Do you remember when you were 9.5 years old? and then 9.75 and then finally 10!!?? Do you remember the days when another year’s passing couldn’t come soon enough and you were absolutely thrilled to add another year to your lifetime tally? It’s been a long time since I waited rapturously for another year to pass and another birthday to come. There seems to be a bell curve of birthday excitement that peaks around your mid-twenties and then starts to rapidly decline…….I think this makes it even more important that when another birthday does come and another year is added to your total – you absolutely must mark the occasion in a noteworthy way. Of course “noteworthy” becomes more and more difficult to accomplish with so many birthdays under your belt and so many reasons to invalidate proposals – “nah, we did that last year,” “we did that for xxxx’s birthday,” “we do that all the time,” “we’re too old to do that!!!” But then I conceived the BEST idea for a 30-something birthday that would take advantage of our fabulous location on a tropical island and mark the day with the appropriate level of pomp and circumstance – yachting in Singapore!!

We once were Yachters!

The birthday man, myself and 9 other friends rented a “luxury yacht” called “Pure Lust” and it was pure genius. We brought a cooler of drinks and food to grill and headed off from the Changi Marina (NOTE: it’s on the farthest eastern edge of the island). The yacht was pretty awesome – lots of lounge seating, a cool indoor cabin, drink fridges, a grill, bathroom, etc. We left about 5pm sailed over to the southern islands past all the huge tankers to a pleasant cove with clean water – we swam, we grilled, we drank, we chilled – we were supposed to sail to Sentosa and watch the fireworks but we weren’t fussed so we didn’t. We got back to the marina at 10pm and the only downside was getting a taxi in no-man’s land – I recommend you order some ahead. It was not quite as fabulous as P.Diddy’s white party but it was just right for breaking the norm and celebrating with friends. We would all definitely do it again some time.

There was some leg work involved in the planning. I’ll share what I uncovered in case you have the same tremendous idea and hopefully it will be easier to plan. First of all – I recommend booking well in advance if you can because there are limited options and if they’re booked then you’re out of luck. I planned a week before which complicated things….Also – pricing is really based on group size, length of trip and requirements so use the prices below as only a rough guide.

Pure Lust

Pure Lust was clean, nice and the 2 Singaporean brothers who own and operate the boat are very chill (which is important because they’ll be on the boat with you the whole time). It technically fits 10 guests (we had 11 plus 2 crew) and it worked out to roughly $100 a person for a 5 hour cruise and leaves from Changi Marina. They also have a yacht that can fit 20 people and a fishing charter: , TEL +65 8388 7655 , EMAIL

Cutter Ketch was unfortunately booked already but the old school yacht looks nice and has sails! It  accommodates about 8 people for an evening cruise/ 12 for a day cruise and prices/timing ranged from 4 to 8 hours and from about $80 per person:

SAF Changi Marina has some options but these are more along the lines of a “boat” than a “yacht“. One accommodates 7 people and the other 11. Pricing for 5 hour trips would be in the $60 to $70 a person range.

Raffles Marina is on the edge of the west coast but Lady Olivia can accommodate 10 people for a 4 hour cruise. Pricing would be about $70 a person and there is no grill.

Mana Mana Beach Club – This is decidedly un-yacht like but if you wanted to get out on the water in smaller groups it would be fun. Their “VINDALOO” 21-foot, sloop rig keel boats only accommodate 5 people and don’t have real seats. With a skipper it would be about $50 a person for a few hours on the water. Mana Mana also rents all kinds of water sports equipment (kayaks! windsurfing! kitesurfing! etc.) and is conveniently located next to the East Coast Lagoon Hawker stalls:

Cruise Whatever: Leaves from Sentosa Cove, they accommodate up to 18 people on the yacht and also offer dockside rental for up to 30 (I think that means they don’t move the boat). They had complicated food service and corkage requirements which made things confusing but it seems to be about $100++ a person. Their yacht seems perfectly designed for a party.

Lastly, if you have a big party and/or are a baller, their yachts are fabulous, luxe and expensive!

