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Chew Yunhui

Reflection for Day 9

The very last day of our journey here in USSRC. It has been a tiring, yet exciting and great learning experience that I had here in Space Camp. Everyday was packed with activities, and every activity had a purpose of learning. 

Graduation was one thing I looked forward to. They had a unique way of tearing the nametag and pasting it back to the correct position, as a form of graduated. Looking back at the past 4 days, I had certainly enriched myself with knowledge of rockets and space, that I never had a clue about. I also learnt many valuable lessons, especially from Area 51. Every challenge there had a meaning behind it, as we collaborated together to finish the challenge or push ourselves to the limits. 

I will like to thank my team leaders, Mel and CeCe, who made this camp so enjoyable and fruitful for us. I will also like to thank the teachers, for signing us up for this awesome camp and having a great and memorable experience here. 

Reflection for Day 8

This is the day that we all look forward to, the Extended Duration Mission, EDM. EDM is a 3 hour mission and is slightly different from the other 4 missions we had before, it consists of medical abnormalities and for this time, we rendezvous with the ISS. After much discussion with the pilot track people, I was selected to be the Pilot. I was satisfied with my position, as I think that I will probably not understand the things happening in mission control, as I had only been there once. At the start of the mission, we were able to cope with the checklists, but both the mission specialists stood up during ascending, therefore both of them went unconscious. We immediately received help from the medical surgeon through CAPCOM and the commander quickly gave him the appropriate treatment. In between, we received some abnormalities, but we solved them quickly with the help from people at mission control. At around the second half of the mission, our cabin pressure was zero, which means there was oxygen. We had to wear the helmets for our 5 minutes supply of oxygen and find the cabin leakage. At first, we did not know what to do and people at mission control also panicked, when the solutions provided are not working and as a result, we did not have enough time left, and we died. However, space ghost decided to give us one more chance to find the cabin leak and continue the mission. We treasured this opportunity even more and decided to search the mid-deck of the orbiter. Luckily, someone was sharp enough to find the cabin leak quickly and then we continued with our mission. With the almost perfect landing from the commander, the mission ended successfully. Through this, i learnt that collaboration and communication is very important and essential in teamwork, so that everyone will work together and help one another out to achieve for success.

Next, we went for rocket launch. My team thought that our eggstronaut will probably die, because the center of gravity is not stable and not at the desired position from the center of pressure. However, when we we see the parachute ejected out and the rocket descended slowly and that the egg survived, we were delighted. I never expected this result and I am glad that the hardwork we did as a team, did pay off. 

Back in Area 51. This time, we did the Pamper Pole. It is about 10 metres high and the main objective is to climb up, stand on it and jump off to touch the string suspended in mid-air. ‘Challenge by Choice’ This is what the trainers told us. I totally agree with this phrase as if we do not have the heart to do it, why force ourselves to do it and end up being unhappy. Since this is a challenge, we should give it all our best, at least a try to know how it actually feels like and at the same time, we can also discover our maximum limits. The trainers also said to make a goal before going for the challenge. My goal was to climb up, stand on it and jump off. At first, I was quite afraid and when seeing the pole shaking in the wind and due to one’s movements, my fear intensified. However, after seeing more people going up smoothly, I start to gain courage and I was determined to fulfill my goal. When it was my turn, I kept telling myself that I have to achieve my goal. However, when I up there at the top, the feeling is really different and I could feel the pole shaking violently. I hesitated for a while before standing up on the top. During this moment of hesitation, the trainers and friends below me were constantly encouraging me and guiding me on what to do next. This taught me that trust between people is very important, because I trusted them, then I could overcome my fear and accomplished my challenge in the end. Without trust, this will just be another barrier that one will never pass through in order to succeed. After jumping off the pole, I felt a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I am sure everyone felt the same way too, because all of us completed the challenge. 

Reflection for Day 7

In the morning, CeCe explained to us the Apollo missions. Main objective is to walk on the moon and conduct tests and experiments up there. There were a total of 17 Apollo missions. Apollo 1 had a cabin fire which killed all crew aboard, Apollo 2 to 6 were tests and Apollo 7 to 10 did not make it to the moon, while Apollo 11 to 17 made it to the moon. Neil Armstrong was the first man to step on the Moon. For this mission, NASA made a capsule for 3 astronauts. The spacecraft used were bigger and more room for them to move around. Saturn V was powerful enough to go to the moon.

