Hong Kong Democracy: The Umbrella Revolution

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-16

Upon first glance, the sight of demonstrations in Hong Kong is enough to take the breath away: another crystallizing moment in the territory’s rich history.  It is a beautiful thing to see; young and old united for a cause…especially one important as democracy and freedom.

Yet like Hong Kong history, the protests are just one of many layers of complexity.

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There is a very symbiotic relationship between Hong Kong and China.  Hong Kong is, and will continue to be, the Jewel of China.  Both sides have prospered and both sides have benefitted, at times, in spite of each other.

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With passions riding high in the territory, both sides can ill afford to miscalculate.  Chief Executive, C.Y. Leung and the Chief of Police found that out early Monday morning (29-Sep), with their infamous use of tear gas.

Hong Kong has never had a true democracy.  Under British rule, Hong Kong was far away from a democracy.

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One of the lesser-known stories about the handover is that the Chinese government were the ones to initially introduced the idea of democracy to Hong Kong.  This is where the complexities arise.

In 1990 when democracy became part of the Basic Law (The HK Constitution), spelling out that the Chief Executive would be elected by universal suffrage – it also contained the slightly ambiguous statement “upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.

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There is a very fine line being walked on both sides right now.

The issue in Hong Kong is that as China’s power and wealth has grown; there is this slight feeling that Hong Kong’s freedoms and liberties are slowly being compromised.  This is a major concern.  Yes, the strings being pulled originates from Beijing, but is this why Hong Kong should be worried?

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Beijing is not the enemy; the enemies are the Hong Kong leaders who are willing sell out the soul of the city for the right price, forgetting their roots.

C.Y. Leung this is on you and your team.

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Amid the passion and fear within the protest, it is possible for Hong Kong and China to have a tenuous but harmonious relationship.  Basically the same one it has had for almost two centuries.

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But to have this, Hong Kong needs true leaders.  In the hearts of the majority in Hong Kong, C.Y. Leung has done irreparable damage and can no longer lead effectively.

It is also time for Hong Kong leaders to look in the mirror.  Do you see in yourself the disgrace of the Chief of Police who reverted to the use of tear gas and riot police on that fateful Sunday night on 28-Sep?  The night that tore at the hearts of the people of Hong Kong?  If so, please leave.

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For the people who built Hong Kong and through their sweat, tears and toil to make it into the greatest city in the WORLD, they deserve better.

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People like C.Y. Leung and business leaders who are pro-Beijing for the sole/soul purpose of making obscene profits are our real enemy.  I use the word “our” with pride, as a decade ago when I collected my Permanent Resident HK ID Card it was an amazing feeling; a feeling similar with the pride I feel today wearing my black shirt and yellow ribbon signifying voices need to be heard.

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PEACE is the word.  It is what the protesters want, it is what the people want.

To the student leader, Joshua Wong: from all accounts, you are brave and brilliant as a co-leader of this movement.  It is important to listen to all voices in Hong Kong. Change needs to happen in peace.

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You showed your age of seventeen when suggesting breaking into and occupying the Government Offices. I am grateful you stopped, listened to those with experience.

My hope is the people around C.Y. Leung can talk similar sense into him, and he will be a true leader and listen…and understand he needs to bravely vanquish his office.

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World governments will continue their politics as usual, with satirist Stephen Colbert of the USA perhaps making the most astute political comment about the protests:

“Think hard, China.  You can either crush these protesters under your heel, or you can give them the rights you promised them, because whichever choice you make, America will still do business with you.”    ~ Stephen Colbert

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This is the harsh reality, even with the people of the world taking heart in the message, the spirit and voices of Hong Kong.

In the end, the outcome is up to the people of this territory. It is up to the leaders of Hong Kong to find their courage, to be the True Patriots they signed up to be. It is up to the protesters on the streets, and the people who are shaken by what is developing here.

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For the leaders of Hong Kong, it is time to be the brave heroes that you can be. To follow your Hong Kong ancestors: be authentic like your Hong Kong sons/brothers & daughters/sisters who look to you for guidance.