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Sky Warrior – Transatlantic Torture

No I haven’t gone into early blogger-retirement (YET!), I’ve just been jet-setting back to the the good old US of A. I suddenly found that I had a ticket that needed to be used or would be lost and so I changed some things around and boarded Qatar Airways on my way to NYC via Doha.

As a quick aside, I used to think it was sort of pretentious to debate the merits of different airlines sort like a snobby way of saying how worldly you are….but I suppose that was because I’m relatively petite – so leg room has never been a serious issue for me – and this was before I spent quite so much time on planes – as travelling 24 hours to somewhere tends to affect your judgement. Generally though, I’m very happy saving money by using a bargain carrier to do a 1 to 4 hour hop to some vacation destination knowing that I can save my money for fun things when I get there – food, drinks, shopping, activities. Plus I’m an American so I’ve been long exposed to an airline system whereby I expect old planes and shoddy service. But when it comes to the long-haul flights, I’ve decided that it most certainly matters what carrier you choose and now I’m a happy participant when discussing airline options with shorter routes, more comfortable seats, and less egregious food.

Qatar Airways service and comfort were completely top notch. Unfortunately because I changed my ticket so late, I ended up with a 10 hour lay-over in Doha. The last time we were through Doha, I left the airport and visited the Souk and it was actually really nice but this time I was by myself and not into it so instead of paying for a visa, I paid $40 USD for entrance to the Oryx Lounge. They have drinks (alcoholic and non) and snacks and some comfortable seats and loungers. They also have shower facilities most of the time, but unfortunately they happened to be under renovation while I was there. It was definitely the best way I could have spent my layover and I was glad I did it and equally glad once it was time to get the show on the road and get to NYC!! My second leg – the longer one and about 13 hours – I got the exit row and it was golden. I watched movies, ate decent food, had an eye mask and ear plugs from their kit when I wanted to sleep – I’m easy to please.

Oryx Lounge

Oryx Lounge

My stay in the US was over before I knew it and I was boarding a United Airlines flight which connected in Beijing where an Air China flight took me the rest of the way. Because of past experience I knew I was setting myself up for unpleasantness but I booked with miles and I had decided to suck it up and just do it. Poor choice. United was atrocious – disgruntled flight attendants, disgusting food, and planes that made me nervous that we wouldn’t make it to our destination. We sat on the runway for an hour++ before the pilot announced that we were going to take off even though the cabin lights and in-flight entertainment systems weren’t working. WHAT??! I half expected him to add that the landing gear was a bit rusty. Anyway I made it – a bit shell shocked – but VERY happy to be off the planes and back at Changi Airport.

My experience reminded me of a pretty funny, REAL email that my husband once sent to United’s Customer Service to let them know how he felt about their service. I’m sharing a selection below….not surprisingly they didn’t respond. Enjoy! =)

“United continues to set the benchmark for contempt of your customers.  The service is a joke, the quality of the planes and staff on them is a joke, and the frequent flyer program is the biggest joke of all.  I would suggest that every single person working at United be required to ride a real airline at least once to see that the ordeal of flying need not be a truly, truly unpleasant experience.  Singapore Airlines, Emirates, BA, Thai Airlines…all of these would absolutely embarrass your once almost-decent airlines.  Another thing: tell someone to remove that condescending, patronizing, disdainful preflight video memo from your CEO.  The MBA-speak bullshit about “synergy” with your “partners at Continental” and your “efforts to improve” makes me want to vomit every time I have to sit through the indignity of it.

Again, I know this is whistling in the wind because I have NEVER come across a company that so enjoys proving to it’s customers that they just don’t matter.  Please be assured that neither me, my wife, nor anyone at my company will EVER fly your airline again.  It is getting worse by the day.  If you have stock, sell now.
Regards, Rob “
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Murphy’s Law: Singapore Scooter Adventures

I generally think driving a vespa is fantastic. I have a bit of road rage about all of the unsafe, unnecessary things that happen on the roads (hey! how could I not – I lived in NYC for 2 years!!) but the independence of grabbing your keys and cruising to your next destination is hugely appealing for me as a spoiled American. In Singapore, cruising in a car is usually met with a load of frustration upon your arrival – weaving slowly through the chaos of a parking garage scouring for a spot before someone else takes it, finger hovering over your hazard lights to stake claim, and then trying to reverse park or parallel park into what seems like impossibly small parking spaces. Then you have to remember where you’ve parked and wind your way through confusing corridors to find your way back to the appropriate entrance to wherever you’re going. But not with a scooter! With a scooter you can often park on the sidewalk (note: illegally but seems to be accepted practice) right in front of where you’re going. In fact I personally think you get extra points for parking creatively as close as you can get without obstructing passage =). You also pay less than cars at all of the ERP gantrys and you can always move to the front of the pack at a stop light.


