Category Archives: New England

Goodbye

Today is our last day in New England.  Charlie will spend it at work, and I’ll spend it trying to figure out how we ever got all of this stuff into our car to begin with.  I wish we could spend it together, soaking up the last little bit of New England spirit.  However, it’s so fun to think back to all the days we enjoyed doing just that.  We have done some incredible things here and it is definitely bittersweet to leave this area that has become so special to us.

Here are some things we’ll always remember with a huge grin on our faces:

  • Beautiful, October days with nothing to do but get in the car and go somewhere new
  • Feeling like we were driving onto a page of God’s coloring book on Route 121 in Vermont
  • Reaching the top of Bromley Mountain on the Appalachian Trail
  • Enjoying hot late-night donuts on Martha’s Vineyard after a day exploring the shore
  • Apple picking on a beautiful fall day
  • Falling asleep next to the fire on a cold Maine night
  • Walking through the woods at Sleeping Giant State Park
  • Dinner with our innkeepers at The Perfect Wife
  • Skipping rocks as the sun went down over Pemaquid Point in Maine
  • Finishing books at our favorite coffee shop on a Tuesday afternoon
  • Dreaming of what our life would look like if we packed up and moved to St. George Peninsula in Maine (note: according to Charlie, it would involve the purchase of an international scout Jeep)
  • All the back road diners that fed us so well
  • Family dinners with Nicola, Joe and Jessica
  • Watching the sun set at Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard, then seeing it come up again in Oak Bluffs

There is so much more that comes to mind, but I’d have to rewrite our entire experience to express it all.  The friends we made, the church we attended, the lessons God taught us, His beauty we witnessed everywhere we turned – all of it is overwhelming when I think about it collectively.  It’s so strange that this part of the story is over, but I’m so glad that this chapter is now in our book.  It’s definitely my favorite so far!

Tomorrow we start making our way to Alabama and then Mississippi for the holidays.  We’ll then move on to Texas in January, though we’re not sure in what city our next assignment will be.  As we wrap up our time in New England, it’s incredible to think that we get to start a new adventure all over again in a few weeks.  The anticipation of what we’ll discover next makes saying goodbye a little easier, but not by much.

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“The City”

We finally made it to “the city.”  Though there are a lot of cities around here, and New Haven is actually really big itself, if you say you’re going to “the city,” everyone knows you’re headed to NYC.  We actually went twice over the past two weeks or so and definitely understand what all the fuss is about.  It’s big, it’s exciting, it’s loud, and it has more to look at on a single block than all of Alabama I think (though I’ll always prefer the views in Bama!).

Charlie and I took an early train from New Haven one Tuesday morning, and about an hour and a half later we arrived at Grand Central Terminal.  Thanks to a very handy iPhone app, we managed to easily navigate the subway and go straight down to lower Manhattan to board the Staten Island Ferry.  The ferry is free and is a great way to see the NYC skyline, as well as the Statue of Liberty.  What a great, “Welcome to NYC!” view!  Cruising past the Statue of Liberty was definitely another moment where we pinched ourselves and wondered if this is really our life now.

It was really cold and overcast on this trip, so we were glad we had bundled up (fashion district be darned!) so we could do a lot of walking.  We took the subway back to Central Park and enjoyed wandering around for more than an hour.  We stopped to watch the ice skaters, got a hot dog from a cart near the literary walk, saw the most famous bridge in the park where everyone gets engaged, and met a man who read us a poem about the importance of doing your best.  I would love to go back there in the spring sometime, paddle around on a boat and enjoy the sun on the grass as the city goes by all around.

One very nice benefit of all of our walking was that we ended up on the west side of the park, conveniently near Levain Bakery.  I have always wanted to go here to try one of their famous 6 oz. cookies.  We made our way over and ordered one of each variety (chocolate chip walnut, oatmeal raisin, dark chocolate with peanut butter chips and dark chocolate with dark chocolate chips).  I’d heard that it’s impossible to finish one of these on your own, so you should either share it with a friend or eat it over several days.  I feel sure I would not get along with the weaklings who made that statement.  Charlie and I took down all four of these bad boys, and a glass of whole milk, in about ten minutes.  They definitely lived up to the hype and are now the cookie by which I’ll measure all others!

