To Me, the Girl in Marseille- Here's What You Should Know

Hello,

Right now you are walking in hot weather in a black dress that will inevitably lead to slight sunburns on your shoulders. You’re walking past many boats on the still water and smelling the slight scent of soap around every corner. You’re avoiding speaking French (much to Mom’s dismay), and you’re sitting on the terrace at night soaking it all in. While here, you will come to the realization that you are ready for college. You will remember that you are prepared and while you may be anxious, you are able. With that said, I think there are some things you should know.

Nothing will go as planned. And I mean literally nothing. You will come in as English major and absolutely hate it. But you’ll meet a good friend who is also in your acting class. Speaking of acting class, it will be the only good thing about Fall Quarter. Your job will be hard. You will struggle to feel safe most of the time. You’ll go back to therapy for a bit. You’ll almost fail a class. But, like I said, acting class will be your saving grace. Through this class, you will meet all of your new friends. And the girl who does the monologue during week two that scares you? She’ll be your roommate Winter and Spring Quarters. Yeah, everything changes. You’ll try Social Work for a bit, and while it will teach you many things, you’ll eventually leave that behind too (due to you not wanting to be a social worker. Surprise surprise).

The good new is, through that experience, you will learn about Drama Therapy, and that will change your life goals. Your desire to help people through theatre will finally have a name, and your reason for going to school will finally have a tangible purpose. You will change your major to Global Communications so you can go to the people who have been pushed away and let them tell their stories. You will decide to go back to your 12 year old self’s dreams and combine your interest in psychology and neuroscience with your 17 years old self’s dreams of working in theatre, and choose the path of becoming a Trauma Informed Drama Therapist and Theatre Educator. I take it back, one thing will remain the same- your minor in Drama, and with that your love for theatre. The people will become your family in ways you didn’t think possible. Let yourself open up and let them in.

In terms of travel, nothing will go to plan there, either. You won’t go to England or Montreal for spring break, but instead you will go to Seattle where you’ll see your favorite poets perform. You’ll do what you’d once said you’d never do, and go home for a couple days of spring break. It will be good. Your summer is looking to be completely different than you once thought, too, but that’s a conversation for another post. You aren’t going to England next year like you assumed would happen for the last fifteen years. Instead, you’re looking at being in Spain for the Fall of 2020. But, who knows, maybe that won’t happen as planned either.

You won’t find love right away, and that’s okay. I know, I know. You completely assumed that by going to a school dubbed Western Wedding University, you’d have your fair share of romantic endeavors this year. You were definitely wrong, and I’d suggest avoiding the month of November all together (and don’t attempt to repeat it in January. I’m serious, Claira. Don’t do it). On that same note, showmances are dumb. You know this already. Please remember it. While you may have moments of loneliness when you look at your friend group and find that half of your friends are there because they are dating people you were friends with first, you will still be okay. This feels like a good time to mention the next thing you should know…

…Everything happens when it is supposed to. I’ve shared this quote before, and by now you know it well, but here it is again:

“If it is right, it happens- the main thing is not to hurry.
Nothing good gets away.”
~ John Steinbeck

Steinbeck wasn’t kidding, and neither am I. When something is supposed to happen, it will. You were supposed to be Girl #2 in Les Mis, but, as it happens, you were also supposed to be Meg in A Wrinkle in Time. Don’t hurry yourself, because- seriously- nothing good gets away. If the thing you thought was good disappears, it wasn’t good for you. It wasn’t for you in the first place. Be thankful for the changes, and allow everything to happen as it does, because…

… Everything is going to be okay. You won’t fail your math class. You’ll find good friends. You’ll be part of every production the Drama Department has (whether on purpose or by accident. *cough* Charlie Brown *cough*). In about a month, you will make a list of all your biggest fears in moving away and starting school. Some of those things will happen. But, I promise you, it will either all work out for good or turn out not to be bad at all.

A couple random pieces of advice- always, always, always keep enough money in your bank account to buy coffee creamer before tech weeks. It may seem silly, but as non addicted to coffee as you may be, you don’t want to be buying Dutch Bros. every day in order to get through the long, late hours of extra rehearsals. Befriend the girl in your acting class who sits next to you in the employment office one afternoon. She’ll play your mom in about seven months, and she’ll be one of the best people you meet this year. Maybe hold off on publishing that letter to the Adventist church. At least wait until after midterms are over. Keep going for evening walks, they’ll save your brain from overthinking. With that, meditate more. Write everything down. This year has been one for the books, and it’s not even over yet. Keeping thinking you can do this, because you can.

