Day 560 OUT OF Beijing: Back in San Francisco!


The rainbow crosswalk in the Castro District.

The rainbow crosswalk in the Castro District.


Jill and I were supposed to fly into San Francisco on December 15th.

However, our flight was diverted to Oakland because of the storms and we weren’t able to land back in our “home” town.  We had some turbulence on the way down and yet the overall flight was fine.

This was actually a fitting end to our travels in, and out of, China as it has been an incredibly bumpy ride for the last 1.5 years.

Some of the high points:

Jill and I are engaged.   Hell, we met only 8 days before I moved to China so the fact that we even made it there is amazing enough.  But engaged?  Truly incredible.

I was able to help a lot of people in need of therapy and coaching.  I worked on some of the most high profile cases in Beijing.  If you look at the news of what happened, with expatriates living in China during the past 1.5 years, there is a decent chance I worked on the disaster and tragedies as a psychotherapist and a trauma specialist.

I worked with the most amazing co-workers and staff.  I was able, at any moment, to get support, knowledge, and whatever my clients, or I, needed to make sure the client had the best care possible.  The knowledge level at my company is amazing and the professionalism is beyond compare.  I’m honored to have spent 1.5 years with them and could not have wished for a better group of people to work for and with.

We made an amazing amount of friends and connections.  People inspired us to dream bigger and not settle for the norm.  It takes a special kind of person to survive, and thrive, in Beijing and our friends do that.

We were able to save a nice little nest egg for our future plans to travel around the USA and build our business at San Francisco Tourism Tips over the next year or so.  We are also going to be building a new website to help people live their dreams and take the road less traveled.

We were able to visit parts of China including Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Tianjin and see places out of history like The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, and The Terracotta Warriors.  These and many others will live on in our pictures, this blog, and our memories for the rest of our lives.

We also were able to visit Singapore, Malaysia, Mongolia, Turkey, and Greece.  Not a bad way to spend a year and a half.

Some of the bad points:

RAB (Richard Arden Bermudes) passed away while we were gone and we were not able to say goodbye in person. This will haunt me.

Jill’s grandmother passed away while we were gone and she wasn’t able to be there for the funeral and memorial.  She seems to be doing fine with it and was able to say her goodbyes before we left but I’m sure this still is upsetting to some degree.

As mentioned above, I worked on a lot of the major disasters that happened in Beijing during my stay.  This was incredibly positive because I could help a lot of people but it was also difficult because I saw so much grief and death in my 1.5 years.  From what I’ve been told, the 1.5 years I worked at my company saw as much emergency situations as anyone can remember.  And I always volunteered to help because I enjoyed doing it but it did wear me down.  However, I don’t regret one second of it.  I know I helped save peoples’ lives and helped them find a way out of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, psychosis and other very painful places.

Jill had a breast cancer scare and needed to get a biopsy.  This can be scary enough, living in the USA, but living in a foreign country makes it 10x worse. Everything turned out fine but it was still not an enjoyable experience.

Jill fell and hit her head and had a huge bruise for quite a while.  The amazing thing about Jill is that almost nothing gets her down.  She was able to laugh about what happened and let me write a few blogs and post pictures.  She is truly amazing.

This is just a short list of things that happened and I’m going to be writing a travelogue about them and others in the next year.

Jill and I sort of forgot all of these events as we drove into San Francisco with our dear friend, Alethea Bermudes and saw the Golden Gate Bridge rise out of the fog and clouds.

The Grateful Dead once sang, “What a long strange trip its been” and they were partially right because our long strange AND AMAZING trip has just begun.   It is past, present and future tense.

We both hope you continue along with us as we travel around the USA and then off to some foreign country to see what the future brings us next.


Day 556 OUT OF Beijing: Bye Bye Beijing.


Jill, the cake, and me.

Jill and I are ready to have some Bye Bye Beijing cake!


Jill and I are somewhere over the Pacific Ocean right now.

We are flying home and hopefully we are peacefully asleep as you all read this.

We are out of Beijing and on to our continued adventures as mobile vagabonds.

In the last 1.5 years we have had so many amazing experiences, made so many friends, and seen so much that this blog barely touches the surface our our time abroad.