Hong Kong is united,
The People’s voice has spoken…
Voices will be heard,
Their hearts remain unbroken.

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For all leaders of Hong Kong, it should not be a secret now: Hong Kong needs democratic realists not dreamers.  Leaders who understand the situation, and not those who spew rhetoric.  Extremists on both sides do nothing but hurt Hong Kong.

Do not fight with Beijing just because “they are Beijing.” Instead fight for the betterment of Hong Kong, this is our problem, let’s resolve it.

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It is true that protesters are on edge right now. Increased skirmishes and frustrated residents along with typical political tactics on both sides will continue to test these protesters.

Have heart. We are with you.

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The greatest hope for all: the only tears to be shed will be those of happiness.

This little boy was in awe of the night ~ fascinated by all that is around him...

This little boy was in awe of the night ~ fascinated by all that is around him…


Spirits sky high at the beginning of the week, are on the edge as a new week approaches...

Spirits were sky-high at the beginning of the week, now on the edge as a new week approaches…


Drones...friend or foe?!?

Drones…and media, make this a protest watched from every angle…

The Umbrella Revolution ~ laying down the roadwork for PEACE and unity with Beijing.

The Umbrella Revolution ~ laying down the framework for PEACE and universal suffrage with Beijing.

152 Comments on “Hong Kong Democracy: The Umbrella Revolution

  1. Thank you Randall, for sharing your insight into this amazing situation. You are right, the world is watching. Your calm, hopeful, unbiased and thoughtful overview capsulizes a complex negotiation beautifully. As always, your photography captures the emotions of the people and places perfectly.

    • Tina, this is such a nice comment ~ thank you. It is such a complex situation, but if handled logically a peaceful resolution will happen…of course the fear is in when are such protests handled logically? Then again, Hong Kong was the first British Colony to change hands without bloodshed, so actually, I suppose, history is on our side.

  2. Thanks for a passionate description and a deeper understanding of the umbrella revolution. I hope change can evolve for them with the right leadership in place for their future.

    • Thank you Karen, there are good leaders in HK and I to hope (and believe) things will evolve to the better.

  3. Compelling, moving, inspiring, powerful. Superior street photography. Clearly the situation is complex for both Hong Kong and China right now. But I truly believe that no matter how things go in the immediate future, freedom and peace will prevail in the long run. I don’t think the spirit of Hong Kong can be kept down. Superb photo essay, my friend. Passionate, brilliant post. ~ Jeannie

    • Yes, I too believe that in the end freedom and peace will win out, and like you said, HK has the spirit and has shown this ability many times before. Thanks Jeannie, such a rush of emotions every time I head down there…real good, bright people. Cheers!

  4. Oh your photos are absolutely remarkable, as usual! I am in awe. Plus your narrative is as nuanced as your photography. I am honored to know you~

  5. Extraordinary photographs. Wonderful commentary. I understand what’s happening a bit better now. Thanks.

    • Thank you Bruce… It seems like an ever changing set of circumstances depending on who you talk with. Cheers.

  6. Dalo, you are wise! It’s very dangerous situation that might be exploited by people who want money and power at the expense of all others.

    • Isn’t this a re-occurring theme throughout the political world ~ I do think Hong Kong has the culture to work its way through it… Thank Jeffrey.

  7. My wish is that Hong Kong weathers this, unwounded, and true democracy prevails. Continues peace and prosperity is equally important to its people and the global community. Your passionate feelings speak from a position of character and enable us to appreciate events from your grounded, spirited source. Your photos beautifully capture a youthful depth and commitment to a righteous cause.

    • “Youthful depth and commitment to a righteous cause” that is a perfect description of the protesters spending days & nights in what is becoming a shaky environment. Thank you Eric, you say it well and appreciate these words.

