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August 20th, 2013

10:26 pm - Tipping Point or "So cleaning is apparently how you soberly destress after a long day at work"
For various reasons, which I may or may not divulge here, I've decided not to drink 'til October (occasionally you'll hear me pronounce proudly "sober 'til October" daring people to high five me). And I don't exercise. And I occasionally choose to work late. Like tonight. Was at work from like 8am to 8:30pm. I could have easily stayed longer, but knew that to do so, I'd risk hitting that tipping point...you know the one where the adrenaline (and most likely evening caffeine) kick in, so that you can grind out page after page, complete thing after thing, stopping only when either something external brings you to a halt (i.e. a friend offering you a ride home) or it becomes so hard to concentrate/stay on topic/write coherently/find the correct word quickly, that you're forced to admit defeat? The one where afterwards you're wired for hours, because even though, for all intents and purposes, your brain has turned off, your body's still rarin' to go?

Around 8:30 tonight, I felt myself quickly approaching that point. A fairly new development has been my ability to see the tipping point BEFORE I pass it, so that the decision to go past truly is mine. So I decided not to pass it, to wait for a while for a crowded bus and come home.

As I walked to the bus stop and walked home, I put my headphones in and kinda rocked out, like a 3D version of the original, ubiquitous Ipod ads. Flailing the arms, moving my hips, walk dancing just to shake the stress out and let my body celebrate not being in a chair or in an empty office where the air circulator stops circulating air at 6pm on the dot, when the whole building seems to take its last breath of the night. Because even though I'd barely managed to avoid the tipping point, there was still some stress that needed venting.

I got home, still rockin' out to my Death Cab for Cutie Pandora station. A month ago, in this situation, I probably would have had a large glass or 2 of wine to take the edge off...go on that half drunk trip to wind myself down due to what was surely a combination of the chemistry between the brain and body brought on by the alcohol catalyst and my fervent belief rooted firmly in Sex and the City, various television shows and other cultural cues that wine destresses one after work.

But tonight, I couldn't turn to wine...or vodka...or beer...or really anything with an -OH attached. So instead, I rocked out a bit and started scrubbing the kitchen floor. Using a gloved hand and an industrial strength degreaser, I danced as I scrubbed. Though that too had a tipping point...after 10 minutes, I realized I could either continue on, OCD style, which would make me once again approach the earlier discussed tipping point, or I could stop.

Deep down, I desperately wanted perfection, and cleanliness, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with getting the whole floor clean, and the validation from roommates, and the need to show them I am a valued member of the household (because apparently 4 years in the same apartment simply isn't enough). But once again, I hit the breaks just in time. I remembered why I was degreasing (to soberly destress...the cleanliness was a secondary concern) and slowly stepped away. The glove went in the trash, the paper towels, degreaser, and trash went back to their places, and I went here. After all, posting/writing is this week's goal. So far, I'm 2 for 2.

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August 19th, 2013

11:01 pm - Another start
I'm going on the assumption that no one reads this. There were no tears when I stopped posting half a decade ago nor complaints nor write in campaign for me to come back. In any event, I'm back...or at least trying to be.

Any time I've challenged myself, be leaving the States for a summer in England or doing Peace Corps, I've posted to this blog. Right now I'm a couple weeks into what I'm hoping is a time of structured self-improvement and reflection. As I've told a couple people, for the rest of 2013, I'll be dating myself, meaning I'm going to try to spend a bunch of time trying to get to know myself (and trying to make myself better).

So far, this has taken the form of a weekly challenge...and not one where there are prizes or anything but something I do daily. Each week I add a new thing, and they build...so week 1's challenge continues as week 2's starts. Thus far I have:

1) Flossing daily (well, nightly). So far I've only missed once (and made up for it by flossing twice the next day).
2) Making my bed.
3) Walking outside at least 20 minutes in one stretch. This is the new one starting today, and honestly I failed today. I might have made it if you add things cumulatively today. On the plus side, tomorrow's a new day.

The fun and adventure and momentum of these mini challenges (and small daily successes) are starting to wear off...they're become more chore like than anything...maybe it's just a phase (hopefully).