I will be, in the future, writing a book about it and going very deeply into what it is like to live in China, be a therapist here, and how it has affected both Jill and me.

However, at this moment, I just want to thank all my amazing friends who Jill and I have met here in Beijing and in China.

This also includes our friends we’ve met on our travels to Malaysia, Singapore, Mongolia, Greece and Turkey during the past 1.5 year here.

We decided we’d have a little Bye Bye Beijing party and it was fantastic.  We had it at The Local and it was a perfect way to say goodbye and start to move on.

Being an expat can be difficult because people are constantly moving and appearing or disappearing from your life. We know this is part of the joy and the sadness.  I had to say goodbye to a lot of clients also and that is a tough part of being a therapist.  You help people through their most difficult times in life, see them change, and then have to say goodbye.  It is both a joyful experience and a loss.  Maybe that is why I’m okay with being an expat and seeing so many people come and go.  I can accept that they will leave, I enjoy the time I have with them, and then I know that something else will appear and I’ll learn more or see a new way of thinking.

I also hope that these friends, and the many others we’ve made, will come visit us wherever we are and keep in contact.

As for plans, we expect to be in San Francisco Bay Area for the next 3 months.  Jill has an amazing website, San Francisco Tourism Tips, and we need to be there to support it and our livelihood.  If you haven’t see her site, please click the link above and subscribe or like it on Facebook.  Also share it with anyone you know that might be interested.  It is made for travelers and locals and Jill has done an amazing job.  I’m absolutely amazed at how hard she works and how professional she is regarding this business.

During our stay in San Francisco, we will see my sister Stacy’s family, and my dad, in Walnut Creek.  During this time, we will visit my brother Dave’s family in Portland.  After that, we will head down to Los Angeles to see friends and family for about a month.  During that month, we will make a quick jump down to Cancun to see Jill’s sister Julie and her family.  Then over to Santa Fe, NM to see my mom Judy and her husband, Phil.  Lastly, we will hit Nebraska to see Jill’s parents, Emma and Bill.

After that?

We are thinking we will live in Costa Rica or possibly Colombia.  We have a lot of options and it could even include moving to Turkey or Greece.

It is a hard life but somebody has to live it.  🙂

We are also building a new website that will be unveiled in the next month or two.  It will focus on helping others live their dream life, figuring out what that exactly is, how to plan it, deal with problems that come up, and then inspire others to do the same.  Keep your eyes open for it because it is a life dream for us to help others make their dreams become reality.  This includes you, our dear readers!

Thank you for being a part of this journey as we’ve reached 556 days in Beijing.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have.

We look forward to seeing everyone back at home, or wherever you are, and continuing to write the story of our lives as it moves ahead.

Enjoy our final post from Beijing and pictures of the party.


Day 500 In Beijing: 500 Days of Travel.


Jill and me making a new friend. The life of an expat.


I’ve been traveling for 500 days now.  Jill for about 465.

It has been a long road.

We’ve had some amazing times, met some amazing people, and seen a lot of amazing things.

We’ve also had hardships and tough times.

We’ve already had great friends leave and that is one of the really tough parts of being an expat.

The people you meet, and love, move on.  And so do you.

And so will we.

It is a matter of time, as an expat, before you leave and end up somewhere else.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because we get to experience a lot of new people, new places and new adventures, but it can be tiring after a while.

It is something that I deal with, with my clients at work, at different times.

People don’t seem to understand how tough it is to make really close friends, but also know they, or you, will be leaving and that you have to rebuild your support system over and over again.

On the positive side of things you then meet all kinds of new people but on the negative side you lose contact with all kinds of people you care about and want to stay in touch with over time.

This is where this blog, Twitter, Facebook and other methods of social media help out a lot.

As we know, where Jill and I are living, makes it quite difficult to use these social media sites without a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and that makes the internet move very very very very slowly here.

There are times when we are using a VPN but still can’t get on to the social media sites and this affects Jill in a very difficult way since she needs the internet to run all her online businesses.

However, we are dealing with it as best we can and these are just part of the trials, and tribulations, of living in China and living overseas.

Jill and I actually read a book, on our kindles, while on this trip called, “Happier Than A Billionaire” by Nadine  Hays Pisani.  It is all about chucking your job, doing something somewhat crazy and moving to another country, and then seeing what can happen.

