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Amber's African Journey

Welcome to Amber's Travel Page. Here is where I will be keeping a record of my travels and experiences for all of you to read. Please feel free to leave a comment for me if you have a chance. I would love to hear a friendly word while I am so far away from home.

Diary Entries

Sunday, 27 November 2005

Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Sorry, it has been awhile since my last journal entry. The internet has been harder and harder to come by and when I did find it the cost was insane! I have travelled so much in the past two weeks that I am just now catching my breath. It has been amazing to see so much of this country. My trip from Nakuru to Nairobi alone was quite an adventure. I decided to take everyone's advice and just travel without any set plans including no hotel reservations. I thought I would try and shake the anal planner/control freak that is me while on this trip (all the other volunteers travelled this way). No one thought it would be a problem to find a nice hotel in Nairobi to stay for a few nights before I headed off to the coast, but oooh it definately was. I arrived at the Fairview Hotel (recommended by one of my volunteer friends) at about 2:00pm only to find out that they are booked solid. So the kind lady of the front desk offers to call another hotel on my behalf, but they are also booked. A few hotels later and I walk down to the local travel agency where this incredibly kind women proceeds to spend the next two hours on the phone to every hotel in Nairobi, absolutely no rooms available (apparently there is some kind of convention that no one was aware of). So here I am alone in Nairobi with no place to stay for the night and yes I start to freak out a little (ok alot) and I am nearly in tears. The poor travel agent took pity on me (I even thought about offering her money if I could stay at her house for the night). Finally, a few hours later she finds a hotel with a room, but she thinks it is a bit "dodgy" (her word) and seems nervous about sending me there. No worries, it was a beautiful hotel in the outskirts of Nairobi where I stayed for two nights until I could get into the Fairview Hotel which I absolutely love!

And things just got better thanks to a wonderful surprise that arrived in Nairobi on November 12th named Nathan. He was a bit worried about me and decided to come join me for the vacation part of my trip. I have never been so happy to see someone in my entire life! We have travelled to Watamu (north coast), Tsavo East National Reserve, Diani Beach (south coast) and Masai Mara National Reserve during the past two weeks. The safari's were amazing for this girl who loved animals more then people as a kid. It was a dream come true to be in the presence of so many beautiful animals. The coast was unbelievable too! The Indian Ocean is warmer than the Pacific off Hawaii and the Atlantic of the coast of Florida. It was like stepping into a warm bath with clearest blue water I have ever seen. I wish I could have shared all the day to day experiences while travelling, but no internet.

Now I am already fantasizing about my return to the states. Since I fly into San Francisco International Airport I will get to see my favorite family, the Montgomery's. Then I want to enjoy an American 4-star luxury hotel in downtown San Francisco for a night and finally eat at my favorite Italian restuarant in the city, Little Joes (I even know exactly what I am going to order). These plans will get me through the long 30 hour journey back home.

Please check out some of the pictures that help tell the story of the last two weeks here in Kenya.

I love you all and I am so excited to be coming home soon to the land that I love (more now then ever before).


Monday, 07 November 2005

Location: Nakuru, Kenya

"Nothing is better for self-esteem than survival"
Martha Gellhorn - Travel Writer

I came across this quote during my trip to Mount Kenya and it is absolutely the truth. There have been so many experiences here in Kenya that I am truly amazed that a) I survived; b) I participated in; c) I volunteered for and d) I thoroughly enjoyed.

My trip to Mount Kenya was amazing especially the part where I was convinced that I traveled to Africa from America only to catch the Asian Bird Flu. Yes, I became horribly sick while at my very first Youth Hostel (the word youth is used loosely, since after all I am the not so youthful age of 34). There were about two days there that I was convinced I had contracted the Asian Bird Flu and was sure to die soon. My fever reached up pretty high and apparently took over all good reasoning ability (not that I ever have much). Keep in mind I went to Mount Kenya to help the reforestation project that is desperately needed in and around Mount Kenya due to mass tree clearings that have been undertaken for too many years. Some volunteer I turned out to be since I spent most of my time laying in my room staring at the walls. I survived thanks in large part to Patrick, the hostel care taker who was so incredibly kind and concerned about me. He would bring me hot water every hour and try to encourage me to eat a little something in the morning and at night. Did I mention their was no electricity or hot water at this hostel? Let me tell you taking a cold shower when you are that sick is painful (yes, I cried like a little girl).