On the plus side, my gums are looking better...and I feel so much less stressed walking into an organized room with a tidy bed. Weird but true. Like a child, I often tell people of my successes...I've flossed every day for over 2 weeks, I proudly pronounce...in a certain way it's me showing off: look, it's not just an empty promise, I'm doing it! I'm doing it! Plus the internal validation still isn't entirely there: I'm still a people pleaser at my core, and getting a positive reaction makes me feel good (gosh, I just realized that makes me sound like a golden retriever or something..oh well, if the collar fits... :) )

Oh yeah, I've given up drinking til October...but that's for another post...perhaps tomorrow. For now, good night.

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10:46 pm - An old post from right after I got out of Peace Corps...don't know the date...late 2008?
Today I got hit on by a middle aged guy speaking a romance language that I barely understand...it's almost like being back. I was at my part time job when I ran into one of the custodians. He unlocked the door for me and I said "Obrigada" and then, louder "Gracias" He asked me in Spanish if I spoke Spanish and I said a little. I could kinda understand what he was saying, but when I tried to respond, it came out all jumbled. In my head the translation goes:

English -->Krioulu-->Portuguese-->high school Spanish

There's a huge drop off in fluency in between each step. Annoying, but made me once again realize how fluent I was in Krioulu. At one point he asked if I was in school, then if I was married. I said no, laughed it off. I walked away, feeling like I'd grown. Pre-PC I would have been puzzled and slightly offended by the question. Now I kinda understand the cultural context behind it, know that it's innocent, and just kinda get it.

Ahh growth.

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August 31st, 2008

08:50 pm - What to say...
Since getting back, I haven't actually called a lot of people...in part it's because I STILL (after a week and a half here) haven't gotten a cell phone. The other part is the fact I kinda worry about the awkwardness of the conversation: almost like cold calling someone. It's just, logically/quantatively an awkward situation. It's not like when I was back for Christmas, when it's a "Hey, let's catch up really fast" conversation. Now, after 2 years of being gone, it's like a "Hey, how are you? Remember me? You wanna be my friend?" conversation. A little more awkward. Friends from before have had 2 years without me...now I'm kinda trying to fit into their lives. It's just...interesting.

In their defense, all of the friends I have called have been awesome and supportive. But what happens when I start calling people who were just good friends, not best friends?

I'm sure it'll all work out. It's just an interesting part of the readjustment process.

Oh and I thought of a couple other things to add to the last posting's list:

-all dogs here are nice and probably won't bite you
-the fact that you don't need exact change anywhere (or practically anywhere you go)
-restaurants in America have everything that's actually printed on the menu (I think that was on the last list, but I wanted to make sure)

Okay, g'nite.

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August 29th, 2008

03:42 pm - An update on the past week masomenos
Wow, a lot’s happened since the last time I posted. I finished my Peace Corps service and am now with my grandparents. There’s lots that could be said about the experience: the going away party was great, if not a little surreal, as was saying goodbye to people.

In Peace Corps, they say that the transition OUT of Peace Corps is much more difficult than the transition IN. This is for a variety of reasons, which I’ll speculate upon now.

When you go in, you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into: it’s exciting and for the next two something years, there’s a plan. Yes, it’s hard getting to know the language and the culture, but you’re undergoing this transition with a group of other Americans, all in the same boat as yourself. After training each day, or even during training, you talk about the differences and the difficulties with others who understand almost EXACTLY how you feel, what you’re going through. There’s a nobility to what you are doing, to the transition you are undergoing: you are doing all of this to help people you’ve never met (or atleast that’s what you tell yourself: if you are honest, you are probably doing Peace Corps for yourself: to gain life experience, to experience another culture from the inside, to qualify for those post-Peace Corps scholarships, or what have you). It’s difficult but the end is insight, a mere weeks away for training, or a couple years (700 odd days, but who’s counting) away till the journey ends, till you COS (or Close Of Service: afterall when you leave, you haven’t quite learned all of the acronyms)

