I’ll have a bomb room if I ever am. Then I found a box of goodies. Small pieces of paper. The use of these goodies doesn’t correspond to any of the above options-especially not being put in a Spanish teacher’s room.

These things should be recycled, reused, and re-gifted. What are they? 

In high school, and again in college, my severe acne led my dermatologist to prescribe accutane. Pumping a thorough dose of Vitamin A into your system, it has several damaging side effects that I chose to deem unimportant.

The time I took it in high school gave me chronic bloody noses that usually hit around 1:15pm in Algebra II. My teacher usually excused me from the room with a hand pointed towards the door and wailed if it appeared I would touch anything. “There are health concerns!”

There are worse effects than bloody noses. The medication has the potential to cause severe birth defects if a patient becomes pregnant. This means proving two forms of birth control, taking monthly sexual education quizzes (not very effective if you ask me. Lots of room for cheating, and if you get an answer wrong they tell you what the right answer is before you retake the quiz), monthly urine pregnancy tests at the dermatologist (they don’t appreciate it when you decorate the cup. “We only need your first and last initial,” they scolded me), and best of all, visible reminders. The paper “goodies” I found in my room.

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Pill covers. 

Each pill was individually wrapped with a cover. On the cover, there was a silhouette of a pregnant woman in a big red circle outline and a cross through it. Seeing the paper each day was like having a small voice in your ear yelling “DON’T GET PREGNANT!”

Years after taking my last “don’t get pregnant” pill, I was once again confronted with them. I had saved them all in a decorated box that was a gift from a friend.

Seeing them now inspired me to do something. In these half inch strips of anti-pregnancy was potential. Potential for creativity. Potential for making people think, “What the f***?”

My first order of business was to create something that unites my interests. Because I love the world (do I?) and sexual education (I was a sex positive au pair and an informational language assistant), I decided to make a world map covered in the strips.

In my head, it was going to be aesthetically pleasing, maybe even provocative.

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My empty canvas 
What resulted from the brown glue I found in my parents’ desk drawer and the small size of the paper was like a Pintrest fail.

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It somewhat resembles the world, doesn’t it?
I didn’t give up after the first try. Inspiration for my next project came from the presence of my brother-in-law to be. He was spending his first holiday at our house as her fiance. A warm welcome was necessary.

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You can tell by the look on his face that was touched by the gift. 
This one still had the same low-quality glue and green dry erase marker and one of the letters is significantly smaller than the other. That aside, I’d argue it’s definitely a step above the previous project. Is this progress?

The third try was a greeting I sent to a friend I met while traveling. I wanted to wish him a very special 2016. All I want is for it to be pregnancy-free.

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Finally, I wanted to send a thank you to a friend who had recently come to dinner. I knew he would appreciate the gesture.


This won’t be my last project. If you get a strange looking envelope with no return address, maybe you’re not infected with a chemically ridden terror tactic but rather a warm greeting for the coming year.

Until then, they’ll be here, in this box.

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I’m here when you need me. 

But Don’t Play With Me…

…’Cause you’re playing with fire.

“It’s clear they’re really talented, but it’s still awful to watch,” Lance said. “It’s same same, but not different at all.” Lance, our “outrageous Kiwi/Aussie friend,” was referring to the nightly fire shows on Koh Phi Phi, Thailand (you met him in this post about Vodka and Paolo, Phi Phi beach dogs).

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“I’m so done with these fire shows.” -Vodka

What was once a way for Samoan warriors to demonstrate their strength, the fire performances made their way to the Thai islands and turned into a staple (free) activity for cringing tourists.  A German employee at Banana Bar told us that although many of them are Burmese, the performers are “like Thai celebrities.”

Rightfully so. Every night they suffocate in the overwhelming stench of gasoline and more likely than not get third degree burns- without flinching.

