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Tahuayo Lodge, Amazon

Old Aug 13th, 2016, 10:19 AM
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Tahuayo Lodge, Amazon

For those of you interested in important positive social changes, this September/October a women's high school- to the best of my knowledge the first of its kind in this part of the Amazon- will be opening along the river. Dolly Beaver, wife of Dr. Paul Beaver, who developed the Tahuayo Lodge, has been the force behind this as well as Angels of the Amazon. Dr. Beaver has asked me to spend a couple of weeks there to write about the school's opening days, the women who attend, their stories and the like.

For those of you who know and love this area, this is a big step. Educating women is the first order of business in improving a community. Dolly Beaver has been a powerful supporter in this regard. She has had her share of challenges. However I look forward to writing about this very exciting development.

The trip is from October 1 to the 10th. A trip report follows. If you know of a story that might add value to my reporting, kindly add to this thread.

mlgb, you are very fond of Peru, your thoughts are welcomed here, crellston you too.
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Old Aug 13th, 2016, 03:27 PM
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Sounds like very interesting project jhubbel. I am looking forward to hearing more.

Can I suggest taking a look at http://www.livingheartperu.org . A few years ago we spent some time working with Sonia Newhouse, the lady who set up Hearts Cafe in Ollantaytambo to support that cause. They did very good work in the sacred valley. It was aimed primarily at improving the lot of women and children in the Andes, mainly by improving nutrition standards. I think Sonia, who must be in her late seventies by now has taken a back seat and the foundation is now part of a bigger organisation ( but not entirely sure!)

Also, we are in Lima at the moment where there was a big demonstration re violence against women in the centre. Apparently a huge problem in the country.
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Old Aug 13th, 2016, 04:02 PM
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That's great, jhubbel. I was at Chino Village on Mother's Day, which has some interesting traditions..including supplying sugar cane rum for the Moms..and cake, and soccer matches (including the women/girls matches).

It was fun watching the soccer players dressed up in their nice outfits, often bright pink, in the rather muddy/wet field...and they were serious!

I wonder if there's a way for me to send you some of the photos that I took that day, to pass on to Dolly and some of the girls in Chino..maybe some of the future students?
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Old Aug 13th, 2016, 05:16 PM
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I put some of the Chino photos up on Wordpress,

https://photoamazoniablog.wordpress.com/
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Old Aug 14th, 2016, 07:26 AM
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PLEASE do, I am at jhubbel AT wordfood DOT com just in case I have trouble accessing these, and many many thanks. BTW I saw them, checked them out- if I have permission to use them at some point, kindly fire them to me and let me know anything I need to know for attribution.

Any thoughts you have on this are welcomed, mlgb.

crellston, thanks for your response. I'll look into this. I've spent most of my working life after leaving the Army working with women business owners and employees/executives teaching all manner of skills. Issues concerning the development of women are of interest to me as no country progresses fully without educating and developing its women.

While this a conversation better held offline (and I would love to do so someday) part of my current studies include delving deeply into the history of 25,000 years of goddess worship, which preceded patriarchal religions all over the world. I mention this because of your comment about violence against women. While I do not know, and have respect for, your faith as well as everyone else's, increasingly I find that as I travel I see plenty of evidence (from Buddhism to Christianity to you name it) that patriarchal religions, which viciously wiped out goddess worship, also gave permission to men to own,subjugate and control women where prior, she was idolized for her ability to give life. I suspect you know all that. I am seeking to better understand the history. Religious writings and here I speak specifically to the Bible, can be very carefully and selectively quoted to justify anything and everything from beating one's wife to slavery. So yes. Where missionaries have invaded and I use the word on purpose, and that is my prejudice, there is female subjugation. If there is a male god figure, most likely that happens. I'm for anything that builds women's confidence, knowledge, competence, strength, ability to fight back when necessary, earn a decent living and provide for her family, whether it's micro loans or a shelter. As you probably know full well, it's appalling in Africa.

Nuff said. Because I'm a journalist I'm interested in assignments. I'd love to learn about and meet more women like Sonia as they are among the world's great gems. Thanks to you both.
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Old Aug 14th, 2016, 10:01 AM
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I'll email you jhubbell.

As you've been to the Amazon before, you know paper doesn't last long. So perhaps just showing the photos around on a tablet or cellphone will do. And I'll give you my details in the email if you decide to use any.

