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POSTED AT 12:01 PM ET, 07/28/2010

By Ian Shapira

Dan Zenobia, 27, an occupational therapist from Alexandria, came to the Caribou at Fairfax Corner to reflect on the weighty issues of his life: a potential new job, his father's leukemia, and his newish girlfriend. In a half hour, he will meet her - and her work friends - for lunch, so he's a bit nervous.

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POSTED AT 11:04 AM ET, 07/28/2010

By Kevin Sieff

Parvez and Mary met when she was cleaning his table at a Van Ness  
Burger King.

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POSTED AT 11:03 AM ET, 07/28/2010

By Kevin Sieff

Average age at this Gaithersburg starbucks just dropped below 10.

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POSTED AT 3:41 PM ET, 07/12/2010

America, your table is now available

By: Josh McPhail

 

If the US National Teams heart stopping comebacks and the 2010 World Cup as a whole was the cute new girl in school….she has certainly gotten everyone’s attention.   

 

Grabbing the attention of an American public that has ADD with its numerous sports options is like talking with that cute girl for the first time.  The hard part is getting her attention, letting her know you’re there and once you get that chance to show her how fun, exciting, memorable that you can be…well that’s the easy part, now you are opening her eyes and she’s seeing what your friends and family have seen along.  I think this World Cup has put soccer and a new slew of Americans into a long-term relationship.

 

In my honest and hopeful opinion I think the love fest will continue.  It’s not like the Olympics where the only time we ever see a track & field event is there every four years; soccer is on every week, 11 months out of the year, on numerous channels.  The ability to see those who we’ve fallen in love with Donovan, Dempsey, Forlan, Mueller, Messi, Kaka is easy…40+ TV games a week easy.  Come 2014 I believe we’re going to see an influx of American fans like never before.  Why?  We are a prideful people who love winners, great comeback stories and have a “never say die” attitude. This World Cup, especially with the grit from the US team, has shown it entails all those things we love and cherish. 

 

Being in South Africa those first couple weeks of the Cup I had no idea what was going on back here.  Hearing the stories of people having parties at 10am to watch the US team, the screams they heard from their co-workers at work, who were supposed to be in meetings,  when Landon cracked it in against Algeria and those watching from the sidewalks at store front TVs’.  Really?  People that I had never talked about footy with and had no clue that even knew the World Cup was going on; you were watching? I mean, really? Wow.

 

My coup de gras came in an email from my dad after the spirited USA comeback and subsequent 2-2 draw against Slovenia. 

 

Me: “Happy Father’s Day from Cape Town, South Africa!”

Dad: “Thanks for the long distance greeting.  Now get some good officials so the USA can advance!!!”

 

Listen folks, if my 65 year-old dad from Mandeville, LA, who wouldn’t know what a shinguard was if it bit him in the keester, is watching…soccer has indeed arrived.

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POSTED AT 1:28 PM ET, 07/ 7/2010

Sightseeing in downtown Pretoria and Johannesburg

By Paul Alan Levy
 
On returning to stay with our hosts in the suburbs of Pretoria after a week in Cape Town, we decided to spend our remaining time in South Africa visiting the downtown areas in Pretoria and Johannesburg.  Craig gave us a tour of downtown Pretoria, starting at City Hall, where we looked at a series of beaded more-than-life-size sculptures of soccer players (photo) and a statue of Tshwane (photo), an Ndebele leader from whom Pretoria derives its African name (although Tshwane is also a name of the river that flows through Pretoria).  We looked at Paul Kruger's house from the outside, then drove to the Mariabastad area where we saw the Mariemman temple (photo) - it could easily have been in South India.  At Church Square, the heart of downtown Pretoria, a TV movie was being made about "Winnie Mandela's Path to Freedom;" we saw hundreds of extras in period costume enacting a protest in front of the Palace of Justice (photo), the actual site where Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders were tried in 1963-1964 (the Rivonia treason trial) and sent away to prison for life.  We had a snack at the art-deco Café Riche on Church Square before driving up to the Union Buildings, a complex of British imperial buildings on a hill overlooking downtown Pretoria, where South Africa's executive offices are located.   That evening, the Levydicks and the Welsby-Karps all went back to Groenkloof, where Nancy and I had gone walking with Susan two weeks earlier, for an evening feast at the Pretoria branch of Moyo.  There was a nice roving group of Ndebele musical performers.  See the photo of Paul and the kids with their faces painted with something OTHER than US team colors.
 