Fast forward 2 years (less if you leave early, more if you extend). Everyone doesn’t COS at the same time: rather it’s a trickle. When you leave, it’s not as a part of the group you came in with, and when you arrive in America, you go back to friends or family, most if not all of whom have never experienced something along the lines of what you’ve experienced. Your identity is taken away: you’re not an American (even though you are, it looses its importance) or a Peace Corps Volunteer (rather, you are an RPCV, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). There’s no job or housing waiting for you, no group of people who are readily available to talk and empathize with you about what you are undergoing. What you are doing, presumably laying on your family’s couch, or in your old room, figuring out what comes next isn’t noble: if anything, at 20 or 30 something years old, it’s a little bit sad. And, probably the biggest thing for me, right now, the curse and the blessing about coming back, is the fact that you’re viewing American culture through a slightly skewed lens. Yes, this once was your culture, you lived in it for 20 or 30 something years, but now you find yourself questioning what is normal, and even questioning this life you used to fantasize about. Below is a partial list of things like that, that I’ve found. Other RPCVs feel free to add your own. Post comments if you want/think I need further explanation.

-flushing toilet paper
-long hot showers
-not worrying about if the power is going to go out/not having the power go out
-actually needing to have a cell phone (although CV is starting to get to that point)
-NOT saying “Hello” and “How are you?” to everyone you encounter/everyone you meet
-speaking to people who have English as their second language, and not needing/feeling compelled to speak to them in their first language (I went out for Mexican food the other night and the server spoke English with a Spanish accent: my first reaction was to try to speak to him in his language. Why? Because for 2 years I’D been the outsider needing to use another language to fit in, to be served, to not get ripped off when out dining…I’m worried that this sounds a little bit racist, but it’s not meant to be…for two years I spoke another language, and often did it when I didn’t have to in an attempt to fit in: it’s weird not to have to do that now)
-there are like NO kids here, and the ones that are here, you can’t just go up to and play with because that would seem creepy.
-people actually bag your groceries for you
-I haven’t talked about Peace Corps administration for over a week: a record I believe
-if I say something in Krioulu, ninguem podi intendi (no one’s can understand)
-I go from an air conditioned house to an air conditioned car to an air conditioned building
-so many choices. This encompasses a lot: grocery stores and what they have there, the billion choices of ice cream; video rental places that have a ton of choices, and what they have aren’t pirated DVDs, malls with tons and tons of stores.
-restaurants that have absolutely EVERYTHING that’s on the menu
-not being able to instantly find my friends in any place.

I guess that’s all for now…I’m sure I’ll think of other things later.

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August 15th, 2008

07:46 pm - The end is near
5 days till I leave.


I've known for the past two years that this day would come. In fact, at times, I've prayed for it to come sooner. But now, no.

For the past few weeks, it hasn't really seem real. More recently I've been busying myself with preparing to start a life back in the US, focusing on the future, not the past or the present.

It was only today, as I sat next to the 70 year old woman who has called me a Cape Verdean since practically the day I arrived, that it hit me. Holding her granddaughter in my lap, I smiled for the picture, and agreed with her that when I go back to the States, I'll be able to show that photo to friends and tell them that I had many friends in CV, that both the little one and the old one were my friends.

Moments like that one, simply sitting down with friends, and a few minutes later walking a hundred yards down and sitting with more people, playing with little friends and talking to the older ones, moments like that one will not be a part of my life once I leave here. I didn't appreciate that fact until today.

I have a feeling in the next 5 days, a lot of tears will be shed, both on my part and on the part of friends I've made here. I'm going to miss this place fiercely, and am sure will nostalgically look back on my time here.

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July 31st, 2008

09:52 pm - My conundrum
I'm having quite an ideological crisis right now. Maybe someone can help me.

Fact 1: I believe that the rich should pay more to pay for programs to help the poor

By and large, I consider myself a liberal. One of the things I believe in is progressive taxation, especially of the really really rich. I just read a time magazine that the median real wage over the past 10 years has dropped nearly a thousand dollars. There have been studies that show that the majority of the past decade's increase in wealth has gone to the VERY wealthy, like the top 2% or 0.2% or something like that.