I did get the opportunity to climb to just above 10,000 feet of Mount Kenya on the the first day we arrived. I debated it over and over whether I should climb or not because I had already become sick, but it was my one and only chance so I took it. I am so grateful that I did because it was so beautiful! The pictures just don't do it justice. Two of our group (Neil and Gwen) climbed all the way to the top (19,000 feet) which took a total of five days.

After a total of eight days we were headed back to Nakuru which is no easy task. First, we walked the muddy road from the hostel to a more major road where we waited to be picked up by a matatu. Well, we never did see one so instead we rode for about 20 minutes in the back of a modified toyata truck with a roof on the back. There were a total of 22 of us in the back of this truck, we were literally piled on top of one another and could barely breath (again I am amazed that I survived). When faced with no other options you do what you have to do (sorry tried to sound profound). One of our fearless group freaked out and pushed and shoved her way out of the truck causing only one injury (to me). I got a pretty good whack on my nose from her hiking boot and my nose started to bleed which made a few people a little nervous. Now I just have a small scratch on the side of my nose that is healing nicely. See another wild experience that actually had us laughing so hard we started crying. Neil to help make light of the situation told all the other african passengers that she was just a "mad mzungu". He was trying to be funny, but the look of horror on the other passengers faces let us know that he missed the mark. So we tried to explain that we were just joking and she really is ok. And we should make room for her in the front cab of the truck. She was able to get back in the truck and off we went. Unfortunately, this was only the first leg of our journey, we still had two other matatu's to get on for the four hour trek home to Nakuru. We made it!

I am off because it is time to head home before lockdown.

I love you all and still miss you!


ps I think the travel agency saga is almost resolved, I will keep you posted.

pss During my illness at the mountain I was trying to save what I thought to be a hummingbird trapped in the kitchen when to my surprise it stopped flying and turned out to be the largest beetle I have ever seen in all my life. I screamed for the whole hostel to come take a look and we all agreed that this is the biggest beetle to ever live. Nearly 4 inches long and 1.5" wide!

Thursday, 27 October 2005

Location: Kenya

Well, I survived another crazy night in Nakuru (barely). The whole lot of us went to a posh dinner last night at the nicest hotel in town, Emerica, to say farewell to Marianne who is headed home. Dinner was wonderful even with my rising fever that clearly let me know that I have caught something. So I was excited to head home and rest after our wonderful dinner, but no! The group decided to go clubbing (well sort of like clubbing) and I couldn't travel home alone because it was simply too late. So off we went to a bar/nightclub called Dimples (yes, Dimples). Once we sat down we all noticed some major electric sparks coming from the main speaker (not far from where we were sitting) and water (atleast I hope it was) dripping from the ceiling. Some of us saw the headlines "Volunteers Die in a Horrible Nightclub Fire", but we decided to stay until nearly 2 am anyway (see traveling with strangers is not always a good plan). So in my infinite wisdom I thought to just go with the flow (just like grandma says) and tried to break my fever with a little Smirnoff Ice (every Kenyan drinks) and dancing, mzungu style. I think it actually worked and we had a great time dancing and laughing the whole night. We even sat up and had a bit of tea when we arrived home. Those English can really party! It is so not me, but what you gonna do?

Well, now for the fustrating part of traveling. I am fighting with a local travel agent that I originally worked with in the States over an american express payment. They designed a nice itinerary for me once my volunteering ends and I wanted to pay via american express before I left, but they had some trouble. So once I arrived in town I went to their Nakuru branch to try and pay via american express. I was told by the manager that they required a cash payment (alarm bells) and that I could not put the charge on my american express (they simply could not do it for for a bunch of wierd reasons). So he was going to research payment via visa and call me, he never did. So I was left with no way of paying and so I have been scrambling to make other plans. And just when I got a gameplan I receive an email from Shoor Travel that my american express has been charged the entire amount. I freaked out (it is so much money) and tried to work it out with american express. Important note, after I met with Shoor Travel here in Nakuru and was told that my american express could not be used, I asked my mom to contact american express to block any charges from this company. She was told that no charge could go thru for Shoor Travel. Well, after speaking with american express yesterday they cannot do that so the original information from amex was wrong. It was incredibly comforting to finally get a hold of american express after searching for nearly two hours just to find an international phone that I could pay for by the minute only to speak to someone in India that basically made me feel like I am screwed! I am asking Shoor Travel to put a credit through, but I just don't know what to do. Any help that anyone can offer would be greatly appreciated. My experience with this type of situation is limited and it is incredibly fustrating.