We had our very first mission, Alpha mission. I was assigned as the pilot. Since this is the first mission we are doing, I felt pressurised by this important role. Seeing all the switches in the orbiter, I started to panic, afraid that I could not find the switches and complete the checklists in time. True enough due to my anxiousness, I was impatient and could not find the switch, causing me to delay for about 15 minutes and the other checklists had to be cancelled. However, after being in the orbiter for some time, I start to familiarise the positions of some switches and execute the checklists faster. I learnt that I must have confidence in myself and should encourage myself to achieve better, instead of thinking that I can't do it all the time. Hence, our second part of the mission went quite smoothly with the help from CAPCOM to transfer the information to us. Therefore, communication is very important, between people at mission control, like GNC telling the RCS targets to CAPCOM. Communication is also important between the CAPCOM and pilot and commander, telling them what are the checklists to execute. Communication is also important between pilot and commander, because for the orbit operations checklist book, the controls are not assigned to anyone, therefore, the commander and I agreed that one should find the switches, while the other one help to read the checklist out. This shows much collaboration between people of different tasks, so that our mission will complete successfully and required information will be transferred efficiently. With the almost perfect landing from the commander, we ended our mission successfully. 

Then, we had our second mission, Bravo Mission. I was assigned the role of GNC, which is known as Guidance, Navigation and Control. For this role, I was given an important role of checking the RCS targets and also in the event of aborts, I need to know which abort to take and what airport to land on. Due to the fact that, this is my first time in mission control, I was not clear of what I am suppose to do, and how things work out in mission control. Luckily, with the help of Metta, whose sitting beside me, he helped me out with my task of locating the airport to land. For this mission, we had an abnormality, which is the engines failing, therefore we had to abort and take TAL, which is Transoceanic Abort Landing. However, the commander had some difficulty with landing, which I find it difficult too. 

After lunch, we had our Charlie Mission. I was assigned the role of the commander and because I had been on the orbiter once, I am more familiar with the checklists and some positions of the switches. Yasha was the pilot and she was really calmed and managed to finish her checklists quickly. With the collaboration of us together, we finished all checklists in time and solved all the abnormalities with the help of people at mission control. The people at mission control really helped us a lot in solving the abnormalities, as they gave us the solutions really fast, and these solutions were effective. This mission was successful except for the fact that I landed on the grass, instead of the runway, which is far away. I learnt that I should have more confidence in myself, as I was really scared that I will do a crash landing, and affect the rest of the team, but at least I landed safely, except for the fact that the PLB doors were opened, which means we were probably burned alive on our way back to Earth.

Next, we had our Delta mission, where we were at the International Space Station, ISS. The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments. Angeline, Yasha and me were the Station Commanders and our role is to keep track of the time and to supervise the mission scientists carrying out experiments and ensure everything runs smoothly. We had a few problems along the way and also abnormality. We managed to solve the first abnormality the quite quickly, however something went wrong at the end, and we did not know what it was, therefore no actions were taken, and the blue siren went on. Just then, our Delta mission ended. 

Next up, we went to Area 51 again for zip line. I was at first afraid and nervous, because I am scared of heights, hence I did not dare to jump off that platform. With the encouragement of my friends below and the trainers with me, I then had the courage to got for it. I even went on the zip line twice, because I wanted to make myself gain more confidence and determination to pass the challenge. After that, together with the trainers, we discussed that peer pressure could be a good thing too, depending on the situation. As for this case, it is good in the way, that it encourages one to go for the challenge, after seeing everyone passing it. I am glad everyone was brave and decided to go for the challenge. 

The last activity of the day is lean manufacturing, which is our engineering challenge. Lean manufacturing is about using lesser resources to maximise output at a faster rate. For the first round, which is to show the conventional way of manufacturing, using the shorts and talls. Within 5 minutes, we had about 30 pairs in total, with about 20 wastage materials, which has no efficiency. For the second round, within our team, we are to devise the most efficient method to have the most short and talls. Within 2 mins, we had 20 pairs of shorts and talls, 16 wastage materials. 

