Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Wake of the Vikings: Reykjavik and Thingvellir in Iceland

We can’t believe our good luck, after the clouds and rain in Oslo, Bergen and being shut out of Lerwick, here we are in Iceland, and the weather is PERFECT. Perfect, that is, if you are an Alaska girl who loves to chill 😉 as AdventureMan debates whether or not he needs to wear his long underwear to keep warm.

The cruise director, Aaron Syfert, has told all of us, his cruise-children, to dress “like onions,” in layers, so that we can dress down if possible, and be warm enough when it is really cold. As we enter the bus, we have three or four layers; within minutes, there is a loud outcry from those aboard “Please turn down the heat!” In our full-up onion garb, it is really hot. The driver laughs and said he had wanted us to be warm enough, and turns down the heat until everyone is happy.

We drive through part of Reykjavik en route to our first stop, and the place I have wanted to see the most, Thingviller.

I have a thing about sacred spots, that it seems to me that there are some places in the world where the interface between this world and . . . the next? . . . the former? . . . .the alternate? . . . the interface is thin and perhaps not open, but permeable. Thingviller is a very very old place, a place where all those spread out in rural Iceland would gather to made decisions for the community. It was one of the most ancient forms of democracy, or democracy of a sort, of course it was mostly chieftains making the decisions, advised by their counsel, and while those decision makers were probably mostly men, they made decisions by consensus, and vote, for the greater good of the community.

Some of the decisions they reached would chill you. You will see a waterfall, below, by which there is a pond where violates of the law were drowned. Our guide tells us that most of them were women who had children out of wedlock. “What happened to the men?” one guest asked. “They were beheaded, if they could be found, if they could be identified,” she replied. She added that most of the time, the women went to their death without identifying the man who had impregnated her.

Geologically, Thingviller is fascinating. Thingviller is a huge rift between two tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Euro/Asian Plate. I had known of “The Thing” the Viking Thing, about the decision making places, but it wasn’t until Digg, or one of the other news sourcing articles I get told me in some spectacular photos from around the world, that I knew about the rift. There were photos underwater, photos of daring young divers with one hand and foot on the North American Plate and the other on the EuroAsian Plate, truly spectacular. I wanted to visit the decision making place, and I wanted to visit the rift.

Last – and not least – Thingviller is one of the locations where Game of Thrones is shot, many of the scenes north of The Wall and of The Wall are shot here. It gives us a thrill, first Spain and the Alcazar and Alhambra, then Dubrovnik, and now Iceland, we are on a roll.

We had a great day, a truly great day, and the weather held. For me, Thingviller was worth the trip to Iceland.

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September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Travel, Weather | , , , , | 4 Comments

Wake of the Vikings: Vikings in the Faroe Islands

We can’t say enough good things about the Viking business model, and we are critical travelers. We headed out on a tour this morning, we who are not good at touring in groups, and had to give our admiration to the facility with which Viking gets large numbers of people on the ground and going out and learning something. When you book a cruise, there are always “included” tours, included means you don’t pay extra. The included tours are usually overviews, often panoramic, i.e. you get in a bus and drive and stop now and then for a photo. Everyone who wants a tour gets a tour.

Having lived overseas most of our married life, we know that it is so much easier to stay comfortable than to go out and see something and learn something. About 10% of people will make it happen for themselves, another 80% will go if it is made easy enough, and 10% will never go. In the Embassies, that 10% will hang out at the American Club or the Marine Bar, and if military, shop almost exclusively at the PX (BX, Navy Exchange) and commissary.

Viking makes it easy. The night before we reach a port, there is a Port Talk, where the local currency is explained, a few good phrases (usually like “good morning” and “thank you”) taught, and photos and videos (all very full of sunshine) are shown to give you an idea what to expect. The daily newsletter always tells you how to say “Please take me back to my ship” in the appropriate language. Buses show up on time. There are enough guides for all the passengers. The guides have the patience of Job.

Our guide for Vistas, Vikings, and Village Woodturner was very very good. I don’t really know that I learned a lot about Vikings. Really, Vikings raided a little, intermarried a little, and are just a part of the history of the Faroes, the way Angles and Picts and the Norse are a part of the English. We had a very good guide, a funny man who often broke into song, and who has probably attended to more tourists than is good for him.