But when something goes wrong on a scooter, it makes you very aware how exposed you are on a craft that is basically an engine with 2 wheels attached. This week, I came to this stark realization when I left my yoga class to find a huge puddle of gasoline under my bike that kept expanding with a continuous drip, drip, drip. I didn’t know what was wrong and I didn’t really know what I should do but I’d started with a full tank of gas, so likely against my better judgement, I decided I would bring Donatella (my vespa) to the mechanic rather than leaving her to be transported in the morning…. It was harrowing, smelled of gasoline the whole time, and I was pretty sure I was going to spontaneously combust. But I made it. I brought her to my “go to” Chip Huat Motors at 1098 Serangoon Rd. and left her safely parked behind their shop. I called the next morning to tell them what had happened and they fixed her up good as new before noon! It turned out that it was only a fuel tube that had hardened and burst….so my whopping total was $35. Enough that they definitely made some money but I was more than happy to pay! Very rarely are you pleased about the cost of a mechanic’s work and very rarely are you surprised how inexpensive something is in Singapore. But the guys at Chip Huat Motors are consistently reasonable, reliable and hardworking. They’ve done everything from body work to painting to mechanical troubleshooting for me and I really like knowing that if I have a problem with Donatella – they will get to the bottom of it. Now if only they could do something about the Singapore drivers….

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Pastimes for the Rich: Golfing in Singapore

The husband just got a new set of golf clubs. A friend taveling to Singapore bought them in the states which meant that instead of $3,000 they cost only $1,000 which still seems to me like a pretty hefty outlay for a sport but I’m told he got a good deal. I’m not a golfer. I’ve taken a few swings at a driving range before but it feels so awkward that I’ve never been tempted to explore the sport further. That decision is a happy one considering that is so expensive to play in Singapore.

Courses range from about $50 for 9 holes (at the cow pasture like golf course called Green Fairways over in Bukit Timah) to around $120++ (7% GST, 10% Service charge, and 3% admin fee!!) for 9 holes at the much more plush and centrally located Marina Bay Golf Course – of course if you don’t have your own clubs – you have to rent them (more $$), if you don’t have proper golfing shoes – you have to rent them (more $$), and they also seem to need a monthly swing test (more $$) to ensure you know what you’re doing. So all in all it’s quite an expensive affair. Seemingly this doesn’t weigh very heavily on most of the golf-playing population of Singapore but there is a more economical option. The driving range is comparatively a super good deal. The driving range at Marina Bay Golf Course costs only the price of the balls you want to hit which, depending on timing, ranges from 4 to 7 cents per ball. So even at the peak time it’s only $3.50  to hit 50 balls. The range also seems more fun to me (though clearly I don’t have the golfing mentality) since you get to drive balls at a variety of targets in front of you without the frustration of trying to get the ball into some frickin’ hole – just saying.

So all of this golf talk interests me very little but having accompanied my hubby to the range the other night to cheer him and his expensive habit on, he introduced me to the Canopy Bar at the Marina Bay Golf Course. This place is a find! They serve pitchers of Tiger for $19 bucks (and a mix of decent but not very exciting food) and they have quite possibly the best view in Singapore. Their open air tables overlook the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands and all of downtown, just beyond the greens of the golf course in front of you. It’s really very pretty – especially at dusk. The Canopy bar has a pretty basic interior with plastic tables and chairs and totally lacks pretension which I find refreshing with all the many hopped up rooftop bars in Singapore promising a view. It’s a great place to enjoy a relaxing beer and enjoy the famous Singapore skyline. I think it will be added to the visitor playbook going forward because the view is that good and it’s just down the road from us!