It is probably one of the funniest travelogues I’ve read and Jill and I were literally laughing so hard we started to cry at times.

After we finished the trip to Turkey and Greece, we ended up liking “Happier Than a Billionaire” on Facebook and are now friends with Nadine.

We talk to her almost daily about living overseas, each other’s dreams and desires in life, and how we can make them happen.

This probably never would have happened if I hadn’t met Jill 8 days before leaving for China and her taking a chance to spend the next 465 days with me, a guy she barely knew, in a country (multiple countries if you count our travels) that she knew nothing about, and our desire to meet interesting people, live a life less ordinary and take a chance on life.

By the way, if I can put a plug out for Nadine’s book, please click this link and buy it:  Happier Than A Billionaire.  It is on amazon and you will thank yourself for it.

Looking forward to what tomorrow brings.


Day 379 in Beijing: Ostrich Egg. It’s What’s For Dinner.


A great night with food, friends and frivolity.

A great night with food, friends and frivolity.

Yep, I’m a vegetarian and I was offered the chance to eat ostrich egg.

I have to admit, it was a conundrum.

I don’t want to eat meat, seafood or any type of egg because I find it to be immoral, environmentally damaging, and just not sustainable to the world.  I also feel better when I stick to be a vegetarian physically.  However, we do eat bread and pasta and they have egg in them.

Honestly, I really don’t enjoy thinking of the pain I’m causing animals when they are killed for my pleasure.

The slaughterhouses in the USA are pretty horrible and quite unsanitary.  I can’t imagine what the ones in China are like after shopping that grocery stores with raw meat, fish and other foods, sitting out in the hot sun.

Honestly, it is enough to make just about anyone go vegetarian if you pay enough attention here.

That being said, when Jill and I were offered to try some of an hard-boiled egg, we chose to eat it.

In reality, I’m not a vegetarian but I’m a self-labeled “hypocritarian” because I do give in to my desires and sometimes ignore what I morally believe.  Call it cognitive dissonance and be done with it.  Life is too short to stick to labels.

Personally, I thought it tasted quite yummy.  It was definitely “eggy” and also had some flavor like venison.

Jill, on the other hand, didn’t care for it.

The weird thing is the albumen was very much like a rubbery jello substance.  It wasn’t hard like chicken eggs or white.

Our friends, Francois and Dorota, told us they bought two of the eggs for 80RMB total.  That means two massive Ostrich eggs came out to about 14 USD total.

7 bucks for each ostrich egg.  Amazing.

As you can see, it takes some serious strength and skill to cut one open.  And a hacksaw.

Luckily, both Dorota and Francois are doctors at the same international medical services company where I work and know what they are doing.

The video is a bit long but worth watching.  It gives a good idea of how much work it takes to cut open an egg of this size.




Celebrating my CHINAVERSARY with Jill, Nebraska State Senator Kate Sullivan and her wonderful husband Mike.  A very nice way to ring in the second year in China.

Celebrating my CHINAVERSARY with Jill, Nebraska State Senator Kate Sullivan and her wonderful husband Mike. A very nice way to ring in the second year in China.

This is actually a weird problem to have.

This is my Chinaversary.

I’ve lived here for one year.

Except, that isn’t quite right.

I lost a day in my flight over so I’m never sure if I’ve really been here for one year or not.

I’m going with this is my anniversary since I left the USA on this date and technically would have arrived on the same date if not for the time change.   And, it would also set my “Day …” count off by a day if I didn’t do this.

I can’t really believe I’ve been in China for one year.

And that I’ve written 365 blog posts.

I had no idea that I could find that much to write about, that much to think about that much to keep going, day after day.

I’m actually quite proud of my accomplishment.

I also thank everyone that has been on this ride with me, either physically, like Jill, or mentally/emotionally like my family, friends and readers of this blog.

Some of the things I’ve learned in my first year:

Traffic in China is pretty bad.  I just moved to a new place about 1 block from my work.  It takes me 3 minutes to walk there and my stress load has gone down incredibly.  I used to commute, by taxi, for about 30-40 minutes each way.  The time I get to spend relaxing with Jill and going for walks is priceless.