Reflection for Day 6

In the morning, we had a talk about the Gemini Program from CeCe. Gemini Program was the second space program launch by US and the first program to have Extravehicular Activity, EVA. For this program, NASA decided to include the development of a two-man spacecraft. The objectives are to have longer spaceflight, develop effective methods of rendezvous, perfect reentry and landing at a selected point and to gain more information about the effects on astronauts when in space. There are a total of 12 Gemini missions, the first 2 are unmanned flights. NASA decided to have ejection seats, as it provided them an easier and faster way of escape, and when one ejected the seat, the other one’s seat will automatically eject out as well. From this, I learnt that learning from mistakes and improving is very important, so that we can achieve higher the next time.

Then, we had trainings for our Bravo, Charlie and Delta missions for the next day. 
Then, we had a lecture on Space Medication. Space Medication is important as it keeps astronauts healthy in case of any medical emergencies. In space, in microgravity, there are many changes in our bodies. Gravity keeps everything in our bodies working, as there is a resistive force to it. However in microgravity, our bodies need not work as hard as it uses to. Such changes, include muscles atrophy, decalcification in bones, loosening of the spinal cord, causing astronauts to grow up to 2 inches taller. Astronauts also take vitamins to have a higher calcium intake, so as to replenish the loss from decalcification in bones. I learnt that outside in space, it can be quite dangerous, and the harm done to astronauts are mostly irreversible, therefore space medication is essential to minimise the negative effects that astronauts received. Health of the astronauts also play an important role in making the mission successful.

Our last activity of the day is rocket building, which is our engineering challenge. Our astronaut is an egg and we are suppose to launch it to at least 3 metres high and then land safely with the help of the parachute. The rocket is made of different parts, nose cone, payload section, where the egg is held, body tube, with the parachute inside, fins and the engine at the end of the body tube. There are two tests to test for rocket stability, Centre of gravity and Center of Pressure. The centre of gravity should be in front of the center of pressure by about one inch. For our center of gravity test, we were supposed to tie a string at the centre of gravity and swing the rocket above our head, and the rocket’s nose cone is suppose to face forward at all times. However, ours was unstable and only faced forward sometimes and go backwards most of the time, which means the rocket will not ascent in a straight line. After we tested the center of pressure, it was about the same position as the center of gravity, which is not what we wanted. Then, we decided to make some improvements to make the center of pressure to be more balanced. After these two tests, we were really worried and thought that our rocket will probably crash land and kill the egg. With the awesome collaboration we had, we still managed to finish most of the rocket, although it may not be the best one. 

Reflection for Day 5 

In the morning, we proceeded to Area 51 for low ropes course. Area 51 is specially targeted for leadership and team building. Since we came from different levels, team building is essential, so that we will know each other better and will work smoothly with one another during missions. As for my team, we came up with 3 most important values in a team, ‘Trust’, ‘Communication’ and ‘Participation’. Trust is to believe in your team mates and that they will help you in all that they can. Communication is to convey all the information required and ensure that the message sent out is clear to others, it is also about planning within the team before the activity, and helping to solve arising problems. Participation is to put in your best effort, which is commitment, and contribute actively in the group by initiating your help to others. The first challenge we did was to cross over ‘islands‘ with 2 wooden planks. We managed to get everyone over on the third island, although we took some time and there were some problems along the way. One issue, was carrying the planks. It was quite heavy, therefore we had to share the load, so that it will not be too tiring for one, which displays participation. Another issue was that the leaders did not give all the instructions, resulting As some problems occurred midway, the trainers gave us two options, either to restart or have a penalty. My team decided to have a penalty, which forbids us from talking. Then, we started to use hand gestures and eye contact with others to convey our thinking. I then realised communication is so important and without it, we will be unable to complete this challenge together. I also learnt that since we are not allowed to talk, non-verbal communication pays an important role. After the challenge, we gathered our pros and cons and discussed ways of improvement with the help of our trainer. We identified our cons to be lack of planning and understood the importance of proper communication. As for the second activity, we had to cross the river using 5 wooden blocks. This time, we made it an effort to do more planning within the group as to how we were going to pass the blocks and the positions to stand on the blocks. This challenge went quite smoothly, but we forgot to collect the blocks back after we crossed the river. To add on, our awesome trainer kicked them away for us. However, we managed to retrieve them back quickly, thanks to our teamwork. From this challenge, I learnt that everyone in the team is equally important and plays a part, because if anyone falls, everyone will fall too. Somehow I was the one with very good balance and helped my friends beside me to regain balance, from this I learnt that there is always someone we can depend on in life, someone that will back us up when we fall or face challenges.