Love,

Me.

Me, in Marseille (July, 2018)

Me, in Marseille (July, 2018)

Dear 2018

Dear January,
January, what can I say. You were many things- travel, lack of travel. Books, lack of books. Music, and silence. You had a couple good weeks and two very terrible ones. With you there was death, cold water, and spirals of anxiety. But there was also the beginning of musical rehearsals, and good books, and some really good laughter with really good people. I suppose I needed you to begin, but, January, I'm not sure I liked you all that much. Yes, you brought some good. But there were more tears shed than were necessary. You did, however, bring with you moments of practiced confidence and healthy confrontation, and for that I am thankful. Until we meet again,

~ Claira 

Dear February,
Oh February. You've always been a bit of a filler, but this year you were the good kind. Not much happened, but the things that did happen were good. Birthdays, basketball games, and flowers. I didn't love you, February, but I didn't dislike you, either. I was slightly bored, took only a few pictures, and watched Queer Eye about three times, but overall the 28 days were okay. See you next year, 

~ Claira

Dear March,
March, I love you. You pushed my fears further than I may have wanted, but those memories will stay with me for a long time. With you I climbed to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral, told my story in front of my school, and went to LA and sat in front of the star wall at the Griffith Observatory. I bonded with my cousins, laughed on car rides with my mom, and wrote good pieces that I'm proud of. Pirates of Penzance had it's opening night, and I was genuinely consistently happy for the first time in a while. I'll miss you, 

~ Claira 

Dear April,
Dearest April, I don't even know where to begin. Birthdays, three performances of the musical, poetry, and lots of laughter. You were exactly what I needed when I needed it. You let me live a little easier, work hard, and face my fears. You gave me space to breath, and that is something I needed. From the musical performances to the music tour, I'm very thankful for all the music you brought with you. Thank you for four weeks of calming chaos, 

~ Claira 

Dear May,
May, I loved you and hated you. You brought mountains of stress and anxiety, but some really good things happened at the same time and I'm still trying to understand that. You started with a screaming robot baby and ended with finals, and I'd say that's a pretty good way to describe you overall. In your four weeks, I set up my final school vespers as the Religious Vice President, had my last banquet as a high schooler, and spent hours trying to finish my online math class. I spoke in front of a church and tried to express how much I love my school in the span of 5 minutes, and got to see my old high school class graduate. May, you were a good closing chapter to my high school experience, and I'm glad I had you. Until next time, 

~ Claira 

Dear June,
A calm month, you were what I so desperately needed. June, you brought welcome changes and some scary prospects. I cut my hair shorter than it's been for nine years, and I started my trek into The Great Unknown in terms of the career I want so badly. Mornings were spent reading and taking care of new plants, afternoons were for my internship at the theatre, and evenings and nights were spent watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and season two of Queer Eye. You were a welcome reminder that sometimes I need solitude, and yet you still gave me moments to reach out to those around me. I can't wait to see where I'll be next time we meet, 

~ Claira 

Dear July,
July, I don't even know where to begin! You started off awfully slow, but ended up being a month where quieter dreamers were realized. I traveled to France (and Luxembourg!), closed the chapter on my first book (though it may be a while before the world sees it, if it ever does), and finally started to feel ready for the next chapter of my life to begin. Thank you for good days of travel and sun, of bravery and opportunities. I can tell this is a July that will be compared to other Julys...