Beijing is huge.  23,000,000 people, and by some estimates, 25,000,000, in a 200 km city.  It just seems to go on forever.  This has good and bad points.  We mainly have figured out the good points and that there is always something new opening and a new place to explore.  Or, better yet, a very old place to explore.

We love traveling.  We truly love to get out, try something new, meet new people, and see what life is like outside of our “little world” back home.  It gives us a new perspective every time we meet someone because we hear a life story that is so different and so contrary to what we both used to believe about what we could or should do with our own lives.

We miss our friends and family back home.  This goes without saying.  Two dear friends, and one who is basically “my second father” died while I was away.  I did what I could do, from here, but missed the memorials or being able to truly say goodbye.  This is a major downside to being an expatriate.

China is an amazingly dizzying place to live and understand.  It is like the industrial revolution on steroids.  I’ve never experienced anything like it and I’ve been to a lot of major cities around the world and lived in Japan, Australia and other countries.  Seriously, nothing compares to China.  That is good and bad.

Jill and I are an amazing couple.  We have put up with, I would say, was probably one of the hardest years of our lives and have come through with more love and respect for each other than we could have imagined.

Here is a simple list of what has happened since we met, some good, some bad.

I moved to China.

I started a new job.

I moved into a new apartment with very little support or idea of how to do anything in China.

Jill Moved to China.

Jill’s grandmother died.

Two of my friends/mentors died.

3 different visa trips to leave China so Jill wouldn’t overstay her visa.

Jill started Mandarin school.

Dealing with pollution.

Jill’s almost having to start over from scratch on her website because of problems.

The internet being limited beyond belief because of….I won’t state that here.  😉

Jill found out that people very close to her have cancer.

Jill had a breast cancer scare and a biopsy here (everything is fine, thankfully!).

Amazing boss and dear friend in the same person.

Seeing the Great Wall twice.

Having friends from the USA visit.

Salsa dancing in China.

Playing badminton with my coworkers.

Making new incredible friends that keep us continually laughing and feeling like we have a “family here.”

The ability to support and love each other through the hardships and know that we have each other’s love.

A move to a new apartment that is wonderful.

My therapy practice which is doing incredibly well.

Working in situations that I would have never imagined in the USA which includes doing therapy on a oil rig in the the middle of a bay in China among others.

Helping many people feel better and figure out what is right for them.

Not having to own a car.

Seeing the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Tienanmen Square, Summer Palace and so much more.

Seeing Chinese New Year in China!

Having Octoberfest in Beijing.

Becoming vegetarian, together, on New Year’s Day.

Visiting Mongolia.

Visiting Shanghai.

Visiting Malaysia, twice!

Visiting Singapore.

Spending NYE in Singapore with Dipesh.

The ability to take a month off in the summer and go to Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria.

Jill’s websites taking off and becoming a real force for tourism in San Francisco.

A new internet service that is screamingly fast which allows this blog, Jill’s sites, and all the connections we need to stay here and feel more at “home” when we miss people.

Overall, the positive definitely outweighs the negative and I’m sure there are lots more to list but I don’t want to overwhelm people.  Suffice to say that year one was incredibly tough, and taught us so much about ourselves, and each other, that we know year two will be a breeze. We are so much stronger, knowledgeable and resilient to what comes our way that we will succeed and master whatever needs to be done.

We both thank you for all your support, care and love.


Day 356 in Beijing: Happy 1 Year Anniversary To Jill and Me!


We took this picture a few days ago.  I wrote the date we were there instead of our anniversary!

We took this picture a few days ago. I wrote the date we were there instead of our anniversary!

Many of you know that Jill came to stay with me after I arrived in China.

This is how it all began:

I was leaving for China and wanted to see the San Francisco Carnaval parade.

It is usually jam packed with people so I went down to get my spot at 8 am.

There was almost no one there.

So, after 30 minutes, I got off the curb, walked over to a restaurant, and grabbed breakfast.

When I returned to my spot, there was a woman, wearing black sweats and sweatshirt, and sunglasses there.

“Hmmm,” I thought, “She’s pretty cute.”

I asked if I could sit down by her and she agreed.

We started talking, and waiting for the parade to start, for the next 1.5 hours.

My dear friend, Jon-David, showed up and joined us.

We basically spent the whole day together and had some amazing food after the parade ended.