Sorry for that, but it is on my mind. That is even more reason why I am excited to be off on a journey to Mount Kenya today. I had high hopes of climbing with two other volunteers, but I just didn't bring the right gear, so I will probably just make it to basecamp. Then on Monday I will be working with the Kenyan government to do some replanting in and around Mount Kenya for a week. I will take lots of pictures, I hear the view is spectacular!

I love you all and I will talk to you soon!


Monday, 24 October 2005

Location: Nakuru, Kenya

Did I freak everybody out or what with my journal? My grandmother told me to just put on my "big girl panties" on and get on with it, so I will. I had a great time traveling the country this weekend with a huge band of volunteers, mostly from England. We went to Nakuru Lake, Lake Bringo, Thompson Falls and Lake Bagoria. Wow, beautiful places with amazing wildlife. It was definately not an easy ride to all of these remote places, but I got some great shots that I will add to this page as soon as I can.

We all got to talking this weekend and so many of us are struggling with the same things which was incredibly helpful to hear. Are we really doing anything? It is not just the lack of resources, but also the style of teaching that make it so diffucult for the children to learn. So I will remind myself that I will give of myself what I can in my short time here. The truth is that I am gaining more from this experience than I am giving because I am becoming more aware and more understanding of the world around me thanks to this journey. My eyes are being openned to different ways of life that I never knew before.

I am so impressed with the kindness of so many Kenyans. They just smile and want to talk to you about your life and they want so very much to share their own life experiences with you. One story comes to mind is when Sue and I stayed late in the downtown area and could not find the Matutu stop where we pick up a ride back to our apartment, so we began to get a little nervous because it after 7pm. We just asked a women we passed on the street where the bus stop was and not only did she tell us, she walked us all the way there in the rain. She was beautiful to us. And this happens time and time again.


ps Grandma I put my "big girl panties" on, but it is still tough.

ps An American is arriving today, I will keep you posted.

pss All the kids in my school are shocked to learn that 50cent comes from America. They all assumed that because he is black, he lives in Africa. They are surprised to know that their are black people in America. The boys love 50cent and the girls love usher, crazy.

Friday, 21 October 2005

Location: Nakuru, Kenya

Well, at about 9pm last night I was ready to get on a flight out of Africa (except the airport is over 100 miles away and I am not allowed to leave the apartment after 6pm) no matter the cost. I think the lack of sleep (averaging 2 hours a night thanks to the 3 bars that surround the apartment) and the level of danger that does truly exist here have compounded my homesickness. But today I worked hard with the preschoolers and ate lunch with the young women living at the project and I had another moment. It is just like playing golf for me, you hate it most the time, but you hit that one great shot and their I am walking up to the next tee with a sense of confidence. Yes, isn't that just like an American to compare the difficulties of poverty to that of a golf game.

I was so unprepared for the level of poverty I have encountered here in Nakuru. It assaults all of your senses and never lets go. This is definately not Hemingway's Africa. I wish I were better with words so that I could clearly describe the sights, smells and sounds of this experience, but the truth is that it must be experienced to fully be understood. I could go on and on about each and every child I encounter, each and every place I see, but it would not do it justice. By no means am I recommending you travel to Nakuru. Although, last night I would have given anything to have someone I love walk into my apartment and comfort me. This is an experience that should be shared with someone you love and trust. I think this will be the last trip I will take alone because the lonliness is too much to bare and not entirely necessary.

I am still a bit weirded out by seeing goats, dogs, pigs, chickens, cows just walking the streets rummaging through the piles and piles of rubbish (those damn English) that literally line the streets everywhere. And on nearly every corner is some crude form of a butcher shop where animals are being killed and put in the window while other live animals simply walk around until their time comes (this might be what finalizes my decision to become a vegetarian). The smell is inescapable and you live with it every minute of every day. Before to long it becomes part of you and you can't seem to wash it away.