 

There were sheep everywhere, including sleeping alongside the road. Drivers are all very careful, because if you hurt a sheep, you pay the owner like $500. for his loss. The sheep were every color from white to brown, and black, and spotted white and brown and black. If I lived in the Faeroe Islands I would learn to sheer and card sheep wool, and spend evenings spinning the raw wool into threads for weaving into cloth and yarns. I’ve always wanted to learn to spin. LOL, too late to be a spinster 😉


What do I think is a good guide? This man told us a lot about life on the Faroes, about choices people make. Do they want to be a part of Denmark or not? It would require an election, and people can figure about half want one thing and half want another, and no matter who won, it would be narrow and cause turmoil, so why spend all that money on an election, just leave things as they are.

 

We head to the village of Kvivik to see the Viking longboat remains, or where they once were, and then to Leynar to visit the Village Woodman.

Below are stone built salmon jumps, old technology, but with devices which keep count of each salmon who climbed the steps, new technology. Can you see how green and lovely everything is, evan as fall approaches?


Drama Drama Drama! Who could be bored when the weather changes every minute with such verve and gusto?

We are always interested in how people choose to live. Our guide explains that houses often contain three generations, the grandmother, the mother, and the daughter. Isn’t that an interesting way to describe it? We tend to think in male-ownership terms, but these houses are communal based on matrilineal lines.

I wonder where daughters-in-law fit in?

 

Look closely here, a man is up on his turf roof, trimming things down for the winter.

Viking longboat site

They teach their children three important rules. 1. Be kind. 2. Be kind. 3. When one and two fail, be kind.

He told us how houses are built, and how people help one another get their houses built. They are taught “better that many are not poor than that a few are rich.” We did not see a single dump any where in our journey took us; everything was clean and well-kept. People are fined heavily for dropping trash. There are only two policemen in the Faroes, and there is no prison, there is so little crime. “Where would you run? Where would you hide?” he asks. “Everyone would know you, so you don’t do it.”

He told us that many of the families of the Faroes were started by Norsemen who found local girls and were afraid to go home and face their wives, who were waiting for them with big sticks. He made us laugh, and laughter always helps us understand.

He took us into a beautiful little church, beautiful finished wood on the inside (see below) and he sang to us a familiar hymn, in Faraoese, Nearer My God to Thee. It was so sweet, and so beautiful, my eyes teared. He told us he waited 30 years to get married, and was the first one to wed once the Danish stopped insisting on state churches. (The church is now Lutheran.)

The Faero Islands reminds me of where I grew up, in Alaska, where neighbors held that same kind of concern for one another and for the communal life. We lived on an island full of Scandinavian immigrant families, along with the native Haida, Aleut, Tlingket, and occasional Inuit. It never mattered that we differed, when someone needed help, we helped. A neighbor didn’t go hungry, their children didn’t go unclothed. I remember the delight when our neighbor passed along her daughter’s lightly used clothing they had outgrown, and we could wear it. I remember one skirt in particular, a grey and yellow plaid Pendleton skirt which I wore for years, and maybe fifteen years later my old neighbor saw me wear it and said “I used to have a skirt just like that!” and I laughed and said “This is your skirt!” When you have a Pendleton skirt, you can wear it for the rest of your life; they wear so well. We were frugal people, and we never wanted for anything. We shared what we had.

 

I got the impression that actually the guide doesn’t much like Americans. It didn’t matter, he was kind, he was professional, and I believe he gave a great value for the money. He shared the truth of his culture as he lives it and was fair to us. That’s good enough.

I can’t give you a lot of information about the photos, only that I took what I thought would give you an idea of what life on the Faroe Islands might look like. For me, this was a great day, very little rain, even some sunshine, and I learned about a culture I really like. I like that they teach their children: Be Kind. Be Kind. Be Kind.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Character, Civility, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Values | , , , | Leave a comment

Please Call 646-781-7061

This morning we got another phone call from the “IRS” saying it was our final notice that they were filing a suit against us.  We are actually in pretty good contact with the IRS ourselves, and this scam phone call doesn’t even give our hearts a tiny flutter.

 

But it does make me angry, thinking of the vulnerable people who may panic, who may fall for this and call them back, who may even, in all good faith, believe that this is the way the IRS operates and end up sending them money.

 

Those of you who have time on your hands might want to call the number and tell them what you think. If you are an IRS official, even better. People who prey on other people for their livelihood need to find another way to earn a living.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | Communication, Crime, Lies, Money Management, Rants, Scams | | 1 Comment

“Yes Ma’am, That Was For a Bus Ticket to Mexico”

“We see it all the time.”