~ Claira 

Dear August,
This dear month is one where I regained motivation for this website, read a few short books to add to my list, and tried to soak up as much of Sacramento as possible before leaving for Washington. I said goodbye to friends as they left for college, and tried to push myself to be as social as possible. I went to church for the first time in forever, and had some epiphanies along the way. I got my drivers permit and housesat for my grandparents, and just had a really good month. August, I think I really will miss you. Thank you for these weeks,

~ Claira

Dear September,
Oh September, September... This month was certainly one for the books. Two weeks of slight crazy with packing for college and waves of nostalgia, and then two more weeks of major crazy as I unpacked in a dorm room, went through orientation, and tried to adjust to the whole "I'm a college student" thing. I went back to days of tests and quizzes and nights of studying for said tests and quizzes. I was once again greeted with my love for acting and theatre and have been reminded time and time again of why I want to do what I want to do. Thank you, September. This time next year will be completely new again, but I can’t wait to see what it will be like,

~ Claira

Dear October,
With you I entered my final year of teenage-dom, and I'm finally starting to see that as a good thing. With you my days were spent in coffee shops writing blog posts and in the library analyzing Chaucer and Shakespeare. My nights were filled with music and swing dancing, and I started to form lasting friendships. October, you gave me a bigger family in more ways than one. You gave me opportunities to practice productivity without motivation, and you gave me the chance to look ahead to the exciting things my future has in store. 19 is looking good, October, and I am so excited to see what comes next,

~ Claira

Dear November,
These 30 days were some of the craziest of college life so far. I continued to deal with the aftermath of going semi-Adventist-viral. I helped with the drama department’s production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I practiced for an emotional scene performance during two of the most stressful weeks of college I’ve had. My social circle expanded and I stopped spending all my time on campus (it gets old after a while). November, you were full of theatre and laughter. You brought me home for a little bit and brought me back to school for one more week of normalcy before finals hit. Thank you for being a month of good change,

~ Claira

Dear December,
Goodness gracious, December, you were a million things in one. There were finals to be studied for and lines to be memorized, and I finally changed my major to something I really love. There were late night drives to get milkshakes and game nights with so much laughter. I completed my last math class and survived the end of Fall Quarter. Upon returning home for Christmas Break I was finally able to catch-up with friends from high school who I hadn’t seen since graduation. I spent some much needed time with my family and ate Christmas cookies and watched Hallmark movies. December, thank you for simultaneously reminding me how to get through the hard stuff and yet showing me all the good in the world. Thank you for being a wonderful closing chapter,

~ Claira


Dear 2018,
2018, I don’t even know where to begin with you. I came into this year knowing it had to be different than 2017. It had to be happier and it had to have more good memories attached than bad. 2018, you exceeded my expectations. I wrote and performed poetry. I worked in a theatre and with a drama department. I traveled and cut my hair. I earned my drivers permit after a year and half of work. I started college and somehow managed to finish the first quarter. I ran and biked so many miles I’ve lost count. I took care of myself and learned how to maintain my own happiness while trying to help others find theirs. I told my story. I wrote my heart. I put my soul into my work. 2018, you were such a beautiful twelve months and I am going to miss you horribly. Thank you so, so much,

~ Claira

To the Seventh Day Adventist Church

To the Seventh Day Adventist Church,

My name is Claira Eastwood. I was dedicated when I was baby and baptized when I was twelve. I have gone to SDA schools and churches my entire life, and I currently attend an SDA university. My dad is a pastor and I grew up spending lots of time in churches. I went to an SDA summer camp from 2009-2013. I was the Religious Vice President my senior year of high school, and I have taught two sixth grade classes baptismal studies. I have spent countless hours, days, and weeks in churches and on retreats. Since birth, the Seventh Day Adventist Church has been part of my life. My name is Claira Eastwood, and I am angry.

This past week a committee got together on the east coast. I have done my best to understand what this committee was put together for and what decision they had to make, and this is what I’ve come up with- a committee got together to decide whether or not this church will allow it’s representatives to speak about and for those who have repeatedly been pushed away. This vote has given the people at the top of the church power to tell pastors what they can and cannot say. No one knows for sure how this will turn out, but I have my suspicions. The way I see it, this vote has taken away free speech and has told many, many people that the things they’ve gone through and even who they are as people are not things that can be talked about in the church. The way I see it, this vote is pushing away groups of people who “do not fit” a certain set of expections this church has tried to put on them. If this vote has hurt you, I am sorry. I am so sorry that a group of people have made a decision that will inevitably push people away from this church.

