Tag Archives: photography

On Island Time in Aruba

This past winter in New York just didn’t want to quit. As an East Coast native, you’d think I’d be used to our harsh and unpredictable winters by now, but this one just kept zagging on us. One weekend we were lounging in the park, enjoying the sunshine and 70 degree temperatures; the next we were huddled inside, braving our third major snowstorm of the year. Don’t let anyone tell you that climate change isn’t real, kids.

It kind of bums me out that Spring Break ceases to be a thing once you’ve exited the academic world. We could all use a break during the long months between the holidays and the first signs of summer. I try my darndest to get out of town at some point during the winter/early spring. As much as I love the city, a little sunshine is extremely beneficial to my mental health. So when my parents planned a late winter getaway to Aruba, I decided to tag along (with their permission, of course – as an only child I’m a pro third-wheeler, but I know my boundaries).

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Most of our time on the island, just 18 miles north of Venezuela, was spent at the beach or pool at our resort. I was very grateful for the time to just chill out and actually read a book for once. I finished John Darnielle’s Universal Harvester and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star, two very different but equally excellent reads, while enjoying the (surprisingly strong) Caribbean sun. Knowing my parents, of course, we weren’t content to just plop for the whole week. We needed to get out and see some of the island.

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We woke up early one morning to take a Jeep ride out Arikok National Park, which makes up a good chunk of the northeast part of the island. Arikok’s terrain and shoreline stand in stark contrast to the sandy beaches of the island’s south side. It’s much more rough around the edges, featuring huge limestone formations, cliffs, and fields of aloe plants. It’s cliche, but it honestly felt like we’d traveled to a completely different island in the 30 minute ride from our resort to the park.

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The tour guides drove us out to the Natural Pool, one of Arikok’s top attractions, for a bit of snorkeling. It was kind of amazing to get to swim in this one calm little pond, while the waves of the Caribbean crashed on the rocks around us. We saw some great local fish, and I only hit my head on the rocks once! From there, we got to check out the Natural Bridge, ate some delicious pastechi, and took in the view from the comfort of our Jeep.

 

One of the last stops on the tour was the Alto Vista Chapel, a tiny Catholic chapel in the hills just outside the town of Noord. The chapel stands on the site of the original church built by Venezuelan missionaries in 1750. The original church was abandoned in 1816 after a plague hit the area, but a schoolteacher raised funds to rebuild it in 1952. Though I’m not particularly religious, I was raised Catholic and something about this church resonated with me more than others I’ve visited. Maybe it was the warmth of yellow walls, or the striking statue of the Virgin Mary at the altar, or just the serenity of its location high above the ocean. The place almost demands that you take a moment to sit down and just be still. Whether you feel like praying is totally up to you.

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Later in our trip, we took a sunset catamaran cruise around the south side of the island. I’ll be real with you, I don’t have much to say about this part of the trip other than a) I love sunsets, b) I love boats, and c) I love taking pictures of myself with sunset lighting on a boat. Also drinks were included. So that’s cool.

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I had a really lovely time in Aruba and would go back in a minute. This time with more cash for the casino, of course.


I’ve been hesitant to set up any kind of audience support page (a la Patreon) for this blog. For one thing, sometimes I don’t write anything for a year (again, sorry about that). And when it comes down to it, I do this for myself. But hosting costs money and a little support is always helpful. I do work in theatre after all.

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An Afternoon at Chanticleer | BEDA Day 26

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I went home for about 24 hours this weekend, which has become a common occurrence over the last year or so. I was in town for my mom’s choir concert and had a lovely few hours hanging out with my folks, snuggling with my dog, and sleeping in my own bed. The weather was absolutely stunning on Sunday, so we decided to take a ride to Chanticleer, a world-renowned garden right in my hometown.

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The flowers of Chanticleer were out in full bloom and we enjoyed a nice walk around the grounds. The Chanticleer Foundation has added a bunch of improvements – including new bathrooms and walkways down the hill from the house – since I last visited, which make the garden even more visitor-friendly. With these new paths we were able to explore areas of the garden we’d never seen before, like a pond full of giant carp.