I also believe in having government pay for some things. Education, for instance. Job training programs to help people get skills they need to compete in a global marketplace. Health care for those who can't afford it (because honestly, what does it say about a country if they can't or choose not to provide a basic level of health care to all of their citizens? I'll let you ponder that one). Anyway, in order to pay for these programs, you need taxes. And while I think almost everyone should pay taxes, I think there comes a point where it's okay to tax people more to raise more funds. Like I said, I'm a fan of progressive taxation. (although I haven't figured out specifics yet)

Fact 2: I don't like getting overcharged in the market, just because of the color of my skin.

Especially when I go to Praia (or heck anywhere that's not my city), I will routinely be quoted a much higher price than that which would be quoted to a Cape Verdean. Yes, I save a little bit of money here, and yes, I have access to more (if I really needed a ticket out of this country immediately I have friends and family members whom I could borrow from), so I can afford to pay 50 escudos more for vegetables than an average Cape Verdean in the street; or 300 escudos more for a dress than a Cape Verdean. Yet it still angers me.

The people selling these goods by and large have been poor all of their lives. I'm guessing that they don't have a computer at their house and if they had to leave immediately to go to Portugal for an operation, they might not be able to borrow the money for it.

THE CONUNDRUM: If I believe in Fact 1, why should I have such a problem with Fact 2.

If anything, fact 2 takes out the middleman when it comes to redistributing income (from me, the richer person to a vendor who is presumably poorer (or more correctly who might have less disposable income) and is therefore more efficient. It gives people the power to choose what they want to do with the extra money, and if you assume, like much of economics does, that people are rational, they'll spend the money on the thing that brings them the most happiness (utility), as opposed to a government program which might mandate what those funds are used for.

Ahh....I just can't reconcile those two facts. Cognitive dissonance anyone?


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July 23rd, 2008

09:19 pm - Coming full circle
Last night, thanks to a variety of circumstances, I ended up spending the night, with other Peace Corps Volunteers, in the first place in CV that I ever spent the night in. Naturally, being there made me reflect on if and how I've changed since that first night. It was interesting to wonder what I'd do differently, if I did it again, having all the knowledge that I know now (minus the language, naturally) What I ended up realizing was that in certain respects I've come a long ways, yet in others I still have quite a ways to go. Am I glad I had this experience? Definitely. Would I want to do it all over again? Maybe. Would I be better prepared to do it all over again (or be in a similar, but not exactly equal situation)? Yes. Would/Could I be the type of person who deals with all/most aspects of the transition, of the culture shocks, (and all of the other challenges) in the most idea way? No/Maybe (Would/Could). Anyway, it was definitely interesting to be there. I'm glad I went too: coming back to my town (I was in the capital for 3 days) I felt the beginnings of closure, whatever that may be. I felt myself pulling back a little bit, starting to see myself once again as "the other" instead of as one of them; started to re-see life here with slightly foreign eyes. I'm thinking that it's a good thing.

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June 15th, 2008

10:25 pm - Scheduling Social Time
As my time here slowly comes to a close, seemingly everyday, every interaction is cause for reflection and comparison. "Will I do this in America? Will I do something like this in America?"are questions that often pop into my head. Today was no exception.

I woke up, read a bit, and started watching a movie that I watched the night before. Then the power went out, so I got up and started cleaning up my living room (something that was at the top of my to do list). I'd been to my neighbor's birthday party (she turned 3) and since I'm like part of the family I was reminded to come back at 9am to help clean. Being fully integrated (and actually quite hungry this morning) I showed up at 10.

As a sidenote, I hate sweeping in front of Cape Verdeans. They are seriously so much better at it than I am. Worried that I'd be handed a broom and made fun with (not of, because they wouldn't be malicious), I cleaned up at the party, taking plates to the back, scrapping leftovers in the pig bucket (it's the pig's food), etc. At the PCV's party I went to friday night, I did the same thing at the party...kinda cool how good behavior can be universal. But I digress.