As we split up, I asked Jill, “Wanna go on a date tomorrow?”

She agreed and we haven’t been “apart” a day since.

Other than the 1.5 months that I was in China and she was in San Francisco, but we talked on skype every day and we’ve been as happy together as either of us can remember.

That isn’t to say everything has been easy: Especially in China, where relationships are stressed and pulled in ways that they aren’t in other places.  However, our willingness to grow, admit our mistakes, and trust each other, has allowed us to be stronger and more comfortable each new day.

We decided a nice little photo retrospective would be a good way to celebrate our anniversary.

By the way, Jill was down at the parade to shot pictures for her website:

It is also on Facebook at and if you “like” that page, we’d consider it a very nice present to the both of us as that is how she survives and she is working hard at making it a viable, and powerful, website.


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Day 324 in Beijing: Erlian, Mongolia Visa Run: Hours 32.1 to 36


My one picture of the Hainan Airlines flight while in the air.

My one picture of the Hainan Airlines flight while in the air.

After we passed the dinosaur sculptures, our driver dropped us off at the airport.

It had 4 gates total.

2 domestic.

2 international.

That’s it.

We hung out for a few hours, as we were quite early, and ate some ice cream and watched the only other plane take off for the capital of Mongolia.

The loudspeaker called out our flight number, about 45 minutes before we were supposed to depart, and we headed towards the ticket counter.

There was only one person in line so we checked in quite quickly.

We then headed to security.

The line was empty and we had a metal wine bottle opener in my backpack that we wanted to see if we could get through and keep.

It wasn’t expensive so we didn’t really care if we got it through, we were just wondering about the security and how well it was done here.

Well, they stopped my backpack and asked, in English, “Do you have a knife in here?”

I responded with a very intelligent, “Huh?  A knife?” and tried to play dumb.

They were having none of it.

They opened up my backpack and took out the wine opener.  I thought, “Oh well, 4 bucks down the drain.”

They then asked, “Where is the knife?”

I actually did feel a bit confused and said, “There is no knife, just the bottle opener.”

The main security inspector played with it, making it do the “jumping jack” thing that these types of wine openers can do if they are handled correctly and studied it intently.

Then, they handed it back to me and said, “Okay, you can go.”

Jill and I were a little amazed because the corkscrew on it could definitely be used as a weapon and this was probably what they thought was the knife, but since they said it passed muster, I wasn’t going to argue.

We found our seats on the plane and a man sat in our same row beside us.

Now, Chinese are well known for spitting just about everywhere.

This includes in the gym we go.

This includes in the incredibly clean US embassy.

This includes in movie theaters.

There is pretty much no place in China where Chinese people think it is wrong to spit in and this is quite disgusting to Jill and me.

Well, the guy beside us reaches forward, grabs the barf bag, and proceeds to open it up, hock up a loogie, and then spit into the barf bag.

This was digusting enough but then he actualy put the barf bag back into the seat pocket.

We couldn’t deal with it so we asked to move.

The flight attendant spoke perfect English and moved us to the emergency exit and we thanked him a lot.

The flight had about 25 minutes before departure and yet they told us to buckle up and we started taxing out to the runway.

We were sort of surprised, since we’ve never flown on a plane that DEPARTS early, but we just did.

By the way, taxing out to the runway took about 1 minute.  This really is the smallest airport I’ve ever seen.

We took off and went straight up into the sky.

We leveled off quite quickly and they served us some yummy vegetarian snacks and I took a picture out the window.

As I was taking the picture, the attendant asked me to turn off my phone and notified us that no cameras or phones were allowed to be turned on when the plane is in flight.  It doesn’t matter if they are in airplane mode or not.  I had forgotten about this but this seems to be the law in China so I shut it off.

We then started to descend and landed quite easily.

I took a picture of the other passengers getting off the plane as we boarded the bus to the main terminal and we were almost home.

After we went through the gate, we proceeded to the bus terminal in the airport, and waited for the public bus back to our apartment.

It took about 45 minutes, because the traffic was horrible, and we talked to a very nice Chinese lady during the ride home who happened to live near us.

We said our goodbyes as the bus pulled into our stop and walked home with our luggage.

We opened our door, put our clothes and luggage away, and sat down to relax.