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There’s a little shed down the hill from the main house that is just darling. It must have been used as a playhouse for the original owner’s children, as it’s decorated with these amazing murals right out of a children’s book. Somehow I was able to fit through the door without any problems, which shows you just how tiny I am. I should really stop acting surprised when I get carded at bars.

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Overall, it was a lovely – albeit allergy-ridden – afternoon. I managed to get all these photos on my iPhone, as I left my DSLR at home. I did some quick edits in my favorite photo editing app, Afterlight, and I’m really happy with how they turned out. Every time I visit Chanticleer, I can’t believe it’s always been right in my backyard. I can’t wait to visit again.

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A Culinary Tour of DC and Arlington | BEDA Day 21

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Last weekend, I joined some of my favorite ladies in the world for a weekend of adventures in Washington, DC and the surrounding area. We were there to celebrate Leslie’s birthday and finally hang out like real adults, outside of a conference setting. It was an amazing three days filled with great talks, near-perfect weather, and lots of food. Seriously, by some happy accident most of the weekend revolved around eating and drinking.

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After checking into our AirBnB in Arlington, we made our way down to U Street to check out the scene. The U Street Corridor has been experiencing something of a renaissance in the last few decades, and is now home to lots of cool shops, bars, and clubs. While wandering the neighborhood, we found this gorgeous mural and had to do a bit of a photoshoot.

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If you find a mural in a city alley and don’t take an OOTD photo, where you really ever there?

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The lovely Allyson

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At the suggestion of Amanda, we stopped into The Saloon, a no-frills bar and restaurant on the main drag. The Saloon is all about social interaction – you won’t find any TVs here and cell phones are highly discouraged. Their beer selection is top notch, though. I fell in love with a fruity wheat beer called Ruby Red that I will probably never be able to find again. I guess it’s better to have loved and lost, than to not have tasted Ruby Red at all.

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Remember when I said this was our first time hanging out outside of a conference? Well, we managed to find one anyway. After a breakfast of beignets at Bayou Bakery, we took the Metro down to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to check out the USA Science & Engineering Festival. While the exhibitors geared their booths more towards kids, it was cool too see all the innovation coming out of the participating organizations. Seeing so many kids, particularly girls, get excited about STEM and STEAM work was particularly heart-warming.

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We all managed to sleep in on Sunday and met up for brunch at Ragtime, a casual spot with Cajun flair. Ragtime is particularly well known for their Sunday brunch menu, featuring waffle and Bloody Mary bars, live music, and plenty of other goodies. As a Leslie Knope-in-training, I went straight for the waffle bar, piling on all the fruit and syrup my heart desired. Between that and several cups of coffee, I was highly content.
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All in all, it was a really great weekend. We may have laid pretty low, but it was so nice to have a few days to recharge and catch up with great friends that I don’t get to see that often. Sometimes just having a few beers in someone’s apartment is better than seeing everything a city has to offer. Plus, look at the sunset from our AirBnB. Why would I want to miss that?

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DC, thanks for a great few days. I’ll be back before you know it.

Sunday in the Park (And The Guggenheim Museum) | BEDA Day 11

A few weeks ago my parents came to New York to visit family and celebrate my mom’s birthday. Minor travel issues aside, it was nice to spend some time with them and do the fancy things I only get to do when they’re in town. It was finally starting to feel a little bit like spring, so we decided to spend Sunday meandering through Central Park and the Guggenheim Museum.

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I feel like I post a lot of pictures of Central Park on here, but it really is one of my favorite places in the city. It really is an oasis in an often-stifling city, and somewhere I feel like I can actually breathe. Everything was so perfectly lit in the mid-winter sun that I had to get a few photos. Plus, if I manage to capture the park in every season maybe I’ll turn it into a coffee table book of amateur photos that no one will buy. 

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We made our way up to 88th Street, which was quite a feat after our brunch at The Plaza Food Hall. I actually hadn’t been to the Guggenheim before, and I was happy to cross it off my New York bucket list. The museum, designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is a work of art on it’s own and features art from the mid 19th century to today.