The photo doesn’t do the view justice – you really need to experience it in person =)

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Public Service Announcement – Don’t Drive your Car Like an A-Hole

So I got back from traveling in Myanmar to the comfort and security of Singapore – where the air conditioning is robust, the roads don’t have massive pot-holes, and people’s cars aren’t poorly maintained and from 1950. Myanmar was great, but it was in sharp contrast to Singapore in many ways.

What Myanmar lacks in vehicle and road quality, they more than make up for in human consideration. People there aren’t kiasu road-demons thirsting for the blood of scooter drivers. I should say that I’ve been back in Singapore for 2 days and I’ve already been VERY NEARLY killed by some A-HOLE who passed me on the HIGHWAY driving in my lane with no shoulder space available. WHY?? Probably because he was in a rush to get some chicken rice. That’s not fair, I don’t know that, but whatever the reason – it’s unacceptable. To hit the road at 80km an hour would have caused my flesh to peel off my bones faster than a peel off a banana and so whatever he was rushing to – I don’t care. Have a little patience, I’ll change lanes and let you pass me. I will. Promise. But I can’t vaporize instantly. Take a chill pill.

Forget about the Speak Good English Movement. Singapore needs a Don’t drive like an A-HOLE movement.

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Best Dinner Buffet in Singapore!

Singapore loves food and there are certainly no shortage of buffets to choose from. Western, Asian, dessert buffets, high tea buffets, shabu shabu, there’s no limit to the options…. but I find that most buffets offer such an overwhelming assortment of food that I inevitably over do it and leave feeling uncomfortably full. Then I head straight home and lay on the couch complaining about how I shouldn’t have eaten so much, that I shouldn’t have had a whole plate of cheese, etc. etc. (Yes – I am this much fun). But I feel compulsed to TRY EVERYTHING and so if there weren’t so many darn things to eat, I might be able to control myself.

This is a big reason why I think that the Oasis restaurant, poolside at the Hyatt Hotel is so great, but certainly far from the only one. Their restraint in keeping from overwhelming you options is coupled with quality execution of the options they provide. It’s like being at someone’s BBQ but with waiters graciously refilling your glass and no need for anyone to do dishes afterwards. And like a BBQ it’s open air so not that great for a rainy day and you certainly won’t need a sweater.

The BBQ is only on Friday and Saturday nights from 6:30pm to 9:30pm and it pays to make a reservation well in advance because they only have about 20 tables. They serve steak, shrimp/prawns, lamb chops, salmon, chicken, lamb patties, sausage, (and probably more I’m forgetting) all coming straight off the grill. There were a number of sides including corn on the cob and an assortment of really delicious salads (potato salad, greens, squash and feta cheese, walnuts, rocket leaves and parmesan, tomato salad, olives, etc.).  There’s also soft-serve ice cream and few local Singaporean dessert options. AND there’s bottomless margaritas (not that great), red or white wine, and Tiger beer. All for the price of S$75++ which is one heck of a deal for Singapore.

It’s a great way to start your Friday or Saturday night and since it’s not full of heavy foods it doesn’t make you feel like you’re ready for a nap. Instead, it makes you feel like you’re ready to rock out at Brix….but I’ll save that for another post =)

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All I do is Lin, Lin, Lin

All I do is Lin, Lin, Lin

My friend Maureen is currently living in Taipei, Taiwan but will be moving to good old Singers over the summer. Before she moves, it was absolutely imperative that Rob and I get over there to visit her and check out the scene. Thank goodness we did; it was freaking fantastic.

I spent a year living in Shanghai and I love all things Chinese (the FOOD!, the language, the customs, the markets/bargaining, etc.), so it was sort of odd that I never put much thought into traveling to Taiwan until I sensed the ticking clock on my free place to stay! I also know there’s a serious political division between China and Taiwan (it’s actually fascinatingly complicated) and it’s not reasonable to blindly lump the 2 into one category but there’s also enough cultural similarity that it would be a struggle not to at least compare them.