After lunch, we had our first Alpha mission training to prepare us for the mission on the day after. 

After that, we went to the park outside as Mel talked about the Mercury Program, which was the first program to put American astronauts in space. There were six missions in Mercury Program. Two of the missions went up to space and go back to Earth, while the other four missions orbited Earth and go back. Two rockets were used for this program, Redstone rocket and Atlas rocket. There was only space for 1 astronaut in the capsule and  they were supposed to remain seated in their capsules through out the space flight. 7 out of 500 people were selected and they were known as the Mercury 7. In order to ensure the safety of the astronauts, animals were first sent up, and then improvements were made after identifying any problems. A rhesus monkey, Sam, and two chimpanzees, Ham and Enos, flew in Mercury capsules and all three of them returned safely. Alan Shepard was the first man to go into space.

Some of them were preparing for scuba diving, while others go on the 1/6th gravity chair, which stimulates moonwalking. There are 3 ways of walking on moon: bunny hop, side step and slow motion run. I find it difficult to move forward as most of time, I am bouncing up and down or in mid air. As for the scuba diving, it is to stimulate micro gravity, where anything that is heavy becomes light and can even be lifted up with just one finger. They did some activities inside, like playing basketball with bowling balls and shooting tiny rockets using air pressure. However, because I cannot swim, I did not go for it.

After that, we had a lecture about space suits, their functions and what do they protect the astronauts from. Astronauts experienced an increased pressure, intense heat, radiation when in space, therefore it is important to have a suit to protect them so that they can execute their missions safely. We also had our first engineering challenge during this session, which we had to protect an apple from getting wet, heat and also dress it the fastest we could. My team had a total of 7 layers of plastic wrapper, foam, ziplock bag, aluminum foil around the apple. A series of tests were carried out to find out the best space suit. In this challenge, we had to use our critical thinking skills because the more layers we have, the more marks we get, but it will take a longer time to dress the apple, therefore we had to figure out the best way of having more layers, but also at the same time, making it easy to put on. 

Reflection for Day 4

In the morning, we went to Cathedral Caverns. With the aid of a tour guide, Emily, she showed us the way in. It was a beautiful sight, it was definitely something that I will not want to miss. This cave used to be underwater, and as the tides goes down, and water retreats, leaving a big hole there. There are limestones inside, form by water flowing pass it, causing minerals, calcium carbonate, to leave behind. As time goes by, these minerals start to build up and form the magnificent rock formations. There are also landforms called stalagmite and stalactites. Stalagmites are rock formations that rises from the bottom of the cave. Stalactites are rock formations that fall from the ceiling of the cave. Columns are rock formations that result from stalagmites and stalactites joining together after a period of time. What surprises me is the shark tooth on the ceiling of the cave, which used to be the ocean’s seabed and this cave was once filled with life. It is amazing that people who discovered this cave, actually had the courage to go deep down to the rocks and build a pathway for others to visit, because deep down, it is pitch dark and certainly very dangerous to walk through the treacherous path. 

Afternoon, we went to USSRC, to begin the Advanced Space Camp. Firstly, we went to the Space Habitat for our accommodation and unpack our luggages. The habitat’s curved metal panes are designed to simulate a ‘space station’ look. After that, we met Mel, our team leader, who warmly welcomed us, with her greetings " G'Day Von T ". Then, we begin our mission orientation. We took some rides, spaceshot, that goes half the height of Saturn V, trying to stimulate the feeling of astronauts when the rocket is ascending. G-force accelerator was like a bigger version of 'tea cups', which lets you experience up to 3G. The third ride we took, was to stimulate mars landing, as the transporter travel across the rocky and unstable ground surface. Although I am a timid person, I decided to give the rides a try, as I believe I should always try out everything at least once, I was really happy that I managed to do that and I actually enjoyed being on the G-force accelerator and went on it twice. 