The following day, we drove into downtown Johannesburg.  My main objective was to visit Constitution Hill and to meet with Jonathan Klaaren, a American who teaches law at the University of the Witswatersrand. After a fruitless search for the office where Mandela and Oliver Tambo had set up their law practice (identified in the usually-reliable LP), we walked over to Gandhi Square, on the site of the courts where he conducted his practice including the legal defense of the rights of his Indian-immigrant countrymen.  I did not recognize him in the statue at first, so accustomed am I to bald-headed images from his time in India.  Then we went up to the Bus Factory, identified in the LP as a craft market.  The place was more artsy than crafty (apparently, the craft stalls had moved out a couple of years before when the craft council moved out; whoever is covering Jozi for the Lonely Planet needs to do a better job of checking back!), but we were glad we went.  There were a few artist studios, including one that works with younger artists on such projects as making objects out of pop-tops.  Sam was intrigued by a painting on wood by a young artist and acquired his first artwork.   There were a few exhibits of work done in the space (see photo of the flower garden made of wire and beads). 
 
We strolled up to the Newtown cultural center to grab a quick bite at the Sophiatown Bar and Lounge, recommended by the energetic proprietor of the gallery where Sam bought his painting.  A poor choice - our order had STILL not arrived after an hour; but the passing parade of locals was fascinating; and there was a nice local marimba band.   We rushed up to Wits for my appointment with Jonathan Klaaren.  He filled me in on what groups are doing what sorts of NGO advocacy work in the country, and answered several questions that I had formulated in light of my conversations at the Open Democracy Advocacy Center in Cape Town the week before.  He also made me feel a little guilty for having enjoyed Cape Town so much more than Johannesburg and Pretoria; he explained that many people like Cape Town more because it is so pretty and safer, but it "doesn't look like the country" - African blacks are only a third of the population . 
 
We agreed to stay in touch.  Who knows - maybe I will get back for a public interest law conference that he is putting together for the fall!
 
By the time our meeting was over, it was after 4 PM, and we were worried about the commuter traffic that we would face driving back to Pretoria (after all we had to pack and come back to Johannesburg for our flight that night).  However, Klaaren stood up for me, persuading Susan and Nancy that it would be a mistake to go back without seeing the Constitutional Court, which, he insisted, we would find inspiring. (Because he has been teaching at Wits since 1993, he has somewhat grown up with the Court)  We got to Constitution Hill less than a half hour before closing.  The Constitutional Court is right next to Hillbrow, the site of several public housing towers and an area every bit as rough as similar neighborhoods in DC, such as Sursum Corda.  The Court was built on the site of the Old Fort prison where both Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Gandhi were confined (see photo of one of the Awaiting Trial cellblocks which has been preserved). 
 
There are tours available of the Old Fort site, but we did not have time for that - we concentrated our visit on the Court.  The Court has jurisdiction of appeals that raise issues under South Africa's new constitution, which guarantees not only civil rights and civil liberties but also social and economic rights.  The building itself was strikingly designed, and teemed with modern artwork (photos).  There was also a panel that discusses the new constitution and summarizes several important cases decided by the court.  I was surprised that an ordinary tourist could just walk into the courtroom (photo); not at all like the heavily guarded Supreme Court of the United States.
 
The commuting traffic out of Johannesburg was bad (and besides, we got lost trying to find out way back to the highway in the gathering dusk).   But we were glad we had made the stop.  The Welsby/Karps had a small brai for our last meal in town, celebrating the 4th of July, and we headed for the airport for our flight back to DC (by way of Amsterdam).  Because we were flying on KLM, we got regular reports on the Netherlands / Uruguay semifinal from the captain.  Wouldn't it be something if the final were played between two teams that have never won the Cup before!