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The main exhibit on view this spring is Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s “How To Work Better,” a collection of multi-media works on how we perceive daily life. Honestly, I didn’t get a lot of it as I’m terribly uneducated in the visual art world, but I appreciate the work. There were these little sculptures of women commuting to work that I found particularly striking and had to capture. I think we only made it through about half the museum, so I will definitely be back soon to tackle the rest of the gallery.

Christmas at Disneyland | BEDA Day 3

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When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to watch was this video about Christmastime at Disneyland. I’m not entirely sure if this was one of those vacation-planning videos you could send away for or just a special that had aired on the Disney Channel at some point, but I couldn’t get enough of it. I don’t remember it having a distinct plot or anything. It mostly consisted of Mickey & Co. galavanting about the park, getting ready for the holidays. Something about that video was incredibly comforting, and I always dreamed of visiting the park that Walt built during the festive season.

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In a stunning turn of events, this dream finally came true this past Christmas. I somehow convinced my parents it would be a good idea to stop by Disneyland on the way home from Hawaii, so we decided to spend New Years in the park. Now, if you know anything about Disneyland, you know that this is the busiest time of the year. The park was packed to the gills with locals and tourists alike looking for prime spots for the midnight fireworks. Nevertheless, it was all worth it when I got to see the Christmas Parade.

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The parade hasn’t changed much since the 90s, save for the addition of a few new characters like Elsa from Frozen and Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. I pretend to be cool, but when I saw the toy soldiers marching down Main Street USA, I teared up a little. The thing I had dreamed about for 20 years was real and right in front of my face. I had made it home.

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I may be an East Coast girl, but ever since I first visited in 2011, Disneyland has always felt like my place. The park has a much more laid-back vibe than Walt Disney World in Florida. So many locals visit Disneyland on a regular basis, that it never feels like people are putting pressure on themselves to have the best time ever. It’s just a place to hang out, like Central Park here in New York (albeit with a much higher admission fee). Plus, Disneyland is Walt’s park, the only one he saw completed. Walt Disney is a very problematic figure in history, but his ingenuity was undeniable. I guess I feel like I’m soaking up the remnants of his creative energy while I’m there. I may come home feeling physically depleted, but I always leave inspired.

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Want to see some more of my Disneyland shenanigans? I made a video of my culinary journey through Disney’s California Adventure a few months ago. Check out what I ate in the park below!

The Real Jurassic Park | Kauai, HI

Happy January, my poor, abandoned bloggy friends! I may have taken a good month off from writing, but that month included plenty of travel. I spent my two weeks off from work in Hawaii and California, enjoying the sunshine, taking pictures, and gathering plenty of ideas for new #content. Apparently I can never give myself a real break.

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My parents and I started out our adventure on Kauai, one of the most lush islands of the Aloha State. After some rest to get over the massive jet lag (8 hours of flying is no joke), we got a real Hawaiian welcome at the Smith Family Garden Luau. The evening featured a tour of their gorgeous gardens, an amazing and authentic Hawaiian meal, and a show featuring the music and dance of the Polynesian islands. If you’re looking for a more classic luau, Smith’s does a fantastic job.

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We spent our next morning at Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, a site in the hills of central Kauai frequented by people of all faiths. The monastery is definitely worth a visit for its lush views and general sense of peace. There’s plenty of people on site who are happy to talk to you about the Hindu faith, show you around the grounds, and answer any questions you may have.

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From there, we drove down to the town of Kapaa for some lunch. Kapaa is home to plenty of great restaurants, but some friends of ours highly recommended Mermaids Cafe. It totally lived up to the hype. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the BEST TACOS OF MY LIFE, but just take my word for it. They were awesome. The hibiscus lemonade wasn’t bad, either.

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You may have seen a little dinosaur movie last summer by the name of Jurassic World. The real Jurassic Park happens to be on Kauai, namely on the Na Pali Coast. A lot of the exterior shots from the Jurassic Park movies were shot in these incredible seaside mountains, and no wonder why. This place is unreal. We took a sunset catamaran cruise with Holo Holo Charters and saw some of the most incredible sites. Plus, they fed us. Shout out to food.