  8. A fine piece of Journalism, Randall, and your ultra-amazing photos put us right on the street with you. Thank you also for reminding us of the history behind the current story, which helps to answer the why’s. The drone pic was especially cool, because I’ve never seen one! Modern technology is well-displayed from corner to corner. World Leaders are having a hard time dealing with this New Age of quickly related news and witnesses aplenty — each one ready to record a moment in Time for the sake of Truth. Great work, my friend. Best wishes for a surprisingly good outcome. 🙂 Peace, Uncle Tree

    • Funny you mentioned the drone…it freaked me out when I first saw it and my inclination was to grab a rock and try to knock it out of the sky 🙂

      The speed of news & quality video is amazing…which makes me shake my head at the response of tear gas last week…what were they thinking?!? This protest is a clear reminder of how powerful social media can be (if left free and unblocked). Thanks Uncle Tree ~

      • That’s why the major social media are banned in China. Most people there would not have heard of the Umbrella Revolution; they never heard of the Tiananmen Massacre either.

  9. Hello Randall,
    Thank you so much for sharing this passionate and informative photo essay. You’ve given us a lot of insight into the reality, definitely much more so than what’s shown as ‘news’ in most TV channels. As you say, there are never simple answers to complex situations, but I too keep hope for them. Thank you again, and take care.
    – Takami

    • Thanks Takami, the media here is also all over the place with the reporting ~ but one thing everyone agrees upon is the courage of those protesters 🙂 Cheers!

      • They are very courageous indeed!
        The cynical side of me is always worried that their youth and passion might be used/exploited for the wrong reasons (as seems to be the case with the history of humans, sadly…sorry – I’m in a negative mood tonight it seems) I admire them and keep hope for them. Wish you a good night! 🙂

      • Yes, that is true…so we can continue to hope. Wish you a great night too.

  10. I’ve been watching closely on the Umbrella Revolution as my best friend lives there. I wonder, though, why the people of HK managed to force Tung Chee-hwa to step down but not to C.Y.Leung, or it’s the other way around. Instead of holding talks with the protesters, he gave the task to Carrie Lam. It seems like the future of HK is very concerning, but hopefully HKers will persevere and eventually get the right what everyone on the planet deserves.

    • Bama, was thinking about you a couple days ago wondering if you were back here… CY Leung cannot be effective, so you are right something has to give. Historically, HK people are so good at working through tough times, let’s hope this is one of them.

      • But after days of protest, maybe most HKers are starting to think that the protest should end and life must go on. And in the end, there won’t be any change at all. CY Leung will remain in office and the future CE candidates will still be vetted by Beijing. There should be a compromise between the two.

      • I think that scenario is likely (even as frustrating as CY is), but I think the protest did well by speaking up ~ HK leaders needed a reminder why they are where they are (to serve HK). Every country needs to remind their leaders of that come to think of it 🙂

      • Regardless the outcome, it’s a good thing to see young HKers speak up for their rights. It shows that they care about their democratic rights.

  11. Great insights into a situation that I don’t really understand. It sounds complex and fueled by greed, power and polarizing rhetoric (the same enemies of our democracy). Clearly you care and have bonded with the HK people and this cause. I too pray for peaceful and wise resolution that brings more rights and freedom to the people of HK, which in turn might help lead the way for the same in China?
    Wonderful photos as usual that capture the feelings and essence of the people.

    • China and HK have a lot to learn from each other ~ and the great thing is, they actually do learn. Because of this, I am hopefully of a quick resolution (albeit nothing like what the protesters are asking for), but small changes that is good for HK. It is good to have idealistic ideas, keeps leaders honest.

  12. Randy, again a wonderful post. I truly enjoy your art and words. It must be exciting to see the winds of change- right in your front yard. Please be safe and keep them coming. Let’er Buck Buddy.

    • Hey Kevin, thanks a bunch ~ this can be a bit surreal at times. Off to China (behind the Great Fire-Wall) today, and I hear any news of HK is being blacked-out. Take care and Let’er Buck!