Another interesting angle might be the development & use of female guides. It seems to me that Peru has a shortage of independent guides and birding guides especially get paid well. (Plus my opinion is that often women make better bird guides even though it's a male-dominated enterprise, even in the US.) Tahuayo has one male birding guide, but I would make a pitch that training a second would be a good investment for them.
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Old Aug 14th, 2016, 10:37 AM
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Paul and I had a long talk about this. They were the first outfit to hire female guides, according to him, and they also fired male guides who refused to work with them. Your point is well taken. My guide Nelly was superb. I don't know how many they currently have but they want more. I found Nelly to be supremely instinctive when it came to spotting- anything- she had a seventh sense for wildlife and could spot things that our boat man couldn't see. I was continually astounded. She was another kind of special. I would agree that once trained, women can easily equal or outstrip men in this kind of field. The prejudices run deep, as they do in most things. I can recall that not very long ago men assumed that if women ran marathons our girly bits would fall out. Tell that to the Kenyan woman who just won the gold. Or that we were inept at flying airplanes. Tell that to Beryl Markham or Amelia Earhart. And so it goes. Slow progress.
Side story- years ago I was obtaining spin training in a powered glider in Victoria with a very mouthy, bossy male instructor. He commented, just as we were going into a controlled spin with me as captain, that women couldn't bloody well fly. I let the glider go into a full uncontrolled spin until he hung upside down by his shoulder straps-as did I- and gazed back at him. Really, I said. Then I pulled us out of the spin and kept flying. He didn't open his mouth like that to me again.

I won't need the pics until I am back in the US, so don't worry about it. First I need to see what kinds of stories I'm asked to write, and then take a careful look at what you have. I'll keep you posted. Again thanks much. And btw just in case there is only one "l" in the last name. I look forward to seeing what can be used.
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Old Aug 14th, 2016, 10:46 AM
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I see email..

Glad to hear that Paul is aware of the issue.

I would think with Dolly being the manager they are in as good a position as any lodge to promote that.
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Old Aug 14th, 2016, 10:52 AM
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Crellston, about your comment on the demonstration in Peru. One of the organizers is President of Universidad Del Pacifico Elsa Del Castillo, who is there with my visiting friend, author and leadership speaker Juana Bordas.
She just posted a photo of them from the square in front of the demonstrators. About 50,000 came out. Juana has written at least two books on Latin leadership, we were both featured speakers at a women's conference a while back. She was just down in Lima speaking at their leadership conference.
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Old Oct 30th, 2016, 01:52 AM
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Okay I am finally ready to follow up with a trip report. My apologies. Here's my excuse.

While in Egypt, I got food poisoning. The doctor there gave me Cipro. That did me no favors. In fact, it gave me yet another infection, and when I got back from Peru I had to go to the ER, and THAT doctor gave me Keflex, which is like treating a pimple with a nuclear bomb. For those of you who know something of the microbiome, I am very diligent about probiotics, very aware of the importance of maintaining same, questioned this doctor about the use of Kelfex, but he insisted.

Unfortunately that was the last straw. I had a horrible reaction to the Keflex. Stopped it immediately but the damage was done. Unbeknownst to me, I had a first class case of c.difficile growing in my belly. For three weeks nobody knew what was wrong, only that I couldn't eat, lost twenty pounds (at 5'8" and 125 I do NOT have it to lose), was in terrible pain and in serious trouble. I finally took matters into my own hands and marched a sample to the emergency room. Good thing. On my way out of the hospital a nurse nearly gang tackled me and informed me that I was "very very ill and in fact, infectious."

In the meantime I had flown to Milwaukee, given two speeches, and am preparing to go to Cuba. All with this nonsense going on. The wonders of modern medicine.

I'm on a course of the right stuff which happily is working, albeit slowly, and after turning into a scarecrow (at least I don't need a Halloween costume this year) at least I can now down a small carton of yogurt and do better than a tablespoon of rice, half a banana and some Pedialite at a sitting. Sometimes I really hate doctors.

All that said, I will share with you about Peru, which was wondrous. I was just at Dr. Beaver's house again yesterday, wrapping up with both him and Dolly, just before they went out for their Halloween party.
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Old Oct 30th, 2016, 02:01 AM
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This was my third trip to Peru, which I have come to adore, but this trip was a writing assignment, rather than an adventure trip per se. I landed in Peru late, and was taxied over to the Limper B&B late at night. This is a quite nice little place in a crummy neighborhood, and its very friendly and accommodating staff do a fine job of providing an overnight stay for those of us who head out in the wee hours for Cusco or Iquitos as I was doing. I had a whole day extra, but was looking forward to a day of rest.