This morning I got up, got dressed, and went to church. My church is in the basement of the University church. My church serves coffee outside and has Christmas lights all year long. My church has drums. My church lets you wear jeans if you want to. My church talks about all the things we were told not to talk about. Today my church talked about the committee vote. On Tuesday there will be a meeting where a group of people (myself included) will attempt to figure out what to do next. Until then, this is what I have to say:

My God is a God of love. My God is a God of peace. My God is a God who loves the people this church* tends to push aside. My God is a God who will listen to you sing quiet hymns but will also dance for joy with the sound of drums. My God is a God who does not care what denomination you belong to. My God is a God who loves you no matter what your race, your sexual orientation, or gender identity may be. My God is a God who has loved everyone since before they took their first breath. My God is a God who is near to the brokenhearted, who is strong when I am weak, who has never left me and who never will. My God is a God who will leave the ninety-nine to go search for the one who has been voted out. My God is a God who has comforted those who were hurt by the vote. My God is a God who is bigger than this vote.

To those of you who have been hurt, I give you a quote from Kate DiCamillo, author of The Tale of Despereaux: “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.” Please keep sharing your stories. Remember your strength. Do not let yourself shrink away, because you are the one who has the most to say. I promise to listen to you. I promise to do what I can, because I am not going anywhere.

Today in my church one of the pastors told us “not to leave our home.” He told us that we were needed right now, and he’s right. At the end of the sermon, we all sang a song called Jesus at the Center of it All, and as we stood there, singing, I couldn’t help but believe that I was standing in a room of people who are going to change the world. We are a group of future teachers, doctors, engineers, artists, and yes, there are more than a few future pastors as well.

There were people in that room who were hurt by this vote, myself included. There were people in that room who will not rest until a solution has been found. There were people in that room who will still love, and love, and love, and love with all their hearts. I promise to be one of those people. Almost two years ago, I had a teacher tell me “don’t leave it, change it.” To the Seventh Day Adventist church, you have messed with the wrong generation. And we will not hesitate to let our voices be heard.

- Claira Eastwood

“Jesus at the center of it all.

Jesus be the center of your church.”
~ Jesus at the Center of it All


*I should make it clear that when I say “this church” I do not mean everyone in it. There are people in the SDA church who are kind, accepting, and welcoming people. In this letter, when I say “this church” I am talking about and to the people who made this vote happen.

To My Baby Cousin

To My Baby Cousin, 

The day you were born, I was on an overnight all school trip. I was sharing a two bed room with three other girls, and was sleeping on the floor on top of some blankets. I had a cold, my nose was completely stuffed up, and I'd forgotten my water bottle at home so I was very thirsty. Even so, that night remains one of my favorites of my entire life. When your older brothers were born, I didn't know my England family very well. But a couple months before you were born, I'd visited England for a couple weeks. I went to Scotland with my aunt (your mom), and we talked about what your name might be. I remember thinking that you were going to be the closest thing I'd have to a baby sister. 

I have a cousin much closer in age to me (and, actually, it's her birthday today), and I always thought of her as my sister. Even so, as I grew up I always wanted a baby sister. Someone I could impart my accumulated wisdom to. Someone I could be immensely proud of as I watched them grow up. Someone who could be the flower girl at my future wedding. So when I found out my aunt was pregnant with a girl, I was ecstatic. I love your older brothers with all my heart, but the idea of having another girl in the family was very exciting. 

But back to the day you were born: I had been tossing and turning for a couple hours before I heard my phone chime- signaling that I had a message on Facebook.  At this point, I knew two things: You were due very, very soon and Facebook was my only form of communication with the England family (at that point). So, I rolled over and checked my phone. It was a message from our Nana, saying that my aunt (your mom) had gone into labor. It was very early California time, and I'd signed up to help make breakfast for the whole high school the next morning. Still, I stayed up until you were born. Our Nana gave me updates periodically, and I was one of the very first people to know your name. 

Last March, I got to meet you for the first time. For a two year old, you were quite sarcastic, with a definite flair for the dramatic. I was very proud. I went to your Sabbath School with you. We read stories, danced in chapel rooms of a college dorm, and blew bubbles. You made me laugh and smile, and since I came home I've missed you very much. 

This is all to say that you are one of my favorite people. You have been there for some of my favorite memories, you make me laugh, and you really are the closest thing I have to a baby sister. Plus, I have another person to talk to about Jane Austen when you get a little older. I know, I'm pretty far away right now. And I know, you'll probably never read this. But even so, I hope you know how much I love you and how much I miss you. But, if all goes according to plan, I'll be real close in about a year. Either way, I'll see you soon. 