So Saturday, 10am. I walk over, worried I'll be told to sweep. I hung out for a couple minutes, expecting to be told what to do, but I wasn't. Then I saw someone starting the dishes. I went over to them and started putting things from the wash bucket to the rinse one (there are 3 buckets: one where the dirty plates go and get whatever didn't get put in the pig bucket gets washed off, another where you do another washing, and a rinse bucket). I was given a stool and for the next hour, did dishes. They then offered me a breakfast of leftovers, which I of course ate. This was eaten in a storage room, surrounded by and sitting on cases of ponche, with some of the other neighbors. It was then back to work. Around 12:30 I left to go home, where laundry (and a frightenly messy room) awaited me. I decided that in order to clean I needed a cleaner which I didn't have. So I went into town, which of course means that a 5 minute walk easily stretches into half an hour.

I got home and then decided that I needed to put one set of grades into the computer. This of course, was more important than laundry as the electricity could go out so it's best to do things on the computer when you remember. That ended up being an hour (+) of putting grades in, taking them out (making a hard copy for the class that's practically over), proofreading newsletter articles and reading the occasional newspaper article.

Then I was hungry, so I made a burger and fries (which involved making my own fries) While eating dinner I realized that I needed to make copies of something for tomorrow and since copy machines rely on electricity, it's best not to wait to make copies (this helps avoid the occasional urge to kick your own hiney..."I should have made the copies earlier in the day...now I don't know when I'll be able to. )"

While walking by the Ninja Turtle's house (he's a 6 year old neighbor), I get called by him. We talk, and he wants to go to downtown with me. I say fine and 10 or 15 minutes later, we're gone. In the mean time we've picked up, literally, a 3 year old. He's afraid of fireworks (which occasionally go off in celebration of a wedding) and refuses to walk. So the three of us set out.

It was really cute:the Ninja Turtle flexed and made me tell him he was strong. Then the three year old did the same thing, and added "I'm strong so I'm not going to be afraid of fireworks" This is the same conclusion and way of saying it and conquering his fear that a 3 year old in the States would use.

So we get to the internet cafe/stationary store/cheap international phone place/bar/restaurant and I go to make copies. I then see a fellow teacher at school, who's hanging out with one of my 11th students (she might be one of his) and her boyfriend (who is slightly older than my little sister...but that's normal here) The little kids get chips and we end up hanging out for half an hour until the Ninja Turtle gets up and just leaves. I took my eyes off of him for one minute and he was gone. Luckily the 3 year old is a better babysitter than I am and leads me to him (he'd gone to the front of his aunt's house next door) On that note, we leave.

I had fruit that was going bad (it wasn't bad yet...it just all needed to be eaten in the next 24 hours, a feat I couldn't accomplish), so I dropped it off with a family who lives nearby who I know rarely eats fruit. We actually didn't stay there that long.

En route home, the Ninja Turtle wanted to stop at another neighbor's house, so we do. One of the kids there is a 4 year old who idolizes the Ninja Turtle...if the Ninja Turtle climbs on a car, he does. If the Ninja Turtle barks at the dog, he does. It was cute, a while ago I taught the Ninja Turtle the English word for dog. He pointed to one of the neighbor's dogs and said "Doggie" and made the 3 year old repeat it. I think I might have explained my difference between "dogs" and katxors (dogs are animals that you can pet, katxors are ones that you can't... physiologically they're the same animal but to me they aren't) so I think the Ninja Turtle might have picked up on that because we passed other katxors and he didn't say anything.

So the dog, a little mutt, loves me. I'm one of the only ones who'll pet it or play with it. When I'm around it gets all hyper, jumps between my legs and just tries to play, something that the Ninja Turtle loved watching. He got the idea to feed the dog some of his chips, and him and the kid who idolizes him just got so much pleasure out of doing that (I know, in America, you generally don't let your neighbor's kids feed half a small bag to chips to another neighbors dog...but this is CV where this dog is one of the lucky ones who gets fed leftovers (no kibble) All the while the 3 year old is in my arms and refusing to leave because he's scared of dogs. We're there for an hour, probably, until fireworks go off again, causing the 3 year old to cry. We leave and then I see an RPCV who's in town. So that leads to some hanging out.

I get home, put my laundry in to soak and then realize I have more newsletter business to attend to. I don't like calling people too late, and it can be kinda hard to get in touch with people, so I make those calls.

I do some of my laundry and then realize that it's father's day. Fearing a power outage, I go online and email my dad and my grandpa. And now we're here.