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“I can’t watch you guys do this.” -Cat on Phi Phi

They stand barefoot on the wooded platform and drip sweat for four hours. Meanwhile, drunk and overly confident tourists who jump into the mess for a free bucket end up suffering for weeks to come. Just read this article by a guy (a self-proclaimed “dumb-ass”) who weeks after the incident still had a “festering burn.”

What happens at a fire show?

Our first night staying at Stones Bar, we were lured in just like all the other tourists. From our dorm room we heard the DJ put on his set list (which was ‘same same’ every night, a YouTube mix of deep house) and scream, “ARE YOU READY, PHI PHI?” Our first fire show was just a few feet away. We walked out and sat on those plastic, orange lounge cushions with awkwardly placed headrests.

We watched as the long-haired boys dipped the ends of their sticks in gasoline and lit them on fire. Most can be described as scrawny but muscular. With tattoos and piercings, they have a kind of bad boy look to them. A confident, relaxed look. It’s like their eyes are saying “I’m playing with fire but I don’t give a f***.” They were spinning the sticks in circles, to the front and to the back, and eventually throwing them in the air only to see them fall on top of them.

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Imagine this, but in human form. Perhaps not so drastic.

Aside from around six adult performers, Stones bar boasts two miniature performers. Both of them look around five years of age. They are put on people’s shoulders, jump on peoples’ backs, and used to adorn a formation like a star on a Christmas tree. The older one is 11, and he won’t let you forget it. “How old are you?” Jennifer asked. “ELEVEN! ELEVEN!” he replied in a half scream, half hiss.  Just like Vodka, he attracts a parade of mainly (drunk) girls who try to give him a hug (#guilty) and ask him lots of questions. During the show, the other performers put the small children in charge of walking around with the tip bucket. I gave lots of cash.

The show was impressive. The performers are talented. Even the young ones have a hand-eye coordination I never will. But just like Lance mentioned, it was hard to watch. I could imagine the pain of the burns, the sweat and the exhaustion. I worried about another childhood lost for a local 11-year-old. My sister and I stayed for the first part of the show and left the beach to see live music in town.

The next night, we started in the same way as before. We got dressed, walked outside, grabbed a drink and watched the Stones Bar fire show. But soon after it started, we decided we had seen the exact same thing the night before (and would see the exact same show for days to come). Looking down the beach we noticed that several of the bars had fire shows.

This night, we came to find out that the further you go down the beach, the more professional and intricate the performances become. If the fire shows boys lived in the Midwest, the Stones Bar boys’ appearance would be described as “jail bait” and those at Ibiza Bar “wholesome.” At Ibiza the performers never dropped sticks and followed along to the music in choreographed steps. At 4Play they impressed the crowds by doing bodybuilding with weights on fire. There appeared to be a hierarchy and a clear physical difference in the performers. I had a lot of questions.

Who are the performers?

I wanted to know who were the performers, and why did they decide to pursue this profession? Was it the fame? The prestige? The celebrity status? The chance to drink every night? Why were there only male performers? (Although, I did see one female Western tourist performing at various bars. Go, girl!)

A British employee at Banana Bar said most Western female tourists get with them, or want to get with them. A lot of them have Western girlfriends. A Brazilian, who worked at a snorkeling tour company who claimed to give you weed along with your snorkeling equipment, didn’t have a high opinion of them. “They think they own the island,” he said as he shook his head. “They are assholes. They punch dudes if they try to get with a girl they are looking at.” Perhaps he was speaking from personal experience.

When I approached the performers before the show the next night, they weren’t intimidating at all. On the contrary, they were soft spoken. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Thai and their English language skills weren’t enough for us to discuss my pressing questions.

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My favorite performer. Cue cat emoji with heart eyes.

I wanted to sit down with them, but timing was difficult. The only time I found them was either right before the show when they were practicing, or at the end of the night when they were too drunk to form coherent sentences, let alone in English.

One night, after the music had been shut off, I was hanging out at the picnic tables at Stones Bar. I was just sitting and winding down when I was approached by a British tourist. He sat down on a tree stump next to me and put his arm on my back. “Take it off,” I said. He laughed and asked, “Do you want to go have sex with me?”