Love, 

Me

To all the Incoming Freshman Girls

To all the incoming Freshman girls,

Welcome! The next four years of your life are going to go by at a crazy, lightening fast speed, so hold on to your hats and take it all in. As someone who has just graduated about two and a half months ago, I thought I'd compile my best advice into this open letter for all of you. So here we go:

Find the people who don't make you feel like Freshmen. There are definitely doing to be the people who see you and don't want to give you the time of day simply for the grade that you're in. There are going to be the people who tell you to move so they can sit where you are, and there are going to be people who scoff when you express a fear about your first time taking finals. But there are also going to be the people who don't make you feel like that. There will be people who will lift you up and show you how to be the person you want to become. There will be people who support and encourage you, and there will be people who remind you to keep breathing when life knocks all the air out of you. Find those people, and remember them when you're no longer a Freshman. 

If you're anything like me, you are going to fall into a deep infatuation with two people. One is going to be your complete opposite, but will probably have a few amazing qualities that will make you overlook all the stuff you'd normally run far away from. The second will be someone who you think is perfect. They'll be kind, they'll make you laugh, and they will make your life seem better than you thought possible. What possible trait do these two people have in common? They'll both break your heart. In different ways, mind you, but they will. Learn from each heartbreak. Remember that you are so incredibly young and have so much life left to live. Remember to surround yourself with good things and remember to let go when you need to. Someday you'll find someone who won't break your heart, and the people who have will be like the stepping stones to that person. 

Find a strong group of friends, but be willing for that group to change. Find a group of girls who make you feel strong, and powerful, and talented, and beautiful. Find them so you have someone to cry with when you go through the heartbreak, and someone to laugh with when life hands you something so beautiful you don't know what to do with yourself. When the group changes, let it. Time will change people, and that's okay. Make sure you have those few friends that will always be there, even if you move away. Find a boy who is a friend, and will always be a friend and nothing more. Find him so you have someone to go to the banquet with when you really want to go with someone. Find him so you have someone to protect you when you're scared but to still show you you're brave enough on your own. Find him so you have someone to look at stars with when you're sad. 

Don't fight the other girls. If you like a boy and he likes another girl, don't hate her. You'll waste energy that could be spent writing the next great novel or practicing for an audition. Don't hate her. It isn't worth it. Lift each other up, because there are enough problems in this world and we don't need girls picking on other girls for reasons that will just seem silly four years down the road. 

Figure out how to curl your hair, or at least find a friend who knows how and can do it for you before your first big Christmas event. Trust me, in four years you'll thank yourself. Wear makeup if you want to, but don't feel like you have to. Cut your hair, or grow it out forever. Wear the clothes that you like. Use a really colorful backpack or a black one. In the end, these things don't really matter, but in a way they do. So do what you makes you happy, because how you felt is all you'll remember later. 

Do all you can to open as many doors as possible. Join choir and drama if you want to go into musical theatre. Do sports if that's what you love. Study really hard for all your tests and quizzes. Don't give up. Get involved. Be kind. Find a song that you absolutely adore and play it all the time. Read good books. Go to the birthday parties. Remember that there are things you need to worry about, but there are so many things that you really don't have to think about yet. Believe in yourself, because as cliche as that sounds, it's still very important. 

Lastly, ignore all my advice. Sometimes, the best parts of your life happen when you say you're going to figure things out by yourself (this isn't always true, but sometimes it is). Part of the joy of finishing high school is looking back and knowing that you grew up a little bit. And no amount of homework, projects, or advice can make that happen. The mistakes that you make, the friendships that change, the broken hearts, and the old pictures where you tried to curl your hair and it didn't work out are the things that do. Those are the moments that make you look back and smile. So stand up as tall as you can, and go enjoy the next four years. 

Love, 

An Incoming (College) Freshman Girl

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"Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final."
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

To My Class of 2018

Hello,

It's been a while, I know. We graduated two months ago, and for some reason that feels like a lifetime ago. It's been a while since I've written a piece in which at least one of you played a important part. Since graduating, many of us have started forming our lives into what we want them to look like. We've gotten jobs, traveled a bit, and, for some, have seen each other for what may be the last time for a while. 