As long as we lived overseas, AdventureMan and I never had a problem with our credit cards. I used ATM’s all over Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to make cash withdrawals when I needed what my Mom calls “jingle money,” you know, walking-around money for lunch out, for fabrics in the souks, for whatever we needed cash for. It was easy, and it must have been safe. We never once had a problem.

 

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Now, we’ve had to change our numbers several times.

This one was particularly odd, though. I got a second notice on a card I call my “hurricane” card. When you live in Florida, massive calamity can happen literally overnight. You may have to suddenly evacuate to a strange city and need funds for emergency housing, and housing the pets. No running to the bank for a withdrawal when an area has been destroyed by a tornado; it can take months for infrastructure to be back up and running normally.

The charge was made just after we returned from traveling, so my first instinct was to check my wallet, and the card was not there. Oddly, while it was my account, it was AdventureMan’s card, which has a different number. He assures me he never made the change. I believe him; I find both cards safely tucked away, unused, in a safe place.

I call the bank. I explain that we had been traveling, but neither of us think we made this charge, the only charge on this card, the card we not only never use, but don’t even keep in our wallets. The bank lady takes a look and laughs and says “Oh yes. That was a bus ticket to Mexico. We’ve seen that before.”

Long story short, this kind of fraud has become so routine that they have routine practices that go immediately into effect to protect us, to protect their other customers and to restore our hurricane card.

But when she said it was for a bus ticket to Mexico, I burst out laughing, and all my anxiety disappeared in a heartbeat. No. I did not charge a bus ticket to Mexico, and neither did AdventureMan.

It’s just so odd, to me. These are cards that have never even been in our wallets. They never leave their safe place. How was someone able to use them?

December 8, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Crime, Customer Service, Doha, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, fraud, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Scams, Survival, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

“Guido Brunetti Sent Us” (Rosa Rossa Restaurant)

AdventureMan and I read a series of detective novels set in Venice by author Donna Leon, who lives there. Commissario Guido Brunetti is a patient, thoughtful and smart detective, working under a lazy, corrupt and greedy boss in a country rife with corruption. Each book has a social issue in Venice as its topic, and not lightweight topics – the arrogance of dumping trash, boatloads of trash, off the coast of Somalia (had you ever heard of that before? Neither had I. But it is true, and it has ruined traditional Somali fishing), big pharma and tainted drugs, sex tourism and human trafficking, governmental bribery – Donna Leon fearlessly tackles them all.

Guido Brunetti loves Venice, and he loves his family. His solace in life is his wife, a professor of literature at the university, and his two children. His wife cooks meals that make the reader’s mouth water as they read, or Guido and one of his lieutenants will stop at a restaurant for lunch.

In one of the books, “Blood From a Stone,” American tourists give evidence to a stabbing they witness on their way to dinner. To thank them for their help, he directs them to a GOOD Venetian restaurant, and tells them to say Guido Brunetti sent them.

We don’t say that. No matter how real Guido Brunetti has become to us, we know he is not real, and we don’t say he sent us. But we do take the tiny winding back lanes to find Rosa Rossa, and while we order familiar salads, we also order Venetian specialities for our main courses.

Rosa Rossa on a tiny but busy street:

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AdventureMan’s favorite salad; he loves Caprese:

 

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I had a garden salad:

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I love black spaghetti, or Pasta Nero. It is made with squid, and squid ink, and I first had it at a lovely dinner a long time ago in Damascus, Syria, served by a beautiful Italian who swore t me that this dish is Southern Italian. If so, I ordered it anyway, in honor of Beatrice, and it was delicious.

 

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AdventureMan ordered Pasta with Squid and pepperoncini, and he said it was very piquant, and that he has never eaten so much squid in his life at one time.

 

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We passed on dessert, knowing we still had miles to walk, and possibly a gelato toward the end. We had such a short time to enjoy Venice, searching for and finding Rosa Rossa was a lot of fun, and a great adventure. They took good care of us, and the food was delicious.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Detective/Mystery, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Italy, Local Lore, Restaurant, Venice | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best of Humanity Came Fighting Back . . .

I don’t know which were straight, which were gay, which were black, or which were hispanic. What I do know is that they came to us in wave upon wave of suffering, screaming, and death. And somehow, in that chaos, doctors, nurses, technicians, police, paramedics, and others, performed super human feats of compassion and care.