It started to rain after we left Levain, so we don’t have many pictures from the rest of our day.  We headed back through the park and made our way to Fifth Avenue.  We enjoyed playing around in FAO Schwarz (absolutely packed) and going underground to the Apple store.  We braved the cold rain and headed to Times Square which was also bustling despite the bad weather.  After looking around for a little while, we took the subway to Chelsea and had a fantastic dinner at Da Andrea, a cozy neighborhood place run by an Italian family who makes fresh pasta each day.  This restaurant definitely dispels the rumor that it’s impossible to have a quiet dinner on a normal person’s budget in Manhattan.

This past Saturday, we headed back into the city with our friend Jessica to check out the holiday cheer in Rockefeller Center and see all the stores’ Christmas displays.  Thankfully, the weather was perfect this day and we could really enjoy being out on the streets.  I had watched the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree the previous Wednesday, so it was neat to actually be there.  I was also a huge nerd and really excited to be standing outside of the NBC studios and looking into the Today Show set!

After admiring all the great decorations in the plaza, we headed to lunch and then back through Times Square.  It was nice to see this in the sunshine.  We went into Toys R Us to see the giant indoor ferris wheel and wanted to go into a few other places (hello Hershey store!) but the lines to get in where ridiculously long.  We enjoyed just wandering around, and it was really fun to have Jessica with us on this trip!

After Times Square, we headed down to Macy’s on 34th street.  Macy’s just feels like the quintessential department store and its decorations definitely put us in the Christmas spirit.

I picked up an ornamanent to remember our holiday trip to the city and then we headed back up Fifth Avenue to see the Christmas storefronts.  We popped into Saks Fifth Avenue, and Charlie was very patient to let us go up to the 8th floor and ogle the shoe department.  I don’t know how people afford these shoes, but I want them to adopt me.  I’d make them cookies in exchange for $1100 stilettos.  It’d be an even trade eventually, I promise.

There are so many things to do in NYC, and we only scratched the surface.  I’m so glad we went twice and focused on just soaking up the feel of the city rather than trying to rush around seeing a bunch of things.  I don’t think I’d ever want to live there (I’d miss trees and open space way too much), but it was a wonderful place to visit around the holidays and I hope we can go back someday to see some of the sights we missed!

(See more of our NYC trip here)

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Labor of Love

Yesterday was my last day to volunteer at New Haven Home Recovery, which makes leaving Connecticut feel official.  It’s hard to believe that 12 weeks have already flown by and we are in our last days here.  Though I only played a very small part at NHHR, they were really sweet and brought me flowers, a NHHR t-shirt and a few cards to say goodbye.  Though I will not miss sitting in the most uncomfortable chair known to man, I will definitely miss the people I got to know over our Monday and Wednesday afternoons together.

This first travel volunteer experience taught me a lot about what I hope to find in future opportunities.  While I am so grateful to have been able to serve at NHHR, I have learned that I want to begin looking for something more “hands-on.”  Once they learned of my communication background, I was immediately trained as the home recovery’s volunteer receptionist.  I did work on some fundraising projects, but mostly I read a book and answered the phones.  I want to use these opportunities to gain ministry experience, and I think that will work better if I look for opportunities that deal more with the actual ministering part of an organization and less of the administrative side.  I realized at NHHR that through my work at AUMC, administrative work is definitely my comfort zone.  But I really want to get more comfortable in the relational side of ministry.

However, I don’t think my time at NHHR was wasted at all!  The Lord certainly opened my eyes to the desperation of people we share these city limits with.  Through simply answering the phones or opening the door for visitors, I heard so many stories of not being able to make ends meet, mothers unable to provide their children shelter, young men seeking diapers for their infant sons, etc.  I always felt like I had nothing to offer them, and it was tough to see the amount of red tape they had to get through in order to meet their needs (necessary on NHHR’s part, but frustrating nonetheless).  Through all of it, the Lord showed me the value of simply being available to listen without interrupting and being kind in the face of frustration.