I don't know what the next year has in store for you. I don't know if I'm going to see any of you again. I don't know a lot of things. But there are a few things I know for sure, and there are a few things I wanted to let you know. Take this as my final piece of knowledge and advice I can give you: 

To the future teachers, remember kindness. Remember the teachers you've had that impacted your life. Remember to teach love and peace. Teach  your students writing, and teach them empathy. Teach them math, and teach them joy. Teach them to remember their worth, and teach them to believe in themselves. Remember that no matter how stressed, or tired, or angry with the system you may get, you are doing a good thing. You are instructing the next generations. You are impacting what our world could look like. Take that seriously, but every so often don't forget to take a step back and look at your students. Look at their faces- how full of ideas they are. Cultivate a child's joy, and don't lose your own joyful spirit. You are going to be the teacher someone remembers. 

To the future doctors and nurses, I don't know how you do it. I have already seen you studying for these upcoming years, and I have no doubt in my mind that you will get there. You will be the person people go to when the worst happens (though some may be there for the best moments life has to offer). Please do not be afraid. Please do not forget to breathe in the wake of disaster. Please always remember why you started, and where you want to end up. You want to help people, and I admire that greatly. You are capable. 

To the future entrepreneurs, I believe in you. You have ideas worth sharing, and you have ideas that no one else has. I've seen you present speeches and tell stories. I've witnessed your imaginations in action. Put it to good work and I know you will end up where you want to. I know things won't always be perfect or go according to plan, but I also know that you have the courage, the heart, and the spirit to keep going after what you want even when it's hard. You are a storyteller, use those stories for good. Use them to create the businesses we need. Your ideas can change the world

To the artists, I hope to see you soon. Whether you draw, or paint, or write, or act, you are very talented. I've seen you share your work, no matter how afraid you may have been. I've watched you grow in how you express yourselves, and I know that growth will only continue. Use your art (whatever it may be) to scream out your anger, cry out your sadness, and dance out your happiness. Remember that we are all artists, no matter what our medium may be. If you make music, use the instruments and melodies to reach the deepest parts of people's souls. Music can do that in a way nothing else can. If you write, remember that dialogue is also music. If you draw, remember that there is beauty and grace in everything. Artists, don't let yourself get burned out. Art is living, and there is no easy way to put pain and heartache into something beautiful without reliving it again and again. Take time for yourself, and remember to take a step back to view things from every angle. There may be something magical just around the corner. You are the magic in this world. 

To the undecideds, you are braver than I will ever be. Keep going into the unknown. Trust yourself. Trust that you know what you want, and trust that even if you aren't completely sure of even that, you will eventually find your place. Think of a time when you were unsure, and think of the time right after that when everything became what it was always supposed to be. That will happen again- always remember that. Whether you become a healer, a fighter, a thinker, or an explorer, keep believing that you will fall into the right things. The best parts of this world were created by those who were unsure. You are courageous. 

To all of you, I hope I will never forget you. High school had it's many ups and downs. There were moments when I wanted to leave, but there were certainly moments where I wanted time to stop so I could stay in moments forever. In our time together, we got lost in our purposes and got lost of purpose. We ran miles and lost battles. We loved and fought and laughed and cried. I loved spending my last two years of high school with all of you, and I honestly can't wait to see what you all do with your lives. 

When you think you're at the end of your road, look up and believe that there is something better out there. When you feel that you've drifted off to far, look down and let your fears settle. Always find things to be thankful for, and cry when you need to (instead of waiting until your Parent Tribute so you sob through the entire thing and no one knows what you're saying... or the equivalent of that). 

Keep getting lost. Keep doing what you know is the right thing to do. Keep finding the funny side of every story. Keep changing your minds. Keep bravery in your left pocket and kindness in your right. Keep your head up. Don't listen to the people who say you can't do whatever it is that you want to do most. Remember that fear is a liar, and remember that you are all so brave. Remember that there is a time and a season for everything, and you can go at your own pace. You are loved. 

I love you. Thank you for everything. 

~ Claira 

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places." ~ Roald Dahl 

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places." ~ Roald Dahl