 

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POSTED AT 1:27 PM ET, 07/ 7/2010

Gardens, Slave Lodge and Argentina's Agony

By Paul Alan Levy
 
Nancy and Paul woke up early on our last day in Cape Town and headed off to the Kirstenbosch Gardens while Sam and Joe enjoyed a lazy morning.  The gardens enjoy a lovely spot on the slopes approaching the eastern side of Table Mountain.   We could see where Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine, the recommended routes up and down the mountain from that part of the area, were located (see photo), and Paul resolved that if we ever get back to Cape Town, we should try those routes.  The gardens contained an enormous variety of cycads, proteas and other distinctive South African plants (photos), as well as a small conservatory that was truly packed with rare species (see photos of cycad with an unusual flower, protea, and other plants).
 
We rendezvoused with the boys and headed to the City Bowl where we wanted to see the old Slave Lodge, where the Dutch East India had housed its slaves.  The exhibit about slavery in Cape Town was excellent, but I was disappointed because little of the original Lodge was involved, other than the outer structure.  We then had a quick lunch at Masala Dosa, a neat Indian restaurant run by an Israeli family (the sweet dosa with chocolate chili is especially recommended), then we all walked over to Green Point stadium, hoping to find some tickets we could afford.  Thousands of fans joined the fan walk (photo).  Our plan was for Nancy (who was looking forward to some time for herself assuming Sam, Joe and I got into the game) to play the bad cop in negotiations with scalpers but we were lucky not to have to find out if that strategy would be successful, because we found three tickets whose sellers were asking only face value. 
 
Sam and I had excellent seats in the midfield, 25 rows off the field, beside the two people from whom we had bought our tickets, a Dallas-area Mexican-American family that had bought the Mexico TST (but part of the family had already gone home).  Joe was more in the nose-bleed seats.  Sam had bought an Argentine flag to drape and indeed the support in the stadium was overwhelmingly for Argentina (photos).  That didn't stop Germany from running all over Argentina on the field.  It was an exciting game to watch but we were sad to see the Argentine beautiful game so badly crushed - one of the local papers summarized with the headline "Blitzkrieg!"  Argentine fans near us could been seen sobbing in distress - the World Cup is a big deal.   As we walked back to our hotel from the game, we spotted a cutely attired pro-Argentine local family (photo).  But as we got further from the stadium, most of the locals were calling "Germany, Germany" at us. 
 
We tried to go back to the Victoria and Albert Waterfront to watch Spain play Paraguay over dinner, but the traffic was so bad that it took us over an hour to give up on driving in, park nearby and walk in only to find that all the local watching locales were completely jammed even inside the Victoria Wharf mall. So we drove back to Sea Point and feasted on seafood at a local chain.  We were afraid to root for Spain (our chosen teams have not been doing very well in the single elimination rounds), and indeed the game could have gone the wrong way had the referee not made two key mistakes (calling back Paraguay's perfectly good goal by Valdez, and failing to spot the Spanish encroachment on Cardozo's missed penalty).  But we were thrilled when Spain won, and will be looking forward to watching the Spain / Germany semi-final after we get back to DC.
 
 

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POSTED AT 1:02 PM ET, 07/ 7/2010

Our Decadent Day in the Cape Winelands

By Paul Alan Levy
 
We spent much of the day on July touring the winelands just east of Cape Town.  We drove first to Franschoek, where we sampled wines at the Haute Cabriere and Mont Rochelle vineyards.   The setting was lovely, especially at Haute Cabriere where we sat on a terrace outside the cellar with mountains on three sides (see photo).   The tasting host went on and on about the characteristics of the reds, whites, champagne and brandy that we tried, much like the server in a pretentious restaurant. By and large, we found the wines either ordinary or worse, but we were surprised (sweet wines are usually not my thing) to enjoy a drink called Ratafia, a blend of chardonnay and brandy, so we picked up a couple of bottles to take home.  From there, we drove on to Mont Rochelle (see photo from luncheon area), where we had a light lunch that included an excellent tray of local cheeses.  We felt utterly decadent as we enjoyed another wine sampling.
 
