The Sunny side of Sydney

The Sunny side of Sydney

If you’re thinking in my last post, hmm criminals, prostitutes and sailors are not quite what I had in mind when I think of Sydney, you will love this one. Because Ta-Da, here is the signature Sydney!!

Freaking Harbour Bridge and Opera House, you practically see these twins EVERYWHERE you go! I mean don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful on first glance, and may be also on second glance. I was super excited when I first saw it but it gets boring after a while and Sydney is SO much more than that.

I have had delicious burger, coffee (FLAT WHITE, is what they drink here, a stronger version of latte/ no foam version of Cappuccino) and brunch! (Although I think these same items I had in Melbourne beat that :P) I mean the crispy bacon in the roll will probably get me cancer, but it’s just heavenly delicious so who cares.

 

I have also been called darling/ dear by strangers more often than the entire 2017 combined. I guess this gives you a rough idea of how great the city is, and how sweet the people are but if that’s not convincing enough, here are my top Sydney spots:

Top of my list is definitely the botanical garden! I know you may think oh that’s so boring, plants are for grannies… Let me tell you, coming from a densely populated urban city (Manila/ Taipei/ Hong Kong) filled with smog, polluted air and noise, I just couldn’t have enough of this open space, the fresh air and abundant privacy you get here!

You have no trouble finding a bench, a patch of lawn or a corner at the beach all to yourself to sit for a few hours. You get to thrive in your own personal bubble without being eavesdropped because you are so removed from the crowd.

Also flowers are just my favorite. They are so rich and saturated in colors of different shapes and forms; when I look at them I could just hear them singing different yet harmonious tunes as they happily receive the warm sunshine, gentle wind and occasional rain that nature so graciously provide.

Then there are the amazing (and free!!) art galleries. I love how they transformed the art museum into lively events that everyone can drop in and enjoy. Every Wednesday night, the NSW art gallery opens until 10 pm with a variety of interesting things to do.The night I went, there was sketching workshop accompanied by a strings quartet! I am so surprised at the number of people who showed up and the quality of the art work they produced. Mine on the other hand was only worthy for the rubbish bin 😛 but I enjoyed being part of this artistic circle and there is a different kind of joy watching others do things they enjoy 🙂 Passion is contagious!

Lastly, I was very lucky to visit the Bondi Beach and walk along the coast when the weather was postcard grade. It was like any other beach except for its wide strip of sand and strong waves! It was until now that I realize water changes color depending on its temper.

You see, as perfectly illustrated above, calm water is dark blue and agitated water is white! Why is that you may ask, well 😉 of course I also know the answer to it after consulting a chemistry expert (I guess he could somehow qualifies as that…) “The way liquid H20 align themselves (oh my god molecules are adorable) allow light to pass through which makes it transparent and therefore it’s blue because that’s the wavelength of light that escapes. On the other hand, angry water (waves) has bubbles into which breaks up the smooth matrix of H20 (aww poor molecules, say bye to your buddy) and thus create an imperfect surface but without any contaminants to absorb the light, it sort of perfectly reflects light in an imperfect way. blah blah blah Ok, well I am totally lost here so if you have a better explanation, do share with me 🙂 Personally I just think water has a bit of temper that’s all, you and I both turn pink or scarlet red depending on how embarrassed or furious we are.

On a more serious note though, water has recently became my favorite in a way that I want to “live” like water. First of all, water doesn’t overreact to external factors or stimulants, yes there are ripples but it just calmly accepts it and return to it’s peaceful, still phase because that’s when it can be “reflective”. If we are always distracted by the day to day mundane chores and noises, we could hardly reflect upon what really matters in life. So I shall end this thought upon the famous Bruce Lee quote “Be like water, my friend.”

Sydney reminded me so much about London, the “rubbish bins”, the Queen statues and the right drivers’ seats. Then Martin Place reminded me of Wall Street New York as the important looking men in suits wave each other off with “flat whites” in their hands pretending they are busy going nowhere. (except the suits weren’t as nicely tailored.)

The weather and the hobos on the other hand reminded me a lot of Market street in San Francisco. But then Sydney has this more relaxed, safe and comfortable vibe that makes it unique. I think it applies to every city you go. You are reminded of other places by the little things here and there, but this mix of familiarity conjures up a completely different feeling that makes this specific place special.