After that, we went for the Da Vinci Exhibition. Da Vinci was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer, and his famous artwork known by everyone is Mona Lisa. I was intrigued by his artwork, and every detail in it, such as deciding the position of the fingers for her left hand. Lumiere Technology is used to scan the painting with a 240-megapixel Multi-spectral Imaging Camera, which uses 13 wavelengths from ultraviolet light to infrared. This technology revealed many differences, such as the blotch on her eyebrow area, lace on her dress. Mona lisa was also valued as an important painting to Da Vinci, as he carried it with him where ever he went. He was also valued as an engineer, thanks to some of his inventions, we have now what it is today. He created machines, like hydraulic pumps and used ball bearings as a way to reduce friction. These inventions significantly show his creativity to apply his knowledge into real life applications and use of critical thinking to think of new ideas to improve people's lives. 

After dinner, we went for lectures. One lecture was about the mission, the positions, tasks of each position, reading checklists and so on. One lecture was about scuba diving and the safety rules, as some of us were going for the scuba diving session the next day. Other lectures were about shuttle hardware and aborts. I was amazed by the lectures that there are actually so many positions, whether they are in the orbiter or mission control, and the importance of each individual and the work they contribute. At first when I saw the checklists, it looked very complicated with many unfamiliar words and numbers, I thought it will be very difficult to read, but after Mel’s explanation, I find it a rather easy job. These interesting lectures have definitely arose excitement within me for the upcoming missions.  

Reflection for Day 3

Today was tiring but fulfilling, I was exposed to history in Alabama and also saw the beautiful and scenic view in the botanic gardens. Our first stop of the day was the botanic gardens. I expected it to be a boring one, as I am not into this kind of planting stuff and I thought most plants will probably have died due to the cold weather. Little did I expect that, it was actually very different from Singapore's botanic gardens. Not only did they have plants there, there were gardens of different theme suited for people of different interests. There was a Children’s garden, consisting of giant chairs, playground.There are also nice decorations and art works placed around the garden. What amazes me is that this huge botanic garden is run by volunteers. These people actually paid attention to these fine details, that make the botanic gardens more interesting for everyone. Seeing the volunteers planting some plants today, I can see the strong commitment that they had, from the effort put in, in planting these plants out in the cold weather. As Ms Jacque mentioned, pillars from the 2nd courthouse were displayed in the botanic garden. I find this very creative and environmentally friendly. The pillars are used as  a form of decoration and this is reusing the materials, instead of getting rid of them, after demolishing the courthouse. This also serves as a remembrance to the 2nd courthouse whenever people see the pillars. Old trees were also spray painted, as a form of decoration. This definitely displays how people use critical thinking and creativity in real-life, as simple as this. Instead of throwing away the dead trees, use them as a piece of artwork. 

After that, we went to ‘Best Buy’, an electronics store to do some shopping. When we entered the store, we were greeted by this friendly staff. For the past few days, I also observed that the local people here are really friendly and also open to welcome visitors, like us. It was also really interesting to see the different brands of phones that were sold in US. I am not really an IT person, therefore, I did not buy anything, but this visit was a great exposure to how an electronics store will look like in US. 

After that, we went to a Asian restaurant for lunch. Along with the past few days, after dining at several restaurants, I discovered that a wide diversity of food from different races are found here. This actually shows that the local people here have cultural understanding and will accept other races’ food, and some of them actually enjoyed the food. As for the Asian restaurant, it was packed with people of many different races as well. Cultural understanding is very important in a country, so that conflicts between races will not happen, and thinking of that, it reminds me of Singapore being a multi racial country and the importance of Racial Harmony. 

The visit to the Train Depot was enriching. We first watched a short film which briefly introduce us to the history of the train depot. As Huntsville had relied on cotton agriculture, trains were used to transport them to markets, which was more efficient than water transport, and more markets could be assessed. After the film, we were then guided by this knowledgeable and friendly tour guide, Mr Winter. He patiently explained the stories to us, like what are the roles of the people working inside, and what are the purposes of the different rooms. I find sending messages through telegrams very interesting as the words are deciphered through the rhythm assigned for each letter. If the type setter is not paying attention, messages will be send wrongly and miscommunication will have happen. As seen, communication is very important and for this case, its important to have clear communication between the driver and the staff, so that they will know of any dangers ahead on the tracks, or any instructions. 