I was on the third floor, and what I didn't know was that there was a lot of work going on in the second floor bedroom. I was looking forward to sleeping in. The girl who had checked me in the night before told me she was going to move me to an ensuite, so I knew that this was coming. However I wasn't prepared for the pounding on my door at about 8 am. I leapt out of bed in that dreary-eyed way you do, half naked, and grabbed my travel trousers. You know, the big, loose, multi zippered kind? As I stood and did one legged Maasai stork dance to attempt to pull them on I tottered, then fell over sideways, succeeding in slamming my coconut against the wall and crashing my knee into the hard tile floor.
As I lay there for a moment contemplating the constellation of stars accompanying the constellation of pain in my noggin and my knee, I convinced myself to rise, pull up my pants, and open the door.

Nobody there.

The pounding continued.

Construction.

Crap.

Welcome to Peru.

I went back to bed.
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Old Oct 30th, 2016, 02:30 AM
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Limper does a nice breakfast, and they are particularly kind to those of us who have self injured, and they were appreciative of my short night. The staff here really works hard to accommodate and I love their cook. The location isn't the best other than they really are right on top of the airport which is nice, but close to nothing else. Beyond that, the rooms are well kept and clean, the water is hot, the staff works very hard, the food is excellent, and you just can't ask for anything more. And they cook dinner, too. I had to be back at the airport by 3 am, they are well accustomed to this. In fact, I would say this is their regular customer base.
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Old Oct 30th, 2016, 02:48 AM
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Amazonia had folks waiting for me at the airport and Iquitos had just had one hell of a rain the night before, so we drove through huge puddles on our way to the offices. Dolly met me just inside the building. Tiny at under five feet tall, and strikingly pretty, she took me upstairs and fed me breakfast. She had just lost her father, and we spoke at length about her family. She is from Iquitos, is 45, looks perhaps 30, energetic and funny and genuine. It is no wonder people are drawn to her.

Shortly we load up the boat and are on our way for the long ride to the lodge. Most of our party are staffers with just a few tourists. The sky is heavy laden with rain clouds.

When we arrive at the Tahuayo Lodge, I hardly recognize the place. The last time I was here back in April, our dining room was what is now the wifi room. Early heavy flooding had badly damaged the big common room and construction had been underway to build a new dining area. I had had no idea such a huge building was planned. Now it was finished, and it was massive. I didn't even know my way around any more. There were new ornately carved doors, a high ceiling to moderate the heat, and plenty of room for lots and lots of people, with a bar at one end. Outside, balconies where folks could relax and gaze out at the river (and swat the bugs away). It was a massive improvement over just a few months ago.

There is a big generator in the river which rumbles periodically, providing water which we use for the showers. The showers aren't heated. You get used to it right away, although if you come in from a hike or zip line you can be pretty hot, and the first time the water strikes your heated skin it can be a bit of a shock. However, this wears off quickly and you very much appreciate the sweet cool of the river water as it brings your core temperature down.

The big dining room has a long set of tables which, when the dining bell is smacked to announce a meal, is laden with fresh food. My greatest joy at these meals is when the river boats coming from Iquitos pick up local papaya and fresh picked pineapples en route. We had done that; Dolly had purchased big sweet pineapples picked only hours prior on our trip. There they were, big dripping slices, and I laid into them. Nothing better in my book. In this part of the world, vegetables have to be flown in, such as beets, potatoes, carrots and the like, from the coast. They're not grown locally. Yet we have them for the guests. The meals are fresh, and the salads are crisp. Because I was battling something I wasn't aware of I had to stick with rice and the frequent papaya was a real help.

Although this was dry season, we got rain, often at night. I was waking up at about 4 am, which is perfect writing time. There is wifi at the Lodge, although it is spotty at best, which is kind. It comes and goes. It amazes me that it exists at all, and it amazes me further that people are impatient with it given where we are and how remote our location is. The Research Center, further down river, has better reception (it has to, given its function). It strikes me that one comes to the Lodge to get away from the world, not stay in it, but then that's me. I was largely disconnected the entire time and oddly, it didn't hurt me one damned bit.
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Old Oct 30th, 2016, 03:52 AM
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Dolly and I began our work in town with visits to the artisan women. Back in 1995 or so, she had begun helping the women of the villages along the Tahuayo River, either supporting some of the kids with their educations or the women themselves. The only education in the villages was elementary school, at best, so illiteracy is common. The girls marry young and start producing kids right away. Up until recently a family of eight to twelve was common. Fishing, farming and hunting were the ways to earn a living. There were river jobs, some would go to Iquitos. The Lodge provides good work of about 850 soles a month, which is considerable money for a river person.