What was extra special is that Australians recently voted Yes because love is Love. Love in itself is extremely hard to come by and to keep, so wherever or whoever we find love with, it is precious and equally worthy. Simple as that. I have realized in my trip to Germany last year that you can fall in love with a person, an idea, or even a city. I hope you have found love somewhere in this isolated and vast world that we live in because love is all you need 🙂

Last random fact about this statue of the Queen: it was moved from Scotland all the way to right in front of the QVB because, who wouldn’t choose Sydney over godforsaken Scotland right?

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The Dark Side of Sunny Sydney

The Dark Side of Sunny Sydney

G’day mate! I hope you’ve missed me 🙂 It’s been a while since I’ve written about my travels but I have not stopped traveling! I still can’t believe I was able to squeeze in a personal trip right between 3 other business trips but I’ve made it! Dozens of flights and repeated destinations later, I finally visited a new country this year!

Last year I did Germany and UK which were both very nice but it’s nothing compared to this time because I’m stepping foot into a whole new continent too! It’s been a pretty short trip for 2 amazing cities but I think I made a good call to focus on the city and save the outskirt day trips for another time. I got to see everything I wanted to see, and everyone I wanted to meet 🙂

9 hours later, I landed into Sydney with a clear blue sky and big fluffy white clouds. I have probably taken 500 more photos than I need but I simply couldn’t get enough of these gorgeous cities. Yes! It’s just starting to get warm down south and the weather just couldn’t get any lovelier.

Everything seemed pretty central so I ended up walking 30 mins to places without realizing all these short walks add up to 6-8 hours of walking daily. My legs are still sore as I write this but it’s just hard to resist when the sun is being so welcoming and the wind so gentle (the expensive transportation costs is a big push factor too of course).

1788, prisons were starting to get crowded in London so basically this city started off as London’s offshore jail! Even until the early 1800s, 75% of the population is convicts! They also relied on food coming from London every few months so life was very tough. The prisoners who got exiled weren’t even deadly villains, but rather guys who stole horses and girls who shoplifted hair brushes who get sent off all the way to Australia on a 6 months journey by the sea.

Over 1000 convicts would get shipped off at a time but since the businessmen get paid up front, the money always get spent on prostitutes (for themselves of course) instead of basic supplies for the convicts. By the time these ships get to New South Wales, only 10% of the prisoners would still be in heathy conditions. I think my 10 hour flight wasn’t so bad given that 200 years ago people had to travel 6 months with no clean water and food crammed in a ship with half of your buddies dead on the way there.

Lucky for the ones that actually gets here, they can roam around the city freely! Because a) it’s an isolated island so you can’t escape to anywhere b) you either get killed by poisonous snakes, crocodiles, weird beasts, gets drowned or all of the above if you’re unlucky c) everyone’s a criminal so locking everyone up won’t even make a difference anyway. So these convicts were mostly building a life around this hilly area called the Rocks.

Back then the gender ratio between convicts was about 4 guys : 1 girl. I mean heck if I was a Londoner back then single at mid 30s, I’d steal a few breads just to get shipped off here considering how cute the guys are 😉 😉 And just imagine, an entire city run by convicts, with alcohol and rum especially as the unofficial currency. Life must have been pretty fun back then. What’s most interesting of course was the crimes there were committed on this convict island!

After a few decades, Sydney also became a port where sailors would stop by. If you’ve seen Pirates of the Caribbean you’ll probably know sailors are good business! You can sell them food, drinks, shelter, clothes and of course, prostitutes! But you know what is most profitable? Don’t tell that I told you this, but stealing is a pretty decent business with no overheads and costs 😉 You can also sell these sailors! What happens is they go to bars and they were told the drinks are free!

Drink as much as you want. The next thing you know, you woke up in a dark room, found yourself chained or shackled on a rocking ship heading to god knows where or enslaved on the ship for eternity! Apparently, the bar owners would just place these drunkards in wheel barrels, roll them downhill and then directly load them onto ships. Oh what a easy and good business sailors were.