  13. I saw your post this morning on my mobile phone but I wanted to wait to open up the computer to be able to see the whole thing better. Thanks for posting it on time so that I have better insight as I now have an important role over the next couple of weeks 😉 Joking apart, really thanks for this insight, and I hope the situation will be fixed in a peaceful manner. Your photos too are amazing (as always) and I love how it shows just how nice and organized they all are. Did you buy your yellow ribbon from those girls? Great pic too. Take care!

    • Thank you Sofia, and now you now have good background 🙂 ~ the feeling in HK is pretty mixed right now, dialogue is the answer. They have made a positive statement with this protest, thank you very much for everything. And yes, I got my yellow ribbon from those girls ~ everyone there took what they did very seriously. Take care.

  14. When Hongkong separated, I was afraid that this will happen. Pray that Hongkong will not be overtaken by Communist China.

  15. A very moving post Randall. Your photography as ever, illustrating your words beautifully. I hope for a good outcome.

    • Thanks Adrian, appreciate the words. So far it has been a positive and hopefully resolves itself soon.

  16. Hong Kong has never had a true democracy, thank you for point it out, Dalo! For betterment, indeed. Great post!

      • Thank you very much 🙂
        And hopefully China & Hong Kong will continue bettering each other as they have done in the past.

    • You can say that Chinese people had never known democracy but that does not mean they shouldn’t want it now, though one can argue that true democracy does not exist.

      • I would have to say that democracy does not exist ~ we throw around that words quite a bit. Similar to ‘communist China’ and ‘capitalist USA’ ~ most would agree that China is a lot more capitalistic than the USA is at this point (outside of big oil ~ then again, big oil in the USA is a political machine…).

  17. Wonderful post explaining what is at issue in a non-judgmental way, just what is. I too hope that both sides can listen and work together for the betterment of Hong Kong. Your photos are fantastic.

  18. What a brilliant series of images. Thanks for sharing (them and your perspective).
    Hopefully the issues can be resolved with common sense and listening. The people of HK are certainly ‘speaking’ in the best way possible – with numbers and in peace.

    • Thank you Vicki, you really nailed it with the last sentence: speaking in the best way possible ~ with numbers and in peace. Agree!

  19. I appreciate you taking the time to explain the situation between Hong Kong and China, Randall. My hope is that the desired foundations rise and return to this country you love so much. Thank you for sharing your insight. Your devotion is felt throughout this post. I know of frustration and can identify with the emotion. I cannot, however, identify with the serious amounts of bravery that the people of Hong Kong must show every day in hopes that they will finally be heard. Your photography tells a fine story in its own way. Each set of eyes you captured made me smile, and wish to know more. An amazing feeling.

    Then I read this poem…

    Hong Kong is united,
    The People’s voice has spoken…
    Voices will be heard,
    Their hearts remain unbroken.

    Your poetic heart comes out, yet again, Randall.

    Yes, you are a true inspiration, Dalo. Peace be with you and your journey. You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers. ♡ I leave your post tonight understanding a bit more about how much needs to be done. May you stay safe, Dalo. May you all stay connected to the dreams you have for this fine and beautiful country.

    • Hey there, thank you Audrey Dawn 🙂 It is an interesting time in HK ~ this protest has people on both sides unhappy, but hopefully it will end well (and soon). Voices have been heard, which was important and good for HK. Just returned back to HK so will be nice to head down and see what the mood is now. Wish you well.

  20. I learned that I have the right to participate in my government, either by holding an office or by electing someone.
    Unfortunately, sometimes this is just a theory!
    Very nice post, amazing pictures!

    • Thanks Dana, agree that it can seem that participation is just a theory…but I suppose we just need to keep on pressing forward. Wish you a great coming weekend!