Buena Vista, El Chino (which is where we spent most of our time), Esperanza Village and other local towns spread up and down the river all provide employees for the Lodge, and many of the kids from these villages attend school in El Chino. Most drop out and simply work. The parents are illiterate, the fathers often drink. The macho society doesn't support women's work, and the unfortunate fact of cheap rum and the patriarchal society has led to a long, long cycle of ingrained poverty.

Dolly began working hard to help kids, women and the elderly, and tourists began taking notice. They pressured her to start a not for profit so that they could provide financial support, so in 2006, Angels of the Amazon was founded in the US. By then, her efforts were well underway. She had already been encouraging women to learn to weave from the village elders. The fibers would come from the forest, sustainable sources. The products could be sold to the tourists at the Lodge, which initially led to boats full of babies in hammocks landing underneath the Lodge at 4 am. This was untenable, alhtough the women were earning money, but not acceptable for the guests.

So Dolly suggested a vision. The idea for an Artesan Center was born. Twelve women committed, and eventually the center was built, with $21,000 of Angels money and a great deal of blood, sweat and tears from these women's families, including their husbands. Not only that, but a brand new high school was also carved out of the jungle, removing the school from the village square where the kids had to put up with the noise from the cantina. Now with support from the Peruvian government providing teachers, breakfasts for the kids (and the elderly), this brand new school in its new location provides advanced schooling for the first time ever in the forest. Kids no longer have to leave the area to go to Iquitos and be lost, swept up in the city, trying to advance themselves. In addition, Dolly took a two room concrete shack in Esperanza Village, the only local clinic, and expanded it with Angels funding into a proper health clinic with facilities to serve some 13+ communities with full time nurses and beds for up to six overnight patients.
Still no running water, but the program is a work in progress.
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Old Oct 30th, 2016, 07:41 AM
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My work was to write about these events, see the projects, meet the women, shadow Dolly, and participate in the village activities. I would keep up with her, she would translate for me as I interviewed the village women, and I would sit in class at the school. In effect I would spend a week "being Dolly," and watch how these local communities were being slowly transformed by Angels of the Amazon.

We began with interviews with local women who were members of the artesano group. These women were shy at first, not sure of who I was, what my purpose might be, and careful of what they said and how they said it. As our interviews progressed and I played back what I heard through Dolly, and expressed my understanding of their stories, they began to laugh and open up, as it became clear that I understood their stories and struggles, and in fact had had a few of my own. After all, we're girls here. And so we progressed. The women Dolly introduced me to were those she had chosen to follow her in leadership in the community, young women in early to mid adulthood who had long followed Dolly's advice. These brave women had suffered distrust from their spouses when they had first begun to learn to weave, as the men felt threatened. When then women came home with extra money, some were accused of selling their bodies at the lodge. It was a real battle. When the men finally came to the craft workshops to see what was really going on, the light began to dawn. Still, some were threatened.

The tide really turned when their wives brought home more money in one day than they would earn in a week. They asked for rum or beer money, and the women put their feet down. At what point did it make sense to bankroll drunkenness when it led to beatings, despair and no education or hope for the family? That was the beginning of power. And a voice for the women. A breakthrough for the entire family.

Slowly but surely, the men came around. They began to see money for clothing, food, necessities, home improvements, money for emergencies, a flush toilet, a refrigerator. Unheard of before. Soon the men, so resistant before, began to take their wives into the forest to search for fiber for the weavings. Not only that, but when mommy was working on her crafts, she was to be left alone. For the first time in her life, her time was her own.
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Old Oct 30th, 2016, 07:48 AM
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I stood in the center of the brand new Artesano Center, a huge beautiful, breeze-cooled, concrete-floored building on high stilts in the middle of El Chino. Not long ago this building was nothing more than a pipe dream. Today it houses the Artesanos, and weekly there is a market day when the twelve women lay out their brightly colored wares. They had them out today for me to photograph, and they were also answering my questions.