As the society developed, banks and courts were also established as part of the system. And when there are banks, there are robberies 😉 On a normal weekday, the bank opened up its vault for the usual check ups and saw a big hole on the wall while 20M AUD (in today’s value) was gone. The police (yes, there were police) snooped around to no avail. It wasn’t until a few years later, when the court sentenced a random William Blackstone to hanging did they get a tip on the case in exchange for lighter punishment. Turns out William and a few friends discovered the direct wall to the bank’s vault and simply dug for 3 Saturdays in a row to break through and got all the money! The police went out and arrested all these people BUT they were unable to convict them because the tip came from Willian who was a criminal. Back then, if you’re a convict, your words do not count in court! So they never recovered the money and these bank robbers just went free as a bird.

Speaking of birds, do you know that it is only in Sydney that you see these silly birds with long beaks (Ibis) roaming around, fighting for food with pigeons and sparrows? Imagine you’re a tiny sparrow from Sydney, sigh, your life is even tougher than if you were living in say Hong Kong. How do you get any food from the bin (British 😉 when your competitors get this unfair advantage of freakish long beaks!

3 Lessons I’ve learnt recently, dedicated to my favorite cousin <3

I’d like to dedicate this post to my favorite cousin who is graduating from college today with 3 Lessons I’ve learnt recently.

Rooster today, feather duster tomorrow –

Just because everything is going well for you at the moment, you must not lose sight of your surroundings; stay hungry (for knowledge) and humble (despite any achievements) because you never know when will things change drastically or even go south. The least you can do is make sure you are prepared for wherever life takes you. Be it equipping yourself with the up and coming trends or acquiring new skills relevant to you, never stop learning and growing. I know comfort zone is warm and safe but staying there day after day, and all of a sudden you’ll be faced the harsh reality of being irrelevant! To keep yourself in tip top condition, you must always stay uncomfortably exciting about the things you’re doing in life. Be a Sponge Bob! 

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication –

The real challenge to problem solving is to untangle and clarify complex issues in order to define it clearly. The people I admire most are those that handle complicated situations with ease and grace. Of course deep down lots must be going through the thought process and situation handling, but you never see them panic or capitulate to these challenges. Quite the contrary, they keep going and solves problems in such calm and effortless manner that you just trust them to have everything well under control. Humans tend to over complicate things but I guess at the end of the day, all that matters is to listen to your heart, and stay true to your core values. Everything else is just noise. Simplicity is the toughest state to achieve because it is JUST the right amount, not an ounce more or a droplet less. Same applies to fashion I suppose 😉

You are not normal, you are in a class all by yourself –

It is pretty cliche to think that everyone is unique and special but nonetheless true. My personal interpretation on this is that the purpose of life is to focus on personal growth and it is only with this can we add value to the society and the people around us. The way to measure growth is never through comparing with others; but with who I was yesterday, last month, last year. I used to be terrified of water, yet 2 years ago, I finally LEARNT how to swim. I am still a pretty bad swimmer compared with the general public, but to me, I know I can only get better every time I practice. I am not normal. You are not normal. We are all in our very own class, all by ourselves, hopefully advancing towards our individual goals in our own pace, slowly but surely. Whether or not someone else progress faster or slower than you is completely irrelevant. Because we are all on our own tracks in life.

With this, I want you to know that your future is now entirely in your hands; no one has walked the steps you are going to walk and life just never gets easier. The world will only expect more and more from you but I have total faith that you are ready to steer your life whichever direction you choose. No matter what happens, my support is unconditional and always ready.

mickey

 

No matter how close or far away

Ask me once and I’ll come, I’ll come running

And when I can’t be with you, dream me near

Keep me in your heart and I’ll appear

All you gotta do is turn around

Close your eyes, look inside

I’ll be right here.

A little downtime for the brain

A little downtime for the brain

There is a strange kind of happiness watching your resume grow to the point where you need to take things out. Once upon a time, not very long ago, I was struggling to fill in this one sheeter son of a b-. Perhaps the joy comes from seeing your experience accumulate arithmetically. 1 year and 8 months already in my “new job”! Felt like just yesterday I got the long overdue phone call from HR and just this morning that I was struggling with jargons like apk/sdk. Believe me, to date, I still picture a warm aromatic chunky chocolate chip cookie whenever I hear people mention the word “cookies” (in internet world). There is so much joy in acquainting yourself with new skills, eventually getting it and becoming good at it. I guess it is inherent in human beings to feel good about growth, to crave new concepts and challenge oneself with the unknown; otherwise civilisation and even evolution wouldn’t have happened.