Well, on a much lighter note I met some Americans traveling from San Ramon, California. Yes, San Ramon! They were traveling through Africa with their Church and just stopped by to see the Filadelphia Project which is sponsored by a Dutch Christian Church. It was so strange to be standing in front of my class teaching and trying to maintain some order with 50 kids under the age of seven when in walks five clean mzungus from the place I grew up. After just a minute or two they promised they would pray for me and off they went.

Oh, and yesterday I got a ride from the richest man in Nakuru (not like it sounds). He is an Indian gentlemen who was born and raised here in Kenya. He now runs the family restaurant and grocery store which supplies food and basically everything else here in Nakuru. His family also owns a hotel in Miami Beach, as well as a few grocery stores in England. He is the chairman for a boys home here in Nakuru where we do volunteer work and when we were leaving and starting our 2 mile walk to town he drove up in his Mercedes (the only one I have seen in Nakuru) and offered us a ride to town. Needless to say it was bizarre to be driving in this luxury car in one of the poorest places in the world. There is a strong Indian presence here in Nakuru, the majority of business' that I have come accross have been Indian owned (just an interesting fact).

I am off to Lake Nakuru and Thompson Falls this weekend for a bit of a holiday (again those damn English). And most importantly getting atleast one good night sleep away from the city noises.

I love you all and miss you more than you could ever know!


ps "those damn English" refers to the fact that I am picking up more and more words from my English roommates.

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Recent Messages

From Lorraine & Mike
We read your comments and see thatyou are doing fine.. We are so proud of you and hope you keep enjoying your venture. Stay safe and look forward to seeing you when you get home. Dimples sound like a great place, just like that place we ate at in Irvine.. Ha Ha..Sorry we have not written sooner we just figured out how to do it. plrase be careful we love you like our daughter. COME HOME always Lorraine and Mike.
Response: It is so great to get an email from you both. It is wonderful to read your kind words while I am so far away. I am definately having the time of my life (not all easy) here in kenya. it is just wild to be here, but I can't wait to be back in the states and have some great american meals again. It turns out that the coast of kenya is a popular vacation spot for italians, so I am actually learning a little italian while in kenya (who would of guessed it).

i love you guys too and i will talk to you soon!

From amber
I can pick you up from the airport upon your return. Will you be staying with me at all--we miss you terrbily. I miss talking with you-skye
Response: I still miss you! If you are around on monday, november 28th, we arrive at sfo at 1:15pm on brittish airways. If not, it is no big deal to just take a taxi to your house. we would love to spend monday with you guys and then we are headed to san francisco for a day before i fly back to seattle and nathan drives back to san diego on wednesday, november 30th.

just let us know. i can't wait to be back in the states. i have a whole new appreciation for our country, warts and all!

i love you!
From grandma king
So sorry you were ill,but you still participated and enjoyed the good experiences.Miss you very much.Keep well and safe.Hugs from all of us. Grandma
Response: sorry, it has been awhile since i have had internet access. i really have missed it! nathan and i are having a great/strange time here on the coast. we also traveled to tsavo east (man eating lions) and are preparting to go on safari at the masai mara. i miss you and can't wait to be back in beautiful sequim!

i love you!

From Mom
Your first defense for disease is "Lava las manos" often and don't touch your face! Being ill anywhere is no picnic, let alone your locale. O.K., enough mothering.

Pics again are great. The areas outside the cities are so beautiful, what a dichotomy! You are experiencing parts of all natures of life I'm sure you never thought you would.

Keep your head up and eyes open and listen to your inner voice.

I love you.
Response: i love the mothering! i can't wait for the home cooked meals that only my mom could make! you are a fantastic cook! (nathan miss' your cooking too!) i am trying to book a flight from sfo to sea then on to port angles on wednesday, november 30th. will you be able to pick me up? that is only a week away! i am so excited to see you, grandma and my babies!

i love you!

From Hi Amber
Just wanted to leave you a note letting you know I am thinking about you often. Stay safe,
Response: i miss you too! thank you again for helping nate with the van situation. we are staying busy and having a great/strange time here in kenya. it is definately alot more fun with nathan here!

i love you!
From Bert
"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." ~ Andre Gide

Your journey continues...stay strong...laugh deeply. Be well ~ and know you are loved by many.