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Much of the next day was spent kayaking and hiking our way up to Secret Falls in Wailua River State Park. I’m still impressed that I actually made it back to the hotel without dying. Four miles of kayaking and two miles of hiking in ankle-deep mud is much more physical activity than I’ve had in…a while. But it was all worth it for the view. You don’t see that every day in Manhattan. And if you do, you should probably call the fire department.

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We spent our week at Marriott’s Kauai Beach Club, right on Kalapaki Bay. The whole property was lush and gorgeous, with lots of open-air spaces. The lobby/courtyard area, with its manmade waterfalls and stocked koi pond was one of my favorite parts of the resort. Plus, occasionally this cockatoo would make an appearance, shouting “Aloha” at the guests passing through. He was the best.

Kauai, you were good to me. Mahalo for your incredible hospitality to those of us just passing through. I know I’ll be back soon enough.

Looking for some more visuals of the Aloha State? Check out the video I put together with some of my favorite moments from my Hawaiian adventure!

 

Brunch and Bowling | A Weekend in Minneapolis

When Minneapolis was announced as the host city for the inaugural Nerdcon: Stories, it didn’t seem like the most obvious choice. I’ve traveled to more “destination” cities like LA and San Diego before for conventions, but never anywhere too far north. Regardless, I was excited to spend some time in Minneapolis during the con. I haven’t traveled extensively in the midwest, so Minnesota is some uncharted territory.

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Unfortunately, thanks to the nature of conventions, we didn’t have a ton of time for sightseeing. We still managed to find some cute places to eat, though. One of my favorite spots in town is Hen House, a bar, bakery and breakfast joint just a few blocks from the convention center. My friends and I had some killer omelettes and mimosas between sessions on Saturday morning. Hen House is known for their giant cinnamon rolls (which are heavenly), but the crown jewel of the menu in my mind is their hash browns. Crisp, delicious, and very filling. I’m a sucker for some good potatoes. Our first breakfast was so good, we decided to come back for more on Sunday.

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On Saturday night, we headed over to Brit’s Pub for dinner and drinks. Most pubs in America are pretty interchangeable in my mind, but Brit’s local charm and great selection of pub grub sets it apart. They have a great selection of local brews and to sip on their awesome roofdeck. We had some great weather all weekend and were happy to take full advantage of it.

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Brit’s also has a super cool green rooftop for lawn bowling and the occasional screenings. Sadly, no one was out bowling that night, but I would happily go back for a round the next time I’m in Minneapolis. We did get to catch an amazing sunset on our way out, which perfectly complemented the old-timey streetlights on the rooftop.

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Of course, what would a weekend in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area be without a cheeky trip to that great monument to Capitalism, the Mall of America? My friends and I actually did a good deal of shopping between MoA and the the flagship Target in downtown Minneapolis. Although we decided to pass on the amusement park, we did score some pretty great deals (no sales tax on clothing in MN!) and put a few miles on our boots. Nick Cannon also happened to be shooting a segment for TeenNick at the mall that afternoon, so we were in good company.

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Sure, most of my non-convention time in Minneapolis was spent eating or shopping, but I still had a great time. I’ll most likely be back next year, hopefully with a bit more time to explore the city.

Have you been to Minneapolis? What are some of your favorite spots in the city? Give me some recommendations for next year in the comments!

From a Window Seat

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I spend a lot of time looking out the window when I’m traveling by plane or train. I like to guess where we are in the journey, make up stories for the towns we’re passing through or over. I try to play the same game on car trips, but the road signs kind of take the fun out of it. Plus, 2 hours on the interstate will make you think that the world consists solely of trees and Roy Rodgers restaurants.

I’m currently coming to you live* from the Amtrak Keystone line between Philadelphia and New York. I’ve taken this route several times over the last few months and it’s starting to lose its charm. The tracks are mostly lined with warehouses, junkyards, and unfortunately-placed apartment buildings. Tonight, I don’t seem to mind it as much, though. The skies are mostly clear and there’s a brilliant sunset to my left. It’s the kind of lighting that makes even the most industrial scenes seem idyllic.