Next we drove to Stellenbosch. In the city center, we visited the Village Museum, a collection of four houses restored to their character in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries when they were built (photo).  There were tour guides in each house, dressed in period costume, although a bit incongruously because the houses were all occupied by Afrikaans gentry but the guides were all Cape Coloured (and looking so similar to each other that we wondered if they were sisters).  
 
Sam and Joe were anxious to see Brazil play the Netherlands on TV, so we made our way next to the Spier wine estate between Stellenbosch and Cape Town. We settled in at their rather circus- like restaurant, Moyo.  They were rooting for Brazil although I warned that Netherlands was going to win the game (a rare accurate prediction for me).  I watched the game with more mixed feelings - generally I love the way Brazil plays, and several Dutch players are thuggish, but I had been disappointed by the exclusion of Ronaldhino from the team, and even more by various statements from members of the team who were quoted as saying that they didn't care whether they were playing jogo bonito, they cared only to win.   Did they and Dunga get what they deserved?  Wesley Sneijder is a beast!
 
Sadly, the buffet did not open until 6; Nancy and the boys ate a bit during the game, but I waited to eat at the buffet, thinking that we could catch a musical performance while eating, and then stay to watch the Uruguay / Ghana game.  But everybody else decided that they were too full to eat dinner; they tolerated my enjoying the excellent but overpriced buffet (as in many other places, a World Cup premium had been tacked onto the price).  Then we headed back to the V&A Waterfront to watch the 8:30 game, so we missed the promised musical performance at Moyo.  We had hoped to enjoy watching the game with African fans, but almost everyplace was packed by the time we arrived; we had to settle for a small pizza joint where the main excitement was provided by a tableful of drunk English fans.   Utter agony for Africa as the game went the full ninety, then thirty minutes of extra time, capped by Gyan's missed penalty.  
 
Africa's last chance of reaching the semifinal was gone.  we were pleased to read in the local press about Nelson Mandela's nice gesture of meeting the Ghana team.

 

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POSTED AT 10:45 AM ET, 07/ 6/2010

Last day in Cape Town...

By Francine Uenuma

We didn't waste a moment of our last day in South Africa. We started with a tour of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was once a political prisoner. The tours are led by other former prisoners-in our case, one who had spent 11 years confined to this island a half hour's boat ride out of Cape Town. The tour includes a visit to the most famous prisoner's cell and the lime quarry where opposition leaders met, and planned, for the future amidst imposed hard labor.

We then climbed Table Mountain, located right next to the heart of the city. It's an arduous hike, but the views from the top are spectacular. And as evidence of the massive influx of tourists, we encountered hikers in UNC, UVA, Harvard and other collegiate gear along the trail. Talk about feeling like an American tourist!

Our day ended at the M'Hudi vineyard between Cape Town and Stellenbosch, where we were treated to a private tasting with the owner. It is among the only black family-owned vineyards in South Africa, and boasts a signature Pinotage, a wine (and grape) that is uniquely South African. Now it's off to the airport for a long, multi-flight journey back to Washington, where we will be watching the final on television. Not quite the same as being in the stadium, but the sound of vuvuzelas will bring us back to our memories from World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

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POSTED AT 2:41 PM ET, 07/ 5/2010

Table Mountain and BoKaap

By Paul  Alan Levy
 
Today we rose early with plans to hike to the top of Table Mountain if weather permitted.  In fact, there were only a few clouds in the sky, so we proceeded.  We drove Tafelberg Road, which runs along side of the mountain, and parked near the lower cable car station.  We walked 15 minutes down the road to the beginning of the Platterklip Gorge trail, and hiked upwards, first through grass and shrubs, then up the gorge (photo) which slowly closed around us (photo)until we reached the top.  Table Mountain is a long and wide flat area - actually, three long flat areas.  The view of Cape Town and surrounding areas, including the coast line stretching to the west, Robben Island in the midst of the ocean and the Cape Peninsula to the south and west, was fabulous (photo).  We had a snack on top, walked around the Western Table, then took the lazy way out by riding the cable car down (see photo).
 