"Fall seven times, get up eight." Japanese proverb
Response: still love the quotes! i am so happy to finally have access to the internet again. it has become a true lifeline. i hope all is going well in the beautiful united states of america (yes, i have a new sense of pride about our country).

talk to you soon!

Good to hear you made it back from your trip! zi hope you're feeling better and getting your energy back. I tried the number you left and just get a recording that the number is not is servce. Look forward to your return and all your stories. Be well and stay safe. Love Dad
Response: finally, access to the internet! we have been staying busy at watamu beach, tsavo east and now diani beach. we head to the masai mara tomorrow. I will talk to you soon.

From bella
hi amber. i miss you
Response: I miss you too Bella! Have you been checking out all my pictures? I love you and I can't wait to see you when I get back. How is school going? Is there anything that you would like me to bring you from Kenya?

I love you and I will talk to you soon!
From Rebecca
Amber I hope everything is ok u haven't posted in days. Can't wait to hear from you! Miss you can wait to hear from you! Love Rebecca
Response: I just got back from a week at Mount Kenya (literally in the middle of no where). There were no computers and no electricity even, but it was beautiful! I will write my journal entry first thing tomorrow. I love you and kiss Kalia for me!

Love Always,
From skye
Hello Amber,
I think I need to return my degree. Bella and I have been distraught that we have not heard from you. Bella said that everytime she sees that she has a message she prays that it is you--I said me too.
Then today in the library I was showing a student this site and saw that it is active without email notification. DUH.
I was so excited to read all about your adventures and I am so grateful that I know you are safe (relatively speaking I know).
I am so proud of you--I have been telling everyone how brave you are and how much we all miss you. Now I have more to share. I am calling Bella right now--she will be so pleased.
Chloe and Alfred send love and prayers to you. We all miss you--and all expect you to move to Santa Cruz with us.
I love you, skye
Response: I am sorry, I travelled to Mount Kenya for a week and there were no computers and no electricity even. I am back in Nakuru now and will post a journal soon. I miss you guys so much! I have such an incredible appreciation for everyone that I love and I can't wait to see you all!

Love Always,
From Dad
Great pictures, beautiful country. You and your friends are making a difference! Stay safe and out of harms way. Love to talk to you, any cell service with Safari Com?
Response: Thank you for the encouragement! I am definately on sensory overload, so much to see and do (and all of it different). I do get service pretty regularly, I am just 11 hours ahead of you guys on the west coast. I would love to hear from you, I just can't call out (I can only text message). Did you receive any of my text messages? My safaricom number +254 725 255 279

I love you and hope to talk to you soon!

Love Always,
From Lacretia Sloan
Hi. In case you do not remember, I am Paul's sister. Just want to let you know how very interesting your adventure is! Hope you get your amex card straightened. That is a nightmare.
Response: Thank you so much! I loved hearing from you and greatly appreciate you taking time to share this adventure with me! I will keep you posted.

From Grandma King
Hurray for you! Follow through the good and the not so good, they are all part of the journey.We are loving and enjoying your four legged babies.Much Love
Response: Thank you so much again Grandma for graciously taking in my babies. It is great to know that they are being well taken care of by the ones I love. I am having one crazy time after another. Such a mixture of hard times and once in a lifetime moments.

I love you and I will keep you posted.

From Mom
Terrific pics! Who'd of thought you would actually be in Africa among all that wonderful wildlife. You are writing with a little more calm and sound better on the phone. Great writing by the way and I do look foward to reading your entries. I'm sure it helps to know you are not alone in your feelings. Love you.
Response: sorry about being so stressed with shoor travel and american express. i honestly don't know what to do. they will cancel it with some hefty fees or do i just make it work? i searched all over town for an international phone to amex and that was a waste of time and money and we got cut off twice. communication is the most difficult part of this trip.

i love you and i will talk to you soon.

love amber
From Dad
So many people are living your adventure vicariously through your journal. I'm so very proud and excited about your experience. Hang in there!
Response: thank you! i missed the fantastic communication system back in the states. it is nearly impossible to connect and stay connected here in Nakuru. Please give me a call when you can so can give me a motivational talk. i love you!