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But it is not just this innate curiosity that guided me along the way. It is the people whom I have crossed paths with: the childhood friends that became soul sisters, the strangers that became reliable friends and the close companions that became nobody. But like what I’ve reflected after watching La La Land; every person happens to you for a reason. Their staying in and fading away from your life is for a purpose. Sitting on the rooftop at night, random conversations about our deepest fear and biggest hope. Trapped in a car under the pouring rain, small talks around our family and childhood. Strolling down the pier, winding speeches about the frustration towards life and the fascination of endless possibilities… These moments may have passed but it is everlasting in my heart. 97EB9F9B-975F-4E7C-95F0-091F34D06E8F

I’ve read somewhere that our brains’s naturally exhibited emotions only last for 90 seconds so what you feel after that is purely your choice. Whether you choose to dwell on the negatives; or get on. I’ve also heard some wise advice that “no one is responsible for your happiness but yourself.” One of my recent favourite quote from a book is that “inaction breeds fear and doubt. Action breeds confidence and courage.” I love this new sense of confidence and certainty that comes with age and the wisdom you gather from life. All the epic, the good, the bad and the misery accumulated through time; condensed and distilled drop by drop into precisely who I am today. Fresh out of college, there was nothing I wanted more than going back to High School. Now, I wouldn’t trade the years I’ve had with anything in the world for I am right where I’m supposed to be now. (that sounded a bit like a pop song) In retrospect, I realised you sort of discover things in life one step at a time even when you’re not necessarily looking.

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My 17 year old self would have wanted to be who I am today 🙂 I’d like to end with a famous quote by Primo Levi from Into the Wild: “How important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong.” I get my strength from words so I’ll continue to write; because I know- at least you are reading it.

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p.s. regretful but not apologetic for the scattered thoughts

Random thoughts on a 14 hours flight

 

3I have always liked turbulence on planes (writing this on the flight to SF may be jinxing it since the entire plane is shaking even harder now). It’s like you always get it when you fly over Japan. It has just the right dose of danger within comfortable range that in those few seconds, you suddenly realize that your life is only hanging by a thread. There is no guarantee that you’ll live through the next millisecond.

4Despite knowing all the statistics about how unlikely the odds are, there is still that tiny sense of uncertainty, a hint of doubt no matter how many times I fly. Just WHAT IF my plane is the one that crashes? (at least I’d have higher chances of surviving since I’m poor I get to “avoid” the most dangerous front rows of the plane) What if this is the plane where co-pilots have high power distance? (No worries, even Korean Air has fixed this for a while now, I took it just 6 months ago) What if this is the unfortunate flight where someone absentmindedly brought along a Samsung Note 7? Or the one where mechanical teams made just a bit too many little mistakes that adds up fatal? If you are reading this now, by all means, I survived J and it wouldn’t even be surprising because you know and expect flights to land safely. Yes, we all take that for granted. A gigantic machine with WINGS that carry hundreds of people, fly over tens of thousands of kilometers over the ocean, the snowy mountains and the continental plates at 40 thousands feet altitude somehow made it to the destination! HELLO? How amazingly wonderful is that? Instead of complaining about the cold bread, the lack of wifi or bad taste in flight entertainment; shall we just be grateful that we reached our destination SAFELY? This not so simple act is almost a miracle in itself! And just because something incredible happens often doesn’t make it any less magical. Don’t wait until your plane flips over and land on the Hudson River to realize that.

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So perhaps just this thought of how fragile life is, just how easy we could vanish from this world, makes me treasure every single touch down and appreciates my presence in the world (however light weighted) to a greater extent. As I picture my not so perfectly shaped heart pumping just the right amount of blood that circulates my entire body with every pulse; I feel that much more alive.

Written on the 5th flight in 2017.

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Spread the love and fortune!

As I finished writing (actual words), I dropped my pen but my heart couldn’t drop the subject. Who knew this would turn out to be such a thought provoking experience?

9B573FC8-9E4E-4B37-A1BD-89CB52088441.JPGtl;dr (FYI, this stands for “too long; didn’t read” for adults) – You can be part of the change of someone’s life. Someone whose life depends on it. With a bit of money, and also with the power of knowledge and empathy shared amongst human beings.