We drove over to Bo Kaap, the "Cape Malay" or Muslim section of town, for lunch at the Noon Gun Tea Room on the slopes of Signal Hill, over looking the city.  The curries and other dishes were delicious, and we enjoyed looking down at the harbor as well as back at Table Mountain as we picked out the route we had hiked (shaded area near middle of photo).  After lunch, we headed to the small Bo-Kaap museum which memorialized the arrival of Muslims in South Africa and the accomplishments of Muslims. There were extensive displays about the celebration of carnival in Cape Town (Kaapse Klopse), including the influence of American black-face minstrelsy (who knew?).   The Muslim and other servants and slaves were required to work for their white masters as they celebrated the New Year on January 1 but had January 2 as a holiday (for many, their only day off all year!), so that was the day of the annual carnival parade.  We learned that BoKaap had escaped the fate of District Six because it was declared a Muslim Group Area - in fact, the result was that Bo Kaap is now the only working class area in downtown Cape Town.
 
Then back to the hotel - Sam and Joe took a soccer ball to play on the beach and/or the lawns above, with plans to head to the Internet café afterward (the hotel's charges for Internet were ridiculous - I hate it when everything besides the room becomes a huge profit center. Protea chain - for shame!).  Paul and Nancy strolled down the beachfront and beach until well after sunset.
 

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POSTED AT 2:39 PM ET, 07/ 5/2010

A blustery day on the Cape Peninsula – followed by exquisite soccer


By Paul Alan Levy
 
With clouds covering Lion's Peak above our hotel window, and rain in the forecast, we bagged our plan to climb Table Mountain and opted to drive around the Cape Peninsula and reach the Cape of Good Hope.  At first, even this seemed a bad choice - after we rounded the impressive Chapman's Peak along the Atlantic coast of the Peninsula (see photo), the rain started lashing down and I could not see even walking a few hundred meters once we reached the bottom of Africa.  When we stopped at Boulders Beach in Simon's Town on the Indian Ocean side of the Peninsula, the rain was so hard that Nancy wouldn't even get out of the car; but those penguins that were not hiding from the pelting rain and hail were certainly cute (see photo).  The culinary choices in Simon's Town did not seem appealing, so we heading up to Kalk Bay for an excellent seafood lunch at Live Bait (thanks to the LP), and while we were eating the rain began to let up. 
 
Heartened by that, we decided to drive into the Cape Peninsula section of the national park; the rain was gone and we could even see patches of blue sky.  The combination of rain and hard wind produces a collection of interesting flora (see photo of the tree leaning hard to the left).   When we reached the Cape of Good Hope, we paused with the sign marking our driving accomplishment (photo) then climbed to the top of the cape for the view (photo).  On the way back we saw a blesbock - a rare antelope with a white face and white rump -  browsing by the ocean (see photo), and drove over to the Cape Point Lighthouse and walked up to the top (photo).  As we drove back toward Chapman's Peak, we saw a lovely sunset and we were all able to leave the car to enjoy the views.
 
We had known that we were going to be in Cape Town on June 29 for several months, and I have been kicking myself for not having the foresight to buy the Round of 16 ticket for that date.  But we were intent on seeing a Cape Town game, and Spain is Joe's favorite team - all three of us love to watch them play, easily our favorite European team.  We got back to our hotel just in time to walk over to the Green Point stadium where we paid a 50% markup for tickets to see Spain play Portugal.  We celebrated our first win of that game - getting through security because we had bought valid tickets (photo).  The stadium was lovely, easily the nicest stadium we have been in (see photos), although Soccer City may well be equally nice - Joe in particular is sad that our decision to linger in Cape Town will make us miss seeing a game at that stadium, which looks so nice from the outside.  (Shona, Max and Craig used our tickets, and confirmed that the stadium is as nice inside as it is outside).  Sam and Joe scored Category One tickets, albeit way up in the nosebleed part of the stadium; my Category Four seat was behind the goal, two levels up.  The views from all seats was terrific.  At halftime I learned that, even though the stadium was almost full, the one empty seat in Sam and Joe's section was right next to them, so we were able to watch the second half together. 
 