The women all expressed a kind of wonder about how their lives had changed since becoming slightly more financially independent. With funds to pay for school, some had already sent children to advanced training in Iquitos. Others even had adult children working as accountants, for example, in Lima or other city centers. Most of these women had long forfeited their own dreams of education, but were forceful in their determination that a portion of their income would ensure the future of their kids' possibilities.

Angels of the Amazon has many sponsors, and one of the roles is to provide books and special assistance to those families under financial duress. Some of the women in the circle around me I'd met in the next few days as Dolly and I would come by in her ongoing mission check in on homework, progress and provide encouragement for kids in the scholarship program. For now, however, the women sat on the sweetly cool floor, and enjoyed the reality of a dream come true. In just two nights, the twelve families would celebrate their Center with music, food and dance. Those who had not supported the center, who had not believed in it, would have to watch from the sidelines.
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Old Oct 30th, 2016, 07:56 AM
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The crafts, which range from tightly woven display baskets to friendship bracelets to carved gourds, were laid out in front of each woman, usually pulled out of a Disney princess-themed bag. Each used a natural dye to achieve the brilliant colors ranging from deep purple to teal to fiery red. Animales from frogs to snails were made into ornaments, and even purses you open. The sense of humor and creativity was evident, and each woman's unique style expressed. I bought something from each woman, that day and on the actual market day, taking care not only of many Christmas gifts but also of a few of last open spaces on my walls at home. With each purchase I was furthering the future of a child, children I could see gamboling at their mother's feet, and that felt wonderful.

Part of the fun was in seeing how each artesan used colors or weaving patterns. The quality of the work was excellent, and they were very hungry for feedback. Since I've traveled all over the world, and seen basket work from Africa to Asia, it was a pleasure to be able to tell them that what they were creating was easily as good or better than anything I had seen anywhere I traveled. That made them beam.

What was even better was that given what they had achieved so far, they were now looking to the future, and thinking about other markets. Not just those tourists who happened to come, but where else? Indeed.
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Old Oct 30th, 2016, 08:05 AM
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One day Dolly and I motored to Esperanza Village to see the health center. As you travel down the river, every boat that passes has someone whom Dolly calls to by name. Every life here is touched by something that Dolly does, be it an elder whose life she has helped save, a child she is helping to educate, a family she is providing food baskets, someone employed by the Lodge. Not a day went by that we didn't greet every single boat, canoe or person on the river by name, and she regaled me with a story. She has indeed touched most every life here.

We dismounted at the village and made our way to the clinic. I'd been here before in April when I'd been ill, and as before the clinic was overrun with mothers and kids. This time however Dolly was giving me a grand tour, which began with the Chicken in the Wheelchair.

Said large red hen had decided that the one and only wheelchair in residence was hers and hers alone for the sole purpose of laying eggs. She would not be moved, and if you so much as approached her she would peck you until you bled. I found this particularly amusing, as many of her offspring were hightailing it around the clinic around the stubby legs of the kids. What I did discover was that the hen was quite happy to receive petting, once she realized that your hand was not there to remove her, but simply to touch her gently. Having grown upon a poultry farm, I know just a bit about fowl, and that most people underestimate their smarts. They make remarkably good pets, and quite contrary to American public opinion, are exceptionally brave creatures. There is a reason, after all, for the term "tough old bird" or "tough old biddy," and I grew up among them. This big fat red hen ruled the roost and I pitied the poor patient who next actually needed the wheelchair.
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Old Oct 30th, 2016, 08:11 AM
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The clinic, which had started life as two small concrete rooms some years ago, was now a bit of complex which offered small suites for birthing, an ER of sorts, a pharmaceutical room, treatment rooms and overnight rooms.

The old rooms were converted into a lab, which now housed a newly acquired $7000 microscope, bought with funds raised through Angels. That alone saved lives, as tests could now be conducted on site rather than sent to Iquitos.

Dolly found herself delivering an impromptu speech, as she sometimes does, to the local women about the dangers of having children late in life, and I went outside to play with one of the local dogs. This resulted in my getting filthy, so I went in search of a sink. The place had bathrooms, sinks, but no water. One of the nurses led me to the birthing room where she brought out a bottle of water and poured it over my soapy hands.

At that point it really dawned on me. This clinic, which serves (formally) 13 river communities and informally, some four more, has no running water.
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Old Nov 1st, 2016, 05:12 AM
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