3 months ago, a series of incidents led me to an epiphany – knowledge IS power. It is the most effective way to improve your life. This sudden and striking realization kept me pondering. My ridiculous brain came to the decision that the tiniest, most effortless thing to do is to sponsor a child! That way I will even receive handwritten letters on top of my monthly horror of credit card bills! Also, I get to use my beautiful letter papers. I must say what began with a really selfish motivation somehow turn into something rather meaningful.

Shortly after I filled in everything online, I received a call from World Vision volunteer who told me I should receive a package of the details of my sponsored child. I forgot about it as I travelled on business. When I got back, I received a letter from my sponsored child, written by her mom!E75E2ABA-1337-406A-88B8-7772B1AB13D1.JPG

She’s 5, from a warm and faraway country called Ecuador. Her favorite color is red.

I still haven’t gotten the package so I planned to call World Vision again but kept forgetting as I travel abroad. A while later, the responsible volunteer called me up again to check and made sure one week after I will receive it!

IMG_9819.JPGThen here I was, excited over a letter that is not urging me to pay up or borrow money. This packet told me my sponsored child has 2 sisters, her family works in agriculture and the exact city she’s in is Tixan. Wikipedia says that’s where one finds copper and gold.

So I put on Ecuador Top 100 from spotify and began filling in the questions in the default greeting letter. While latino music echoes in my room, I found it to be a rather daunting task to write this letter to my sponsor child.

“Her favorite food is rice.” – her mom wrote, as she is too young to write. Rice…plain, bland staple food.

I thought about my favorite food: sushi, uni, oysters, cakes, chocolates, ice cream… all these are beyond luxurious to her and many other underprivileged kids. It’s not until I spent several tough minutes going further down my mental list that I put down tomatos.IMG_9818.JPG

I checked out her horoscope and imagined her personality as a Pisces. As she grow up, she’d be “known for her passionate and experimental nature.” It is as if I have travelled into the future and imagined her to be my age. Would she already had all the education she needed to pursue her dream? Would she even be given equal opportunities to fight for what she want in life? For some reason, I already felt so attached to her. I want to learn more about her country. Does she get to study if she already has 2 sisters? Is Ecuador a gender equal society? Does she have pets with so many mouths to feed in her family?

80643C7B-AC31-49A2-B3BB-BBA02EEEA3F0.JPGThere is so much that I felt obliged to tell her: the beautiful vibrant city I live in that is slowly deterioating; my challenging and exciting job with so much possibility; the world that is full of promises and hope despite a weird 2016…but what will she understand as a 5 year old? So I wrote about my favorite color, my obsession towards giraffes and the origin of Snowy’s (my pet bunny) name instead.

In the end I just google translated my message into Spanish, in case the volunteers didn’t want to translate for me anymore as I wrote so much. Hopefully it made sense; in Google we trust. I carefully sealed it with my photo and snowy’s handsome baby portrait. Along with all my best wishes and goodwill, I mailed the letter to Ecuador, hoping she will soon be able to read the words herself.

In contrast to the humble and basic life she leads, I am splurging  excessively like Marie Antoinette while taking everything for granted. The difference between us also lies in that she doesn’t have a choice, but I do. And so do you.img_9817

With Valentine’s day coming up, it is the ideal time to make someone’s life significantly better instead of getting your special someone things (s)he already had or don’t actually need. For the indifferent ones with commitment issues, you can simply get them a gift that just might spare them from a life or death situation. Spread the love!