  21. Woohoo Randy, thanks so much for this inside information and the supporting (and always amazing) photography! You’ve shed light on what’s going on and illuminated faces of those participating, and us following 🙂 . Yes, your photographs are soooo luminous, vibrant and invigorating, they must reflect the spirit of those on the streets. I am certain that many photo reporters and journalists would envy you on this special post.
    I was once blessed (and can only say ‘blessed’ now, almost 20 years later…) to have participated in months long student protests against a dictatorial regime in another part of the world. Sometimes it really does take youthful spirits to endure, trust and believe that things can and will change for a change to occur, even if years later. This is my experience, even if the street protests die out at one point, the voices have been heard and the universe complies on their behalf creating an energy shift that may take time to manifest in the every day world. But throughout the history of our many peoples that shift has always occurred, even when it took many lifetimes… I do hope that this one, like many others going on worldwide, won’t take that long.
    I also wish that some humans had a little more self-awareness than their own egomania enclosing them in their own little world, that sometimes somehow takes huge proportions and makes a greater uglier impact on many of us. And I wish that more of us wouldn’t comply with their little or not so little egomanias. I wish we will all turn out to be a greater human beings, who will create a better world for the generations to come. And I do believe that we are doing our best 😉 xox

    • What an experience you must have had with your protests so long ago…would be great to hear more 🙂 I agree that youthful spirit speaking for change is one of those things that are important to keep society moving forward. Thank you!

  22. But what is the differences between the actual state of thing and the wanted democracy? is this only about two party funded by bankers and an access to the decadent western culture?

  23. Fabulous photography capturing those caught up in the making of history. A clear explanation also to a complex situation (particularly to outsiders) – I hope there is a peaceful resolution.

    • Thanks Noeline, it was great to be there and see such optimism with the HK youth…although many in HK are now waiting for the quick & peaceful resolution.

  24. I’ve been following the situation in Hong Kong without ever feeling I was coming to grips with it. We don’t get coherent coverage in Britain (perhaps for reasons you hint at). It certainly doesn’t help me when I listen to Chris Patten outline solutions. I will have to read through this blog a few times (forgive me for I am slow of study) as you have a better perspective than others I have read. And another publishable set of photographs. If I’d spent a morning in a gallery looking at these shots I would consider I had used the morning well. Best wishes to all in Hong Kong.

    • Thank you Simon. It is a pretty fascinating situation, and I agree with your take on Chris Patten 🙂 Wish you a great weekend and looking forward to catching up with your posts now that I’m back in HK. Cheers!

  25. Reblogged this on This Got My Attention and commented:
    Terrific photos from Central Hong Kong. Young people especially want to choose their lives. The old people, especially in Beijing, insist on choosing for them.

  26. Oh wow!
    Just the photographs alone speak volumes. I never saw a more captivating collage of varying emotions and stance. Randy you have once more captured what many think and long to share, but are unable to quite articulate in proper sequence as the thoughts flow.
    Yes, the hope is for the only tears shed here to be happy ones. I see determination and resolve…I see hope 🙂
    Those who fight against the will of a people have always failed, oh yes, I see hope.

    • Thank you Dotta, what a great comment ~ I just returned to HK, and have good friends who are on both sides of this issue but one thing they have in common is the wanting it to end quickly and peacefully. Wishing you (and all your family) a wonderful coming weekend!

  27. Randall!.
    Thanks a lot for sharing. I truly enjoyed this reading and found it very interesting!.
    Your pics are stunning, as always. Great feature!.
    Best wishes to you, Aquileana 😀

    • Thank you Aquileana, it is an interesting dilemma facing both the HK government and its people…hopefully to be resolved soon. Wish you a great day 🙂

  28. Very impressive article with the amazing views photo shot.
    Your opinion really has a point. Everyone has their own opinion with his experiences, especially with what we know.
    Honestly, politics is always dirty, but we must move on with our lives in this situation.
    HK is very famous with their rich culture, fantastic!
    I hope in the future people can live in peace.
    Still many things we have to go through and to do, such as enjoying this beautiful life.
    At least, I pray for peace. It is enough with what happened in the Middle East that have so far not been in order. God knows our prayer.
    Randy, I really enjoyed your photos, fabulous, HK todays and the most beautiful cultures that we still admire. Incredible! Regards!

    • Thank you very DellaAnna, it is pretty impressive to see how HK is handling this (many people support the protests, yet many do not); people are proud but also pragmatic. I agree with you so much about the richness and incredible culture that HK has ~ and awesome food too, so happy to be back here again 🙂

  29. Great photo essay of current situation Randall! Thank you for sharing this and I wish the best for HK, for its peace and real democracy can be enjoyed by its citizens.