He also showed me that no matter what my background, I should never feel above any area of service.  NHHR had a need for a receptionist two afternoons a week.  It seemed small to me on so many occasions, but it taught me to serve with humility.  If I ask the Lord to use me to fill a need, I should be grateful to serve wherever He places me and serve there with enthusiasm.  I walked in every day trying to do my best, be kind in a sometimes rough office environment and show Him to the people who walked through the door.  At AUMC, sometimes I was so caught up in the level of work that the way I worked took a backseat.  I definitely feel like I’ve grown in that area here, and I’m grateful for how the Lord used this small opportunity to teach me big things.

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Beantown

Having been to Plymouth and seen the birthplace of our nation’s settlement, it was only right that we go to Boston and celebrate those who were persistent in fighting for its independence.  Boston is a BIG city with way more to do than can be reasonably enjoyed in one day, but a chilly Saturday was all we had.

So we put on our walking shoes and spent the day following the Freedom Trail downtown.  It turned out to be a great way to see the city’s different neighborhoods and we were able to avoid driving in Boston (yay for not being run over by someone yelling at us in an accent we don’t understand!)

We started our tour at the Old State House, built in 1713.  While it was the seat of British government, it also served as a meeting place for the Massachusetts Assembly.

We really enjoyed learning about all the many debates and historic political events that took place in this building.  It was outside this building that the Boston Massacre took place, and from its balcony that the Declaration of Independence was first read in MA on July 18, 1776.  Our favorite thing here was listening to a re-telling of the Boston Massacre story.  Apparently Paul Revere’s cartoon that showed up in all of our middle-school history books was modified a little to suit their patriot cause – oh public relations, how twisted you can be sometimes!

(John Hancock’s actually clothing, probably worn at the Declaration signing)

After leaving the building and walking past the massacre sight, we headed on to lunch at Quincy Market.  The three market halls sit directly behind Faneuil Hall, built in 1742 and referred to as the “Cradle of Liberty.”  Constructed by Peter Faneuil as a gift to the city, the first floor served as a public market, while the second floor’s meeting room saw a number of historical events including the protestation of the Sugar Act and later rallies for women’s rights and anti-slavery movements.  Unfortunately for us, the hall is closed for restorations.  However, we soon got lost in the more modern Quincy Market which is really just long, open halls of food stalls and little shops.  Everywhere you look, there is something happening here and it reminded me a little of the atmosphere around Jackson Square in New Orleans (but in much tighter quarters!).  We must have walked the food hall three times trying to decide what to get for lunch – there were so many choices!  After deciding, we then had to fight what seemed like the entire city of Boston for space to actually sit down and eat.  Apparently we all had the same idea that it was nice to be inside, out of the wind and cold!

After lunch, we picked up the bricked sidewalk that marks the Freedom Trail and came to King Chapel.

This gorgeous chapel was the house of worship for many well-known patriots.  Families would rent the pew boxes, which were walled in to keep out the draft.  The details in this church were beautiful, from the intricate communion rail pillows to the ornate elevated pulpit.  King Chapel was full of markers outlining major events in its history, and it was obvious that the church played a large role in the city’s political climate.   I could practically see the families sitting together in their boxes, listening to their pastor preach of freedom while a war began outside of the door.  It seems like so few churches today take an active role in offering godly political perspectives, but that’s not how it’s always been.

The chapel’s cemetery was just as fascinating, with many markers dating back to the late 1600s.  It still floors us to think of what a rich history this area has!  The trail next led us past Benjamin Franklin’s birthplace (now used as a copy shop), as well as a corner bookstore which published a lot of the political literature of the revolution.  We then came to the beautiful Boston Common.   After a nice stroll, we ended up in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.  The narrow streets and row houses in this area are what I used to picture when I thought of Boston.  It felt like an intimate neighborhood in the middle of a big city and I absolutely loved it!

After Beacon Hill, we crossed into the north side of Boston, also known as the city’s little Italy.  There was an Italian bakery on every corner, sandwiched between mom-and-pop Italian restaurants.  Needless to say, we could have stayed here forever!  Everyone looked straight out of Goodfellas and we often heard Italian being spoken as we passed people on the sidewalk.  Even though it was freezing outside, we stopped for gelato and were not disappointed.  It was also through this neighborhood that the Freedom Trail led us to Paul Revere’s home and the church from which they hung the two lanterns that sparked his midnight ride.  It was pretty incredible to look at the actual window where the lanterns that began our nation’s revolution hung.