I rolled my eyes and told him he needed to leave. When he hesitated I stood up and turned around. I saw the performers sitting at the table behind me. Still annoyed by the British tourist, I walked up to them. “I want to talk to you but I don’t want to have sex with you!” I belted out.

One of men was kind enough to assure me we could just talk. He even answered a few questions as best as he could. Most of the performers at Stones are from the north of Thailand. They’re young –between 19-24 years-old- and only recently started. They start off training with the basic moves, then with determination graduated to be good enough to perform at one of the beach bars.

I still have lots of questions and very little answers. The next time I visit Phi Phi I’m planning a full ethnographic study. The gracious performers weren’t able to tell me everything I wanted to know, but one did confirm something I suspected.

“What do you guys do in the shows?” I wondered.

“It’s same same, all days.” He said. Like Lance said – same same, but not different at all.

Featured photo: One of the young kids on top of a fire pyramid. 

Want to see an interview with a performer? Watch this video filmed in Koh Tao by Jacques de Vos.

 

9 Worst Photos of 2015 + BONUS PHOTO

It’s close to the end of the year. This means you’ll be seeing the year in review: Best of… worst of…most memorable…

Here’s another list to add to the multitude, and hopefully this either makes you laugh or inspires you to make fun of yourself or someone you know.

2015 took me to many countries: Spain, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, Portugal, France, Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (obviously in no particular order, and clearly not in alphabetical order).

With lots of travel brings lots of photos. And with lots of photos brings lots of bad photos.

I’ve never been one to be particularly photogenic. Travel has only made me see this even clearer. If I don’t look downright awkward, I usually find myself somewhere between boring and too excited. We’re all overcritical of ourselves, this I recognize, but others have also confirmed my debility.

Take a look at the 9 worst photos I took in 2015, and let’s hope 2016 brings even worse ones. #Nothidingfrommyselfanylonger

1- When we were in that room in Morocco

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Beauty at its finest.

You heard the story (most likely you read it). We were in the same room for hours. Which meant ample time to showcase how that sweat and extreme heat transformed my face.

2- A great photo shoot in Laos

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Hottie with a body

The scenery in the rural area outside of Vang Vieng, Laos was breathtaking. My modelings skills were not.

3- When I wasn’t the only one in Finisterre

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We were meant to be friends. Except, she’s actually a great model. I must be a bad influence.

After we finished the Camino, Kimberly and I cheated and took a bus three hours to the coast to Finisterre. We cannot blame the exhaustion from the Camino, as by this point, we had relaxed enough.

4- When Sweaty Betty comes out to sunbathe

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This takes “what you actually look like at the beach” to a new level.

Enough said. Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, was hot.

5-When my sister tries to take a cheeky Snapchat

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I sent this to someone who replied, “total boner.”

6- When I’m sleeping

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I’ll call this one “sleeping beauty”

I’m lucky enough to be able to fall asleep practically on command. I’ve slept in a number of moving vehicles and in front of many people. I can’t control the way I look, and more than that I can’t control who decides to capture those moments.

7-When I try to take a sneaky selfie

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Not as cute as I had intended

Last year in Ibiza my friends and I had a picnic at Cala Salada. Our Argentine friend grilled my beloved choripan. At least chimichurri wasn’t in my teeth at the time I took the picture.

8-When it’s sunset in Cala d’Albarca

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Those sultry eyes

My family came to visit me in Ibiza, and little did they know the pickings for their Facebook albums would be slim.

9-When you ask someone something at the wrong moment

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Where’s the…

Those are also my “don’t look at me” eyes.

You’re in luck. Number 10 is a bonus photo. It’s a throw back from 2014, but it was too good not to share. I was randomly looking at a friend’s Instagram when I saw a gem. At the time when this photo was taken, I didn’t have an Instagram yet. It was a big surprise to stumble upon this last August.

10- When its so bad it doesn’t even look like me

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Love me or leave me?