    • Thank you Indah, just got back to HK and it is interesting to see/hear the many different opinions about the protesters (most seeming to think the ‘protest’ itself has run its course…so the streets should be cleared). Wish you well!

    • I am a Hong Kongese, born in Hong Kong and brought up in Hong Kong. I love Hong Kong.
      Media Bias affecting peoples’ mind and judgement.
      I love democracy, justice and peace. But fight for democracy should not violate the law and order.
      Have a look on different Hong Kong peoples’ voices from different sources to have a clearer picture of the situations.

      • Agree… It seems that the people voice of HK has spoken, so it is important to look ahead to the next step and be proactive. The HK Police (best reputation in Asia & the world) have had it difficult, but are doing an amazing job so far.

  30. A very poignant post, Randall. And even if you say that both China and Hongkong mutually benefit from their relationship, in my eyes at least Hongkong is still like a contradiction or a paradox to China. It came with mostly political freedom and had to subordinate to a undemocratic system. I believe the protests now are about the fact that the established leadership demand to have to approve of the candidates of the election. If that’s the case it cannot be seen as a free and democratic election. Thanks for sharing your insight of what is going on. As always your photographs are amazing.

    • Thanks Otto, the paradox between HK and China is incredibly fascinating…one of those dances where you never quite know who leads at times, and realize that it is a dance that will never end. Cheers!

  31. Randall, even if you had not mentioned your connection with Hong Kong, it was clear that that you were personally and passionately involved in the future of this place. Your pictures convey more than any I have seen in the mainstream media.

    While it was true that China, not Britain introduced democracy to Hong Kong, it’s also true that Britain created a relatively incorruptible and competent civil service to run the city. Above the civil servants sat the career-grade officials appointed from London. While these nabobs were often arrogant they were sensitive to public opinion, mostly because Hong Kong officials were accountable to a democratically elected government in Britain – a government sensitive to accusations of mismanaging the colony. In other words, it was just because they were so aware of their questionable legitimacy as a non-elected government, that the nabobs strove not to alienate the population. Contrast this with Hong Kong today. The government is still not democratic, but now it is accountable only to a highly corrupt and abusive single party state.

    • Thank you Malcolm, very accurate and strong point about the incredible infrastructure created by London ~ it has made HK what it is (an oasis in Asia ~ especially in terms of transparency and the financial hub of Asia).

  32. As long as there are people (governments) that want to control other people, there will be a need for protests and revolutions.

  33. I am pretty ignorant about Asian politics and history. Appreciate the thoughtful lessons. And what a remarkable yellow in the opening shots.

    • Thank you Diana ~ the history out here is incredible. Hope you are able to make your way over here some day. Cheers.

  34. It’s so hard to be unbiased when you are right in the middle of something like this, and the outcomes really going to be felt in day today life.

    Dalo, with images alone you have done it perfectly, and the notes just reaffirms it.

    We could feel the ambiance and the spirit of people through your brilliant images.

    The best part about these images, images of a mass protest against the government, is the positive mood.

    We can’t see even a single image which spread negative feel.

    These images really make people think and search for answers.

    Thank you so much for sharing one of the best post I had seen on a very sensitive topic.

    Have a great day 🙂

    • Thank you Sreejith, you are so correct ~ it is hard to be unbiased when in the middle of this. I have friends on both side of this ~ and as long as the mood is positive and the direction of positive it is a great movement. I hope it remains a positive for HK…and very happy to have you enjoy the writing as well as the photos. Wish you a great ending of the week (and weekend).

  35. You manage to maintain balance while feeling the passion – in your photos, too. A really good post. How I”d love to spend a week or many in Hong Kong. I know I would be amazed.

    • You’d be amazed at all that HK has to offer… big city, small villages, island life and then the best part is great cuisine from all around the world 🙂 Let me know when you are in town!

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