We continued on the trail and saw another historical cemetery, as well as Boston Harbor.  Earlier in the day, at the State House, we had seen the actual tea leaves that were used during the Boston Tea Party, so it was nice to end our tour at the harbor.

It was also getting dark at that point, so we felt like we had done well taking our time to do the whole trail in one day.  People say it only takes a few hours, but they must not spend much time at each place.  I’m glad we took the day to really read through everything and take it all in.

We headed back to Quincy Market because we had heard earlier in the day that the city was lighting their Christmas tree that night at Faneuil Hall.  We felt lucky to randomly be in town that night and really enjoyed standing in the square and counting down the seconds to the lighting.  I still can’t believe December is almost here!  We have less than two weeks left in Connecticut now, and it is incredible how quickly 13 weeks can fly by.  We have loved every second of being here, and I’m so glad to have this blog and our pictures to help us remember this special place.

See more of our Boston trip here!

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Friendsgiving

Travel nurses don’t really get a lot of mercy when it comes to scheduling.  Charlie  and many of our friends are working on Thanksgiving Day, so we had to find another day to celebrate.  After all, though we’re far from our families and friends, we have a lot to e thankful for here!  With that in mind, we had our own Friendsgiving this past Friday with Joe, Nicola and Jessica.  It was so nice to sit around a table of good food, talking with good friends – it definitely felt special like Thanksgiving should!

Dinner was at our apartment, and everyone brought something delicious to contribute.  It was really fun for Charlie and I to roast our first Thanksgiving turkey, and I made cranberry sauce as well.

Nicola brought over some delicious sweet potatoes, corn casserole and mashed potatoes.  I had to practically sit on my hands not to eat all those mashed potatoes by myself!  We topped it all off with warm crescent rolls, and apple pie bars a la mode for dessert.  Everyone left happy with leftovers in tow.

A lot has changed for us since last Thanksgiving, and we have so much to be thankful for.  I remember all the conversations with our families about what it would be like to travel nurse.  It seemed so far away, and though we knew we should do it, it was hard to imagine what it would be like.  Even as we drove out of Auburn, there were still so many unknowns.  Yet just 10 weeks later, we were sitting around our table with friends who now feel like family.  All of the questions we still had when we started this journey turned out to have beautiful answers.  The people we’ve met, the things we’ve seen, the intimacy we’ve gained with the Lord – these are the blessings we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Pilgrims, Part II

We left off our Plymouth recap with meeting Leo the miller and heading out on our tour through the original settlement sites.  Charlie and I kept grinning at each other behind Leo’s back because he knew so much about all the things we were seeing and was a great storyteller to boot.  We were having a blast!

The first place we stopped was the small creek that runs through the center of the original plantation (what is now downtown Plymouth).  The water was crystal clear and Leo explained that the creek is actually spring fed.  This small stream widens at certain points through the town and provided all of the water needed by the first settlers.  The fact that it was spring fed was a clear sign of the Lord’s provision.  Of all their many concerns when they arrived at Plymouth, the Pilgrims would not have to worry about drought.  As I watched the water run by our feet and saw the ducks and muskrats splashing around, I praised the Lord for the simple graces He provides to make difficult situations that much more bearable.  He truly sees and cares for all of our many needs!

We next went to the monument of William Bradford, the plantation’s second and longest-serving governor.  The first governor was elected aboard the Mayflower, when the passengers signed the Mayflower Compact.  You see, the group’s charter from England allowed them to settle in Virginia (at that time, VA extended up to the Hudson River).  The Mayflower got off course and actually landed north of the area stated in the charter.  Since it was already November and a harsh winter would soon set in, the Pilgrims wanted to settle in the land they currently saw.  Other passengers (not the separatists, but those hired by investors to colonize the new world), wanted to settle in the land England had given them.  They claimed no one on board had control over them, and they would leave the main group to set out for Virginia.