As I've written before, sometimes days just get away from you, not because of laziness but because that's how it is. You'll have been busy most of the day, yet doing laundry at 8:30 pm on a Sunday night (like I'm doing now), even though laundry was at the top (well, technically #2) on your weekend to do list. I somehow doubt this will be the case, but hope there are somedays similar.

I've had an easier time than some PCVs adjusting to this lack of schedule. Maybe it's because I'm from California or probably it's just because I'm me. I remember in college, I had things I absolutely had to do (like go to class or work), yet often I'd lie in bed wondering where the day went. I'd have run into a friend on campus after class and instead of reading/studying before work we'd have coffee or I'd walk them to their next class just to talk. I'd see someone during my 4.5 hour break between work on Sunday and we'd have lunch. I was already in the mindset.

However, I also had a lot more things scheduled, if though I was in college. There was class, and work. But free time, hanging out and socializing was also scheduled for the most part. The spontaneous, we ran into each other on campus so let's have coffee, were the exception, not the rule. You'd make plans to have coffee a week from Monday, or on Tuesday a friend would invite you to a party on Saturday (a mutual friend was throwing it so naturally you're invited even if the person throwing it didn't tell you...that's something that's different here: if you're invited to a party you'll get a personal invitation, unless it's a saint day...but I'm rambling) You'd exchange emails or phone calls about wanting to see a movie, and you'd schedule a time and a place. In fact, someone might even prebuy the tickets online...it was that scheduled. The only time I schedule social time here is with other Americans and that's because we all live in different cities, so you kinda have to schedule it (plus I don't have a cell phone here) As I reflect on it now, I think I'm going to miss the unscheduledness of social time, the ability just to go to someone's house and hang out with their multigenerational family. We'll see how it all develops.

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June 11th, 2008

10:51 pm - John Smith would be so proud (Pure Capitalism at it's finest)
There's this one mini market I shop at in town that has a charming feature about it: every so often it shows me capitalism at it's finest. Occasionally, when I go to pay, items are more expensive than they are marked. As the proprietress rings me up, she takes things out of my basket and announces the price as she inputs it into her calculator. Every so often she'll go this price has gone up. It's now ____. It doesn't matter if a lower price was marked on the price sticker on the shelf it was on, or if the price physically marked on the actual product in permanent marker on the product is lower, the price has been raised. I didn't start noticing this till recently (like in the past couple months) Sometimes I feel a little part of me, some dormant vestige of myself from 2006, stir and want to argue. "It's not right. If the price is marked X, the price is X, not X plus something." (the Xs are always replaced with the original amount of the item...don't worry, I don't think in algebra). The 2008 version of myself always takes over, going with the flow, realizing this is just the way they do things here (and by here I mean in her market). I've had my fights in the past, gotten all huffy and it's done nothing (wait, I can't buy shampoo and conditioner separately, I have to buy them as a pair? But I bought them separately last month. In fact, I only bought conditioner...I ended up leaving conditionerless and angered). I've always thought it's because food prices, and oil costs really are rising.

Until today. Last week they got in Betty Crocker Super Moist Cake Mix (in 2 flavors: Devil's Food and Yellow) Retail price 180 escudos. I bought one and made it and really liked it. I liked it so much that two days later I went back to buy another one. They were all out of the Devil's food, so I bought one of the two last remaining Yellow ones. Today, two days after buying my second box of cake mix, I went in the store and they had replenished their supplies. The sticker below the boxes said 180 escudos. I checked twice because I'm a dork and was comparing prices. When I went to check out, as the proprietress was pulling things out of my cart, she said "cake mix, 200 escudos, the price went up" The 2006 version of me stirred, but the 2008 version just gritted her teeth, said nothing and paid. I kinda wanted to say "The price didn't go up. You saw that they sold well, and decided to increase your profit." It's what John Smith says any rational person would do, and it's cool to see (almost) pure capitalism in action, working right before my eyes.

However there's a part of me that still doesn't like it and feels that it's somehow unethical. Ahh, the inner capitalism vs. socialism battle, which, kinda makes sense given my background (if you think about the cliches of being both an econ major and a alumna of Berkeley).

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