 

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These are my work shoes from Saturday night. They are brand new, not even a week old. I came to work this morning and saw these in the corner my call room, next to the pile of dirty scrubs. 
I had forgotten about them until now. On these shoes, soaked between its fibers, is the blood of 54 innocent human beings. I don’t know which were straight, which were gay, which were black, or which were hispanic. What I do know is that they came to us in wave upon wave of suffering, screaming, and death. And somehow, in that chaos, doctors, nurses, technicians, police, paramedics, and others, performed super human feats of compassion and care.
This blood, which poured out of those patients and soaked through my scrubs and shoes, will stain me forever. In these Rorschach patterns of red I will forever see their faces and the faces of those that gave everything they had in those dark hours.
There is still an enormous amount of work to be done. Some of that work will never end. And while I work I will continue to wear these shoes. And when the last patient leaves our hospital, I will take them off, and I will keep them in my office. I want to see them in front of me every time I go to work. For on June 12, after the worst of humanity reared its evil head, I saw the best of humanity come fighting right back. I never want to forget that night.

Dr. Joshua Corsa M.D, EMT-P
Orlando Regional Medical Center
Senior Resident, Department of Surgery

Orlando Health Pulse Orlando

June 15, 2016 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Values | , , | 2 Comments

God Shows No Partiality

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Who can help but think of “wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice” as we listen to the daily news?

In today’s readings from the Lectionary, the first reading has to do with one of the earliest manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and this second reading  ends with how the glory of God is for everyone, the Jew and also the Greek (of you might add, the American, and also the Moslem, or the Republicans, and also the Democrats), that God shows no partiality.

We all seem to shout “Go God!”, our own particular interpretation of God, and think that only we have it right.

What I do love, is that when a demented one kills in the name of God, the one true God rallies his true followers, whether in Syria, or Orlando, or Paris, or Nairobi, he rallies the hearts of his true followers to love one another, and to show that love by helping and serving one another, brother and sister, people of all colors and all nations and all religions and all sexes. God tells us to love him and to serve one another, and to leave all judgement to Him/Her.

Romans 1:28-2:11

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters,* insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.

2Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2You say,* ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ 3Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God? 4Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. 6For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.11For God shows no partiality.

Enter another bible reference:


oremus Bible Browser
biblemail@oremus.org
v 2.2.7
10 February 2011

June 15, 2016 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Cultural, Faith, Free Speech, Interconnected, Relationships | , , | Leave a comment

Qatar Jails Raped Dutch Woman for Sex Outside Marriage

Abu Dhabi (CNN)A Dutch woman who has been in jail in Qatar since mid-March after she reported being raped, has been found guilty of “illicit consensual fornication” and being “drunk in a public place.”

At a court hearing in Doha Monday, the 22-year old, whom CNN has identified only as Laura, was handed a one-year suspended sentence and placed on probation for three years for the sex-related charge, and fined 3,000 Qatari Riyals ($823) for being drunk outside a licensed location.
She’ll almost certainly be deported immediately.
A Syrian man also appeared alongside her and was found guilty of the same crimes. He was sentenced to 100 lashes for the illicit fornication charge and a further 40 lashes for the illegal consumption of alcohol. As a Muslim he is not allowed to drink at all under Qatari law. 
No mention was made of the rape accusation during proceedings. Neither defendant was present in court, in what was the third hearing in the case.
According to Brian Lokollo, a lawyer who was hired by the woman’s family, Laura was at a hotel bar having drinks with a friend in the Qatari capital, but then had a drink that made her feel “very unwell.” 
She reportedly woke up in an unfamiliar location and realized “to her great horror” that she had been raped after her drink was spiked, Lokollo said.
When she reported the rape to the police, she herself was imprisoned. 
The Dutch government and its embassy in Doha have been in close contact with Laura and her family in the Netherlands. Addressing reporters after the court hearing, the Dutch ambassador to Qatar, Yvette Burghgraef-van Eechoud, said: “We will do everything we can to get her out of the country as soon as possible to where she says she wants to go.”
She added that Laura has appealed for her privacy to be respected.
 
The Qatari authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.

Adultery a crime

“Fornication outside of marriage,” is a crime in Qatar as well as other countries in the conservative Muslim Gulf regardless of the marital status of those involved.
According to Qatar’s Penal Code 2004 (Law No. 11), “anyone who copulates with a female above sixteen without compulsion, duress or ruse is convicted to no more than seven years in prison. The same penalty is also imposed on the female for her consent.”
In the nearby United Arab Emirates in 2013, a Norwegian woman who reported being raped by a colleague was sentenced to 16 months in jail, charged for having unlawful sex, making a false statement and the illegal consumption of alcohol.
Marte Deborah Dalelv was later pardoned by Dubai’s ruler.