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Sometimes I joke that my childhood took place along I-95. With most of my family in the New York area, my parents and I spent many weekends on the road visiting them. Was it an ideal situation? Probably not. But I never really had a problem with it. I spent those hours in the backseat listening to music, making up stories to go along with the songs. It was a kind of meditation, a time for me to be still and let my brain just kind of go. Heaven for my introverted side.

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I’ve included some photos from my most recent flight back to New York from Savannah, GA. I’ve traveled a lot, but I’m not quite jaded enough to lose my fascination with clouds. By some miracle of science, we are able to see these kinds of sights AND NOT DIE. I mean, that’s crazypants. I don’t take for granted the fact that I can step into a metal tube and come out 5 hours later on the other side of the country.

And then I get stuck on the Tarmac for an hour at LaGuardia. I could do without that part.

In other news, thanks to the magic of WordPress, A Suitcase Full of Pens is a real-ass website now! I’m super-excited about this, but please bear with me as I get things up and running and looking nice. It’s all a work-in-progress and a learning process and blah blah blah. However, I’ve got lots of new content coming your way, so watch this space.

*This is a previously recorded broadcast. Voting has now closed.

Bethesda

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“This angel. She’s my favorite angel. I like them best when they’re statuary. They commemorate death but suggest a world without dying. They are made of the heaviest things on earth, stone and iron, they weigh tons but they’re winged, they are engines and instruments of flight.” – Tony Kushner, Angels in America

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During my junior year of college, I spent six months working at a theater in Philadelphia. I started about a week after their production of Angels in America opened and was highly encouraged to see the show (all six hours of it).

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The utter enormity of this piece really changed the way I looked at theatre forever. I realized that a play could be both extravagant and intimate. It broke all the rules that had been ingrained in my brain since my first playwriting class. It gave me so much hope and is still a source of inspiration.

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Bethesda Fountain, located in Central Park, plays a huge part in Angels, and yet it was one of those places I hadn’t truly visited in my many trips to the city. On a gorgeous day last August, I decided to fix it (and bring my camera along).

The fountain is truly magnificent, and you can see why it attracts so many visitors on days like this one. It’s also not far from the iconic Loeb Boathouse, where you can take a rowboat for a spin on the pond.

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The terrace directly across from the fountain features these gorgeous tiled ceilings and plenty of room for artists and visitors alike. On this particular afternoon I caught some buskers taking advantage of the space’s interesting acoustics to play some gospel tunes.

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Though I haven’t had a ton of time to get back to the park yet this season, I plan to in the coming weeks. The fact that Central Park exists and continues to thrive is truly a testament to what this city is capable of and it makes me incredibly excited to live here.

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Sunset on the Bridge | New York City

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I recently moved to New York to start my career in the TV industry.

God, that feels weird to type out.

The job search felt like it took forever, but I found two awesome internships in the TV industry and started working about a month ago. Despite this, I’ve only had a few chances to go exploring, seeing as I’ve spent most of my weekends back in Philly for various reasons. I had a free evening during my first week in town and wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I took to Twitter, looking for ways to amuse myself, and my friend Catherine suggested I a) get Chinese food and b) watch the sun set on the Brooklyn Bridge. So I did that.

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I’ve always admired the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s one of the few pieces of old New York that have remained through the cities numerous transformations. It’s a feat of engineering and aesthetically gorgeous. Before this night, though, I had only experienced the bridge via car.

I quickly learned that the bridge gets a little crowded around sunset with both tourists and commuters. However, I staked out a spot to enjoy the view while eating my dumplings. Somehow I managed not to get hit by a cyclist or a swarm of exercisers in a bootcamp class.

 

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I may have missed the early part of the sunset, but the sky was still gorgeous and I had a lovely view of the Financial District. I’ve spent a lot of time in Manhattan over the years, but I’ve never really explored the world below 14th Street. Now that I live and work here, I understand why people love it so much. The whole city is awesome, but there’s so much life downtown. You can really see the city’s rich history here among all the fancy boutiques and high-rises that have sprung up over the years.

I also understand why you have to give up your first-born to live here.