Knowing how much I LOVE to travel, this could easily become long-winded so I’m going to give you the highlight reel of our adventure, Letterman style:

10. Smells like…I haven’t been back to China in over 5 years and so maybe this has changed but I remember a lot of smog and a general, inexplicable stink being pretty pervasive (no, I’m not talking about the stinky tofu). Taiwan is nowhere near as clean as Singapore, and has a bit of a run-down appearance in many places but the air is pretty clear.

9. Infrastructure – Again, Singapore takes the cake on this but after traveling by bus, MRT, taxi and car, it was very easy, clean and orderly. I was impressed.

8. People! Almost everyone in Taiwan we met was very nice, friendly even, and smiley! Like woah.

7. Price! Compared to China, Taiwan isn’t very cheap. Compared to Singapore, Taiwan is amazingly inexpensive. **Sigh** Also, as an American, I can get a free visa on arrival to Taiwan. China thinks I should pay $200 for a single entry – utter nonsense.

6. Language! I speak very poor Mandarin – the kind that works in taxis, at markets, in restaurants and occasionally for short bouts of small talk. In Singapore, no one even bothers to try to converse with me. Maybe no one understands me with all the local dialects and my angmo accent but either out of necessity or effort, they understand me in Taiwan (mostly) =)

5. Shopping! I love the markets; the hunting, the haggling, the oddities around every bend. We saw an old lady dance troupe in Yi Lan, Giant Snakes in Snake Alley, and I bought lots of things that felt like they were free compared to pricing in Singapore.

4. Nature! Taiwan has some sweet nature. We drove along the cliffs and saw the (cold) beautiful water and very green rolling hills. We hiked in Taroko Gorge and enjoyed some natural hot springs. It was great and only a long-ish drive from Taipei.

3. Din Tai Fung! Everyone knows the chain which does a very good business in Singapore but the ORIGINAL is in Taipei and it puts the others to shame! It’s an experience in itself – crowded at all hours and a stack of floors connected by narrow staircases slinging Xiao Long Bao among other delights. It was DELICIOUS.

2. The Food! Man, I love Chinese food. In Singapore it’s hard to find some of my favorite mainland Chinese dishes – like Grandmother’s Tofu, Egg and Tomatoes, and dumplings – but you can get them. But I’ve NEVER had a Bao zi done right in Singapore. Bao zi are steamed bread-like buns generally with a flavorful pork meatball in the center. Done Right, they are amazing but here they seem to be too sweet – maybe Cantonese styled? They do them MORE than right in Taiwan – we even tried a baked variety and a lamb curry one. I was blown away. I thought about trying to bring 100 back and freezing them but I thought better of it…

1. My friend Maureen! It was great to catch up and see her. Maybe I’ll convince her to Guest Blog one day =)

Bao zi

Holy Bao zi! (This wasn't posed at all)

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Little India Fun

It isn’t always peaches and cream but for the most part I really enjoy living in Singapore. Probably the primary reason is the access to travel to the rest of Asia. I have a serious travel bug and to my husband’s dismay, I never think we’re doing enough travel to properly take advantage of the many, MANY exciting places nearby. My second favorite part of living in Singapore is the vast diversity here. The four main ethnic groups represented by the citizens and Permanent Residents in Singapore are the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others (including Eurasians and foreign workers (like me!)). The ethnic Chinese make up the majority with about 75% of the population, while the Malays contribute less than 15% and the Indians about 8%. This diverse population seems to effortlessly coexist (though it didn’t always) and each ethnic group has their own customs, holidays, traditional garb, religious practices and places of worship, and – my favorite part – delicious cuisine.

I appreciate Singapore’s diversity on many levels but the plethora of amazing food options is by far my favorite aspect of the diversity. There are dishes that come from Chinese, Malay and Indian origins (or incredible combinations) that I LOVE and I know I won’t be able to find done correctly once we leave Singapore – like Laksa, and Nasi Lemak, and Nasi Briyani, and Chicken Rice, and Mee Goreng, and Satay, and Butter Chicken with Naan bread, and Roti Prata, and Baby Kailan, and oh man – I could go on and on!! My favorite travel show host, Anthony Bourdain, once said that, “If you love food, this might be the best place on earth” and I have to full-heartedly agree.