From shirley
Hi Amber,
I'm enjoying your adventure through your diary. I like what your grandma King said. you need to enjoy the trip even though it's rougher than anything you have ever had to deal with. You will have a lot of memories and meet people from all over, interested in the same things that you a care about.

Please take care.

Joey's mom
Response: Shirley,

You would love my grandma King she is a tough old girl who has had an interesting life. She is all about the tough love and she keeps me on the straight and narrow.

But Joey for me!

Thank you again,
From Grandma King
Congratulations!! You are going with the flow,as you move about and see some beautiful sights,meet interesting people,adapt to the sights and sounds of the area,you will no longer be scared.Enjoy the children as they get their happiness from you.WASH YOUR HANDS!!! LOVE,GRANDMA......
Response: I am definately trying and there have been some great moments, but I can assure you that I will not be traveling to any third world countries anytime soon!

I love you and thank you again for giving my babies a home while I am away.

From Hey Amber
Dear Amber,

I know that you are lonly but I also know that you are not alone.

That is the most important thing you can learn from this trip is that we are never alone.

It is comforting to know that there is someone there always watching over us.

I hope you find that comfort because it will sustain you where ever you go and in what ever circumstances you may encounter.

I hope and pray that you find what you are seeking,

Uncle Tom
Response: Thank you so very much for your words. It does make an enormous difference to know that I am not working alone. I really appreciate all your great advice (not only the practical, but also the faith.

Talk to you soon!

Love Always,
From Joey's mom
Hi Amber, Joey forwarded your diary for us to read. It is more intense than I would want to experience, and I know when you get back to this beautiful country, you will appreciate everything like you have never done before. It's good to know you are o.k. Please take care and get home.

love you

Response: You are so right Shirley, the united states is a beautiful place and I will never take it for granted EVER! Thank you so very much for you kind words they mean so much here!

Thank you again and take care!

From Grandma KING
Hi Honey,Put on your Big Girl Panties and deal with it!!Tell yourself if others can do it,you can too.Even better!This will be a journey of a lifetime.Time flies and before you know it you will be home again making fudge. LOVE,KISSES grandma

Response: I didn't bring any big girl panties. Thank you for good swift kick in my ass, Grandma. I am doing just that and before I know it I will be on snuggling up to Bear again. I miss you terribly, but I will see you soon!

Love Always,
From Joey
Hey girl! Hang in there. I have been thinking about you. Be careful. When are you coming home? As soon as you do we can go to Pala for some pampering at the spa :) I know you are doing great things for a lot of people in are amazing! I love my magnet that you sent and totally belive it! Hope your experience is answering many questions. Love you! Joey
Response: I am so dreaming about Pala! A massage, a facial, a drink and lots of dancing. I can't wait! I head back on december 18th and will spend christmas with my mom and grandma but then come january i will head down to san diego, so please leave some time open in january. I will think about our outing everytime I am in a rought spot. Thank you so much for everything, you are a great person! Keep laughing and never take things too seriously.

Love you,
From Dad
Hang in there things will get better, then even seem to be normal as wierd as that sounds. We look forward to your return and will smoother you with TLC. Love Dad
Response: Thank you so very much! I am trying not to be a wus, but seriously this is tough. You just have to be on your toes 25/7. The good news is that I will never again take so much of my life for granted. It is just so overwhelming and their is so much that could be done that you feel like you or not making any difference.

I love you and I will talk to you soon!

I Love You
From mom
What a perspective of life you are getting. Nothing quite prepares you for a third world country experience like first hand exposure. For me, Mexico is enough of a reality. Be strong and keep your eyes open. I love and miss you "more than all the stars in the sky!!".
Response: I should have spent more time in mexico! Oh, well. Learning and growing and also regressing just a little bit!

I love you
From Bert
Amber ~
"To live with fear and not be afraid is the final test of maturity." - Edward Weeks

Be well...
Response: I don't know if I am there yet, the night time brings some fear. But I will try and always remember this during those moments.

Thank you so very much for thinking of me while I am so far away, it means the world!

From Dad
Glad you're safe and doing well. If you can stay in the moment, the day, the hour, event the minute. Soak up all that's around you and focus inside. This will help with the home sickness and the future triping. This has helped me! Be well. Love Dad
Response: If anything happens, please know that I love you and am grateful for the things you have done for me all these years.

I love you