And, what soccer!   Levels above anything we had seen in our three Group C games.  Apart from the ineffectiveness of both Ronaldo and Torres, flopping and complaining all the way, the passing, the shot attempts, and finally David Villa's fine goal.  It was amazing to think that half of the players on the pitch for Spain were from Barca, my favorite club team outside the United States.  We were ecstatic along with the rest of the Spain fans (see photo).  As we walked back to our hotel, we stopped in a Portuguese restaurant for dinner.  We felt badly at 11:15 after we placed our order, thinking it was our fault that the staff had to hang around instead of going home to bed. But then the Portuguese fans began pouring in, and by the time we left at midnight the place was jumping.
 
 

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POSTED AT 2:35 PM ET, 07/ 5/2010

Learning about history and the current struggle in Cape Town's City Bowl

By Paul Alan Levy
 
This morning we set out for a visit to the District Six museum, www.districtsix.co.za, which recounts a Cape Town "urban renewal" project undertaken with an apartheid twist that made it sound truly malevolent compared to the US history of urban renewal a/k/a "negro removal" projects, which have been at best a mixed bag.  District Six was a vibrant downtown neighborhood, some of which was run down but made a home for more than 60,000 residents.  In 1966, pursuant to the 1950 Group Areas Act, the South African government declared District Six in Cape Town to be a White Group Area, requiring all black, Asian and colored people to move out, after which their residences and shops were bulldozed; the new name for the neighborhood, Zonnebloem, still appears on highway signs.  These residents were supposed to be moved to the Cape Flats, but either no provision or insufficient provision was made for their housing there.  Neighbors were separated from neighbors and from proximity to their places of employment, religious worship.
 
The District Six museum, housed in an old church in the neighborhood (see photos) commemorates the pass laws and the forced removal as well as story of land claims advanced after the end of the apartheid area.  The organization of the museum was a bit confusing but the detailed accounts drawn from interviews with victims of the removals, along with photographs, copies of newspaper accounts, and original artifacts, form a compelling portrayal of the impact of apartheid on the lives of individuals and on a whole community.  As on Robben Island, the staff are former victims who participate in making history real for visitors; Sam and Joe chatted with a book store employee whose interview had been excerpted in exhibits displayed on the walls of the museum.
 
While the rest of the family continued at District Six, I walked over to the Open Democracy Action Project for a chat with two attorneys about the struggle to implement democratic practices in South Africa.   Michelle Desai and Fola Adeleke discussed their efforts to use litigation and lobbying, respectively, to secure access to government information.  Because Public Citizen, where I work, has been a leader in litigation under the Freedom of Information Act, we were able to share experiences.  ODAC has recently been arguing for the application of the Vaughn index, a procedure for litigating FOI cases that Public Citizen developed in the 1970's (when our statute was roughly ten years old, as South Africa's statute is now).   It appeared to me that one of the most important impediments to implementation of the South African statute on access to information, apart from general ignorance of its provisions among lawyers and judges, is the fact that the rule of "loser pays," under which the loser in a lawsuit automatically has to pay the legal fees of the winner, also extends to cases against the government.  So the ordinary citizen who wants information about how her government works can be at risk for hundreds of thousands of dollars if she loses.  Apparently, the hourly rates of litigators in South Africa can be as high as the exorbitant fees charged by American lawyers.
 
Afterward, I met up with the family and we strolled past the Houses of Parliament (see photo of statue of Victoria and a building housing Parliamentary chambers with an inspirational banners a bout the life of Nelson Mandela) and the Company's Garden with its collection of South African flora and some great old trees (see photo). The park had a collection of zebra statues in different poses (see photo of a John Deere-like zebra, like the pandas and elephants and donkeys that have graced the streets of DC and the cows that we saw in Brussels a few years ago.   We also passed a vendor selling soccer jerseys and cleats with national team colors made out of beads (a local craft tradition - see photo)  We finished our afternoon downtown at Charly's Bakery (see photo of cakes in the form of a soccer ball on a pitch and a Bafana Bafana jersey); the boys wanted to head back to our hotel to stroll along the beach where unusually large waves were crashing.
 
 
 

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