https://www.worldvision.org/sponsor-a-child

http://donate.worldvision.org/ways-to-give/gift-catalog

I’m obsessed with La La Land not only because I’m a musical lover, but…

I’m obsessed with La La Land not only because I’m a musical lover, but…

As if the movie itself isn’t great enough, the apt timing it premiered makes me anticipate my soon to come LA trip even more! I’m already itching to trace the footsteps of Mia and Sebastian.
img_6046The last time I felt compelled to write down my thoughts post movie was Begin Again, and that was probably 2-3 years ago. La La land was so delightful that I watched it twice in the theatre (still planning to go again if I have the time) and looped its OST hundreds of times and counting. The first time I watched it, the movie struck me by the glamour of its tap dances and songs (I mean who doesn’t love a cheerful musical?), the costumes and the wonderfully crafted ending (some hated the ending I know, but for me, it is precisely the ending that furthered my obsession of the movie even more). The second time, I’m less distracted by the joyful songs and dances; I could finally notice the subtle details in the way the lead characters interact (I totally get why they won best actor/actress) and the beautiful cinematography left me in awe again. The scene in the Planetarium is just breathtakingly absurd yet hopelessly romantic at the same time. Those dancing silhouettes are so beautiful it gave me goosebumps. The blend of mellow colors, sparkling lights and the splash of sharp vibrant colors contrasted so well it’s just pure pleasure to the eyes.

“I don’t know what your name is but I like it” img_5630

One of my favorite song is “Another Day of Sun”. The melody simply gets you grooving in your seat! The opening scene demonstrated the essence of American culture, colorful people (both in their costumes and skin color) jamming in all sorts of dances: Hispanic in flamenco, Africans joining in hip hop and break dance, Asians in acrobatics; even the slow motion scene of “Someone in the crowd” paired up cross-racial actors deliberately. The brilliant thing is despite these differences in exterior, they are very likely all Americans. This vibrant clash of cultures is exactly what made America such a unique place; it’s full of conflicts and compromises.. just like Jazz! To me, this is the most brutal irony under the current situation in the US. Anyways that’s too depressing to get into so let’s move on to the characters.

“Here’s to the ones who dreamed, foolish as they may seem”

It is such a cliché that those who chase after their dreams always face numerous failures, countless hurdles and huge buckets of freezing cold water pouring down their heads. Let’s not forget that every single chorus actor in the movie is yet another Mia praying for their own “audition” for Paris.

“Even when the answer’s no and when my money’s running low”img_5754

But if you think about it, even if you’re just living your day-to-day modest and boring life, struggling to make ends meet; it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re free from rejections and self-doubts. And if that is so, we might as well spend our time on things that actually matter instead of churning money for big corporations right?

“Somewhere there’s a place where I find who I’m gonna be, a somewhere that’s just waiting to be found”

To me the difficult part is finding a passion to truly seek after; that’s why dreamers and believers are always my favorite people. It breaks my heart to see them fail, again and again, yet it still inspires me every time they dust themselves off and get at it again. But just like the way Mia and Sebastian helped each other through their toughest time, this whole process is rarely done alone. Without her, he wouldn’t have put down his artist pride and stubbornness to eventually gain the capital and reputation to open his own Jazz bar; without him, well obviously she wouldn’t even make it to the audition that eventually made her famous. Neither of them could have done it alone.img_2727

“A voice that says, I’ll be here, and you’ll be alright”

Sometimes all you need is someone to believe in you, to look you in the eye, and convince you that you are good enough, you can do it. So you can zip up those muffin tops, take a deep breath, flex your muscle and take a leap of faith. There is never guarantee to success, but the magic and purpose must be in the attempt. That’s why I loved the ending. Everyone enters your life for a reason, and for those who exit, they must have left for a better one. What more can you ask for when you’ve already had the best ride together growing alongside each other? To me, Mia and Sebastian has completed their roles in each other’s life and when that’s done, it’s only inevitable that they must go on with their own lives, following their separate dreams and eventually fade out from each other.

Thanks Damien, for this romantic movie just cured my heart. I think this will continue to be my favorite movie for a while.

“Is this the start of something wonderful and new? Or one more dream that I cannot make true?”

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p.s. I’ve read an opinion somewhere that coined Mia as the typical selfish girlfriend who jumped from men to men…well I viewed it differently. The way Sebastian assumed Mia would follow him on his tour while her performance is 2 weeks away is downright selfish. The way he missed her play is yet another proof. The way she got pushed away by the crowd during his first gig is a metaphor on how he is becoming someone she no longer understands. The final straw is when he thought she wasn’t genuinely happy for his success… what kind of self absorbed lunatic would think their loved one could be jealous of themselves? I’m not saying Mia isn’t selfish because the absolute truth is that human beings are all selfish; I think love is just a by-product when that selfishness somehow happens to benefit someone else too. (Since this thought seems a bit dark I’ll just keep it at the very end :P)