We were home and done with our visa run.

36 hours.

Almost to the second.

Not a bad way to see a part of the world and experience something that neither Jill nor I would have even imagined 10 months ago, when we met, and even a few months ago as we never expected to do a visa run like this.

All in all, it was a great experience and I’m glad we went.

And I’m glad you have all joined us on the trip and hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

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Day 323 in Beijing: Erlian, Mongolia Visa Run: Hours 32-32.1


Jill and I truly loved the dinosaur displays and wanted to take some videos.

These three are rather short but I find them utterly hilarious and absurd.

It is insane discoveries, like these, that make all the hardships of travel, very worthwhile.

How else would we have ever even though that something like this would be in the middle of the Gobi Desert and be real?

We wouldn’t have.

But we do now.

And so do you.


Day 322 in Beijing: Erlian, Mongolia Visa Run: Hours 32-34


The famous "Kissing Apatosauri" of Erlian.  Seriously, why the heck are they making out?

The famous “Kissing Apatosauri” of Erlian. Seriously, why the heck are they making out?

We are getting close to the end now.

Our cabbie picked us up and we headed towards the Erlian Airport since we decided to spend a few more bucks and fly back home.

We had heard about this massive dinosaur sculpture area but knew we weren’t taking the bus back and would not be able to see them.

Jimmy and Adam actually were able to catch a car back for about the same price as they would have paid for the bus and so they were well on their way and were safe and sound.

We realized that we were actually heading right for it and that we had a great chance to get some hilarious pictures and videos.

Thanks to Sienna for making sure the dinosaurs were correctly identified and not called a brontosaurus when they are not.

We had no idea there would be so many crazy dinosaur sculptures and displays.  It seriously blew our minds.

Simply said, our exit from Erlian could note have ended on a better note!

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Day 321 in Beijing: Erlian, Mongolia Visa Run: Hours 28-32


The butcher and her shop.

The butcher and her shop.

After we picked up the rice, the Mongolian ladies wanted to buy some beef.

Mongolian beef, from what I’ve heard, is amazing.

I’m a vegetarian so I don’t know if that is true but it sells for a lot on the black market in Beijing.

Now, you may ask, how does one get Mongolian beef across the border since it is illegal to take meat, or other perishable products, across them.

This is where a really good driver, and connections, seem to come in handy.

We drove up to a butcher and stopped.

Actually, we drove up to a house, in which a butcher shop seemed to open, and the ladies went in to buy some beef.

Jill stayed outside and rested while I went in to see what was going on.

There was a guy cutting the ribs and a woman selling it.

This obviously was a well known place and the lady knew Diana and these women.

They come here a lot obviously.

After I left the butcher house, I looked around and noticed one of the strangest advertisemnts I’ve seen in a long time.

A huge black guy, and a tall white women, all pumped up and rippling with muscles.

This was on the side of one of the buildings near the butcher house and one of the ladies pointed to it and said, “Gym!”

I’m not sure why a black man, and a white woman, who are seemingly pretty steroided up would help in advertisements, but I guess it does.  Strange.

We hopped back in the SUV and started our return voyage to Erlian, China.

We had to do the reserve trip being that we left Mongolia first, and then headed into China.

It took a bit longer because the Mongolian government really seemed to be searching cars that went back to China and we though the beef, which was hidden under the seats, was going to be found.

Luckily, it wasn’t and we jumped back in the SUV and headed for China.

By the way, after the pictures, I posted a video of Diana and the other women speaking Mongolian.  It is a beautiful language and well worth listening/watching as we drive through, “No Man’s Land.”

When we went through Chinese immigration, it got a bit dicey.

The guards there saw I had a “Z Visa” which is a work visa.  I sincerely doubt ANY person on a Z visa comes to Erlian for a visa run because the company that hired you sponsors you and you don’t have to do these stupid visa runs.

The guards really took along time and were very officious and called over their boss and he kept looking at the Passport and then back at me as if I was some kind of criminal.

They finally let me through and then gave the same treatment to Jill.

After about 15 minutes we were done and waited for Diana and her car by the Rainbow Statue.

After that she dropped us back at our hotel and we hung out until the next taxi driver, which our buddy, Moeava, set us up with, came to pick us up.


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