But aside from the eating, I do get out and enjoy some of the diversity  in other ways and since I am dying to get to India in my travels, Little India is one of my favorite places. In fact, I’m so enthralled by India, I’m bit afraid that I sound like this. But I’ve been meaning to get henna done for a while because I love the look of it and I finally did it this weekend.  It was super quick (really like 5 minutes), only $5 bucks and apparently the fun will last for about 4 days (longer if I don’t wash my hands much but that sounds like a bad idea). It’s very free-form flowerly and squiggles and I only did one hand so the drying process would be less inhibitive as it takes 20 to 30 minutes. The longer you leave the henna dye on, the darker the stain will be and the longer it will last. Once it’s dry it sort of hardens and you can peel it off.

Action shot - Sara working her magic!

If you’re feeling artisitic you can also buy the tubes of henna dye for $1 everywhere in Little India and try your hand at it – but this made me very nervous as even painting my nails can end in disaster and then at least there’s nail polish remover, this is a stain and even if you wipe it away, it’s going to leave a mark for sure. Traditionally henna is done for festivals and on brides for weddings in VERY ornate fashion which can include the front and back of hands and arms and your feet – I imagine that takes a lot longer and costs a lot more….maybe next time! But now all I need is to put on my sari, pierce my nose, get a bindi, and find an elephant to do bollywood dancing on the back of and I will be so exotic.


My fabulous henna!

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I saw this on my way to work. Notice the “Provoke” and “Anti-Cops” slogans covering the motorcyclist’s helmet. He was very careful not to pull ahead of the police car. Classic. Happy Tuesday!!

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Teenage Blood Bath: The Hunger Games

I’m not particularly proud to admit it but I’ve spent the last week wrapped up in the Hunger Games hoopla. The addictive young adult book series sucked me in – in my defense this was mostly due to the recommendations of people who are also too old to be reading YA books. But to be fair, the first book was great. It’s an easy read with an interesting enough premise that pulls you in with a comfortable writing style and likable characters. There’s the good guys and the bad guys, teenage romance, struggles and hardship in a post-apocalyptic America. Oh yeah and there’s a twisted dictator, political discontent, and an annual teenage death match called, “The Hunger Games.” The Hunger Games are a televised event in which one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of the 12 districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a battle in which only one person can survive – this part perplexes me because the games are very little about being hungry and much more about trying to keep from getting stabbed…

The Hunger Games is the first book in a trilogy (followed by Catching Fire and Mockingjay) written by Suzanne Collins (who happens to be from the GREAT state of Connecticut). The first book seemed to be a labor of love and was an enjoyable way to spend about 6 hours of my life but the premise grew a bit weak in the second book and was definitely half-baked in the third. Of course at that point I HAD to find out how it ended. Also, none of the books really deal with the glaring moralty issue of teenagers murdering each other for the amusement of the Capitol (it’s very much like a futuristic Roman Colosseum or a twisted version of the reality TV show Survivor).

There’s been highs and lows but overall it was fun while it lasted and I’m really glad it’s over. I read all three books and then culminated my “journey” by watching the movie which was released in Singapore on Thursday, March 22nd, a day before the worldwide release. And since the book has been flying off shelves worldwide  – it’s also been translated into 26 different languages – I’m sure the movie will be very successful even if it is ridiculously long (142 minutes!!). It is always fun to see the hollywood depiction of book characters and compare it with your own impressions. In this case it was especially fun to see the colorful costumes of the Capital people and the landscape of the futuristic world. The actress who plays the main protagonist, Jennifer Lawrence, is good and the rest of the cast works – I LOVED Woody Harrelson as the drunk mentor, Haymitch. But like most book turned movies – it doesn’t 100% stack up and for a not-very-deep story it seems to gloss over all of the plot lines that had any depth at all.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend you make “The Hunger Games” your next rainy day/vacation beach read and don’t feel too bad if you get sucked into reading the follow up books. At least they’re quick and then you’ll understand the banter about Peeta, Gale and Katniss and personal evaluations of survival skills in the games. In case you’re wondering, I would likely last 3 days – just long enough to climb a tree and die of dehydration.

Hunger Games

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