Eventually, a man named John Carver convinced the entire group that their survival chances were much better if they stuck together.  He recognized the need for some type of social government to help the colony run smoothly and ensure survival.  These regulations became the Mayflower Compact, which each passenger signed whether in agreement or not, in an effort to work together for the overall good.  The compact allowed for elected government in the settlement, and John Carver was unanimously voted as the first governor.  When he died after the first winter, William Bradford was elected and served for 30 years.

Bradford’s monument is down by the harbor, just feet away from our next stop at Plymouth Rock.

This is said to be the first piece of land that the Pilgrims touched when they stepped off the Mayflower.  I found it kind of hard to believe that the Pilgrims would somehow preserve this rock as special, given how practical they appear to have been.  No first-hand accounts mention anything about a rock, and it wasn’t until 1741 that the rock became a part of our history when plans were made to build a wharf at the Pilgrims’ original landing site.  The town’s 94-year-old record keeper, Thomas Faunce, opposed the idea of commercializing the sacred spot.  He claimed that his father often identified this particular rock to be the Pilgrim’s stepping stone, and since he was older than everyone else, no one opposed him.  The crack in the rock comes from when the town tried to temporarily move the rock to the town square in an effort to rally the men to fight in the Revolutionary War.  When it split in transit, the larger half was declared the “American” half, while the significantly smaller portion was labeled the “British” half.  It seems public relations is an age-old profession!

From the rock, we saw the monument of the Pilgrim Mother, honoring the mothers who made the journey in search of a better world in which to raise their families.  Inscribed on the monument is: “They brought up their families in sturdy virtue and a living faith in God without which nations perish.”  Though I’m not yet a mother, my heart went out to these women.  They believed the Lord was calling them into this new land, and they, along with their husbands, packed up their children and set sail for the unknown.

After seeing the Pilgrim Mother, we walked up Cole’s Hill to see the monument of Massosoit, the Wampanoag Indian chief.  This tribe was very important to the Pilgrims and helped them survive in many ways.  Massosoit and William Bradford were actually good friends and there was peace between the two groups until much later when Massosoit’s son raided the plantation.

We were not familiar with the story of Cole’s Hill, which turned out to be fascinating.  This small hill facing the harbor was the initial settlement line, when the coastline was located several yards inland.  When half of the initial settlers died the first winter, the remaining families did not want the Indians to know how desperate their situation was becoming and how poorly they were adapting to their new environment.  So when a settler died, they would bury them on the hill in the middle of the night, covering the unmarked graves with corn.  Just imagine taking your family so far from home, losing them under such terrible conditions, and then burying them in secret out of fear and desperation.  When heavy rains later unearthed the graves, the remains were moved to a sarcophagus on top of the hill.

From Cole’s Hill, we took a right onto Leyden Street.  Originally called First Street, this was the first street the settlers built.  It was a little surreal to be walking down one of our nation’s first streets (pre-dated only by St. Augustine and Jamestown I would think).  There are some historical homes still along this street, though not the original dwellings of the Pilgrims.  As Leo said, these modern homes only date back to the 1700s!

At the top of Leyden Street is First Parish Church in Plymouth.  While the building has changed on this location, this congregation began with the Pilgrims and is the oldest continually-meeting congregation in the United States.  This granite church was built in 1899.

However, a very rare thing happened within this congregation.  A new pastor took charge in 1800 and was seen by some as being too theologically liberal.  A group of 52 congregation members decided they couldn’t stay under his leadership and split off to form a new congregation, which is now called The Church of the Pilgrimage.  What?  A congregation disagreeing?  That is so odd!

Now, the funny part.  This group of 52 scouted around for where to build their new church and finally settled on the perfect location: directly perpendicular to the existing church.  As in, thirty feet away on the same street.  Awkward.

Across the street from the second church (perpendicular again to the original church) is the oldest wooden courthouse and the longest used municipal building in the United States.  Built in 1749, John Adams actually used to run his law office from here.  Apparently Adams’ good friend Paul Revere used to wait for him outside on the square.  Leo says that over the years, Adams’ good friend Paul Revere would pass the time waiting for his friend to complete his business by building the church bell that is still in use in the church shown above.