We then went to Bridge Street and do some shopping there. It was mostly fashion shops. The amazing thing that happen there, was the generosity of one of the shop’s owner, who gave each of us a free shirt, knowing that we are visitors to the country. This has shown the openness of the locals and their hospitality towards visitors to the country. I feel that Singaporeans should learn from them, and be more open towards the foreigners, and welcome them into Singapore with big hearts. 

At the end of the day, we enjoyed the surprise planned by Ms Jacque to have ice cream at Cold Stone’s Creamery. I was surprised when the staff actually had a mini performance for us, even though it was simple, but it is greatly appreciated and this marks the end of the itinerary of the day. 

Reflection for day 3

Today started off with a trip to the botanic gardens. The interesting thing about it was that it was run by volunteers and you could see the effort put in to set up the place with the playgrounds for the kids as well as the early Christmas lights even though they were not lit up yet. It made me realise the cultural difference compared to Singapore. People were willing to spend their free time building a place for others to have fun and De stress rather than engaging in their own hobbies. This could also be seen from making an exhibition out of some dead trees by painting them. 
It was also heartwarming to see them using each and every corner to commemorate people which added more meaning to the park rather than just a place for leisure.

The visit to the Train Depot was also very interesting. Alabama has a very rich history and I'm glad that people bother to remember the history and how they became what they were today, just like how we should remember our forefathers of Singapore and at least have a sense of our roots.

Also at Bridge Street, something happened that amused me. There was a shop owner that offered Mr Tan free shirts when he said that he said that he was travelling with a group of students.  It struck me once again how the people were so open and friendly unlike back home.

At the end of the day I had one thought: Maybe it's a good time to start saying hi to the people around me.

Reflection for Day 2

Weiqin and I woke up at 7.30am and after changing, we headed down to the dinning area for breakfast. It was a nice place and a great view outside. Breakfast was great, fulfilling enough to start off the day. We met Ms Jacque and Mr Pittman at 8.45am before leaving off to start the itinerary of the day. 

We toured around the Old Town Historic District as Ms Jacque explained the interesting stories for every house to us. What surprises me is that, almost every house started off from log cabins and become beautiful houses of today and each house has a story behind it. Ms Jacque was very knowledgeable and patiently explained the stories, even though we are quite unfamiliar with everything.These houses have only one level, unlike Singapore’s HDB flats. Amazingly, the apartments there, which are high rise buildings, are more expensive than the houses. 

After that, we visited the Harison Hardware Store. Unlike Singapore’s hardware store, they sell more stuff than just PVC pipes and paint, like sweets, toys, kitchen ware, house decorations. I bought their local honey and chocolate cakes, which Ms Jacque recommended. It was quite interesting with a variety of stuff sold and the store was nicely decorated with old stuff, creating an antique and old feeling.

Next, we visited the Cook’s Pest Control Museum. We first watched a film on snakes, which taught us about the purpose of the colours on the snakes, their movement. I actually learnt something new that some snakes can actually give birth to their young. After that, we were given time to venture on out own. I was amazed by the damage done by the small little insects, apparently are termites and ants. They also had gemstones there, some were even shiny and glittery. Its cool that they are actually natural. I also came across this display, where we were allowed to feel a meteorite. It was very heavy and felt like metal. This museum was certainly an eye-opener and was quite unexpectedly interesting. 

Reflection for day 2

I felt the most enriching part of today was touring around the Old Town Historic District. If someone that did not know about the history of the houses in this area, they would probably just pass by thinking they were normal houses. However, as we stopped at almost every house, I realised that each one of them had their own story related to the people who built or lived in those houses from politicians to lawyers. I was amazed at how our guide,Jacque, was so knowledgeable and knew every single story and every single persons' name. It was also a new sight compared to the typical high rise flats in Singapore. 
We even saw the book on the history of Alabama that she wrote at the Harrison Hardware Store which we visited to do some shopping.
After that we visited Cook's Science Museum and I was very intrigued by the animal fossils and skins displayed. We also found a collection of mousetraps including one of the models which we used for one of our physics projects this year!
Lastly we went to Walmart. I finally understood why people say they buy "everything" from Walmart because it was huge and sold things like electronics, stationary, food and even clothes. 
Overall, it was a fulfilling and enriching day.
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