June 13, 2016 Posted by | Crime, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Qatar | | Leave a comment

“My Mother Poisoned My Food!”

I’ve been disappointed recently, most of the scammers don’t go to the trouble to be believable. You know, the President of Wells Fargo writes me an e-mail about my account that has several mis-spellings, or my nephew who has been arrested and needs help desperately uses really bad grammar.

This scammer, however, has gone to some trouble to be interesting, if not believable.

Hello My Beloved, this is Ms Naomi Solomon from Estonia writing from hospital here in Ivory Coast; therefore this email is very urgent to attend. I want you to know that I’m dying here in this hospital right now which i don’t know if i will see some few days to come.
My Beloved, i was informed by my doctor that i got poisoned and it affected my liver and i can only live for some days. The reason why i contacted you today is because i know that my step mother wanted to kill me and take my inheritance from my late Father. I have a little adopted child named Andrew C. Brown that i adopted in this Country when my late Father was alive and $3.5 million Dollars i inherited from my late father. My step mother and her children they are after Andrew right now because they found out that Andrew was aware of the poison, and because i handed the documents of the fund over to him the day my step Mother poisoned my food, for that reason they do not want Andrew to expose them, so they are doing everything possible to kill him.

My Beloved, please i want you to help him out of this country with the money, he is the only one taking good care of me here in this hospital right now and even this email you are reading now he is the one helping me out. I want you to get back to me so that he will give you the documents of the fund and he will direct you to a well known lawyer that i have appointed, the lawyer will assist you to change the documents of the fund to your name to enable the bank transfer the money to you..
This is the favor i need when you have gotten the fund:

(1) Keep 20% of the money for Andrew until he finish his studies to become a man as he has been there for me as my lovely Son and i promised to support him in life to become a medical Doctor because he always desire for it with the scholarship he had won so far. I want you to take him along with you to your country and establish him as your son.
(2) Give 20% of the money to handicap people and charity organization. The remaining 60% should be yours for your help to Andrew.
Note; This should be a code between you and my son Andrew in this transaction “Hospital” any mail from him, the Lawyer he will direct you to, without this code “Hospital” is not from the Andrew, the Lawyer or myself as i don’t know what will happen to me in the next few hours.

Finally, write me back so that Andrew will send you his pictures to be sure of whom you are dealing with. Andrew is 14years now, therefore guide him. And if i don’t hear from you i will look for another person or any organization.
May Almighty God bless you and use you to accomplish my wish. Pray for me always.

Ms Naomi Solomon

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Crime, Cultural, Financial Issues, Nigeria, Scams | , , | 2 Comments

“You’ll Never Get Another Credit Card, F@%&ing B!}@h”

As a friend and I were talking today, a call came in on my land line. Very very odd – the call is from me! I answered the call, and a robogirl told me that there was no problem with my credit card, but my company wanted to give me a better rate. Just press 9 to speak with a service person who could help me.

I pressed 9, and got JuJu, very clearly Indian, who started talking about how smart I was to want a better rate. I told him I didn’t want a better rate, I wanted him to take us off his list, that we are on the do not call list. He said he wasn’t a telemarketer, he was calling from our credit card company. “Which company is that?” I asked, because we have a variety, each of which we use for a specific purpose. “Oh, we represent blah blah, and blah blah blah, and blah de blah” he said airily, and I am laughing because we don’t have any of those cards.

“We don’t have any of those cards, please connect me to your supervisor, I want our names taken off your list. We have never given permission for these kinds of phone calls,” I stated.

He started cursing me a blue streak, ending with “I am putting a black mark on your credit report right now! I am blackening your credit! You will never have another credit card, (expletive expletive expletive!!”

At this point, I put him on speaker-phone. My friend listened with me in horror as he cursed and swore and threatened. When I said his special offer didn’t interest me, he started in all over again. By this point, I am laughing, it is so unthinkable, he can’t be from a real marketing service. Finally, he hung up on me, and my friend and I just looked at each other, wide-eyed.

I called one of our banks and told the customer service person what had happened, and he said it’s totally a scam. The guy wanted my credit card information. I’m seriously thinking of getting rid of our land line.

 

May 5, 2016 Posted by | Civility, Crime, Cultural, Customer Service, Financial Issues, Marketing | | Leave a comment