After briefly walking by Burial Hill, Plymouth’s first cemetery, we were back where we started at the Jenney Grist Mill.  We were so happy that we chose the personal walking tour!  To stand on the original land where so many historical things took place was unforgettable.  It may sound cliche, but it was inspiring to think that all of this started with a group of seemingly average people just looking for a place to worship the Lord the way they wanted.  They couldn’t have known what would happen when the ship pulled out of the English port, but they just knew the Lord was calling them to go.  And despite the relentless hardships on the way, they just kept walking the road the Lord laid before them – faithful in their trust that He is good and He is sovereign.  What a great example of how unchanging the Lord is!  No matter what time or culture we live in, His desire for us to walk by faith is always the same.  And no matter how different our circumstances may be, His faithfulness to care for us as we follow His will is eternal.


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Pilgrims, part 1

Charlie and I both love history.  Just try getting to me to read something other than historical fiction – I’ll get bored within five pages.   One thing we’ve really enjoyed about living in New England is the rich history this area boasts.  I think of the South as offering more Civil War era historical sites, and it’s been fun to be here where things pre-date the Revolutionary War.  With that in mind, we’ve been waiting for the perfect, sunny day to visit Plymouth and re-learn the incredible story of those who came over on the Mayflower.

We learned so much on this trip that it’s hard to sum up in one post (without making it obnoxiously long!).  So we’ll tell part of the story today and finish up tomorrow.  I know we learned all of this in elementary school, but seeing the actual locations and re-learning it from an adult perspective was fascinating and I don’t want to forget the details!

Part I

Plymouth is about a three hour drive from us, and we pulled into town around 11:00 a.m.  Our first stop was the Mayflower II docked in Plymouth Harbor.  It’s a recreation of the original Mayflower and was built in the 1950s.  It even made the sail from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Mass., just like the real ship.

There’s a nice outdoor museum before you enter the ship, which was a very helpful in refreshing us on why the Pilgrims left England in the first place.  A small group of families did not agree with the newly-formed Church of England and sought a refuge where they could worship more freely.  This led them to Holland, which was known for its religious tolerance, in 1609.  However, it was hard for them to get jobs here and they actually found the culture to be too tolerant and morally lazy.  Not wanting their children to grow up in these conditions and slowly become Dutch, they secured a charter to settle a colony in the new world in 1620.  England was happy to be rid of them, and they were happy to be rid of England and raise their families according to their biblical beliefs.

The Mayflower II really opened our eyes to the cramped conditions the passengers endured for the two-month journey.  It was hard to imagine how 102 people (passengers and crew) would have fit on this ship, much less how one woman would have given birth during the journey.  We learned that most of the passengers remained below deck during the trip, out of the harsh sailing conditions.  This means that the majority of people were all in one room, practically on top of each other, for 66 relentless days.

There were two costumed actors on board, representing actual women who made the trip.  We had fun talking to them, asking them how they felt about being in a new world, whether or not they were scared, who they traveled with, what they ate, etc.  They never broke character and they knew so much!  It was really interesting to feel like you were talking with someone who was actually there – they were that good!

The Mayflower II was the perfect place to begin our Plymouth tour, as we now had a better idea of why the Pilgrims came and what they endured just to find a place they could worship the way they wanted.  After lunch near the harbor, we headed out to learn more about what it was like when they actually arrived and had to survive in the new land.

We made the last-minute decision to bypass Plymouth Plantation, which is a large recreation of the original settlement located just outside of town.  Instead, we booked a guided tour through town and it was by far our best travel decision yet!  I’m sure the plantation attraction is great, but we really enjoyed being in  the actual historical locations, listening to in-depth stories about the settlers’ first year, and imagining all these things happening on the very ground we walked.

Our tour began at Jenney’s Grist Mill, the first mill in the U.S. and the birthplace of modern public utility.  We got lucky and were the only two people on the 1:00 p.m. tour with Leo, the miller.  This older gentleman has been giving these tours for years and he was fantastic!  He picked up on the fact that we are believers, as is he, and included a lot of fascinating information about the pilgrims’ beliefs and religious reasons for coming to the new world.

Leo provided a lot of details about the pilgrims’ first year at Plymouth Plantation, and we enjoyed relearning this famous story.  More details tomorrow!

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