Love Letter

Dear Breasts,

Thank you for being there for me. We have had a really long road and I know that I haven’t always been the greatest friend. I remember when we first met, I didn’t know quite what to make of you guys. I was confused and slightly scared at the fact that having you two in my life would change alot of things. And that now that you had arrived, you were not going anywhere anytime soon. It took me some time to get use to the idea but once I warmed up to you, you weren’t all that bad to have around. You made my shirts look better, you were interesting to go bra shopping with, and though you were a bit small compared to the others I had seen around, you seemed to suit my body. We matched.

Once I got over the fact that you were not getting any bigger, I began to enjoy the fact that I could run without a bra. I like that I could wear cute little tops and that you were most always perky. We had some really good times, especially when I discovered how sensitive you were. I know you didn’t like all of my boyfriends but the ones you liked, you adored.

Over the years, I guess I began to take you guys for granted. I regret to admit that there were times I even resented you. It was no fun to know that your kind were used to objectify women. It angered me to no end that some people could detatch the woman from her breasts. Something that started out sensual and soft and beautiful became crude and sleazy and downright violent. Yes, its true, I began to pretend you weren’t even there. I even began to see having you as being something of a weakness. I am ashamed to have blamed you for the ignorance of others.

It’s only been in the past few years that I have been coming to terms with the fact that we are a team…a family. I have to take care of you two. Remember the time we went to Burning Man and rode our bikes with the hundreds of other topless women in the middle of the desert? It was so scary at first but in no time at all, the feminine energy lifted us to a new place of empowerment. It was intoxicating to know we were capable of such things. That was the start.

I am aware I haven’t been diligent in taking special care of you two. I realize that I sometimes let myself get distracted with inconsequential matters. I guess some part of me just takes for granted that things will always run fine. And if there were a problem, it would be obvious right? Well, you guys are humble and enduring and long suffering. Maybe you are not screaming for attention like some of the others but that is no reason for me to neglect you. I am sorry.

I promise that from now on, we will have a monthly date and I will tend to you like the luscious flowers that you are. I will protect you from the baddies and together we will grow old together, happily, healthily.

Love Always

Carmella

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The Yoga Experiment Part 4 – Koh Phangan, Thailand

The last week of the course got better for me from an emotional standpoint. I began to find more peace in my practice and more stillness in my soul. I am not sure where it came from or how it happened but I suspect its because I just let go.

One particularly arduous day when I had eaten too big of a lunch, I thought it best that I just skip the afternoon. I reasoned with myself that I would not be able to do the asanas anyway. I justified my absence by telling myself it was more important to be gentle with myself. Playing hooky for just one class wasn’t going to kill me, right?

Well, something inside me saw it was a trick. I dragged myself to the yoga hall and made myself a deal. If I could just attend the class, I could at any point lay down on my mat and rest. Lots of people do it especially the ones who are doing a detox. There would be no judgment except from within my own mind.

I released the idea that I had to be perfect and get it all right. I gave myself permission to come out of a posture early if I felt overwhelmed. Knowing I could take a break somehow eased the pressure I was putting on myself. Surprisingly enough, I only exercised that “rest stop” card once for about three minutes.

I am thinking the difficulty was more of a mental thing and that by ignoring that little voice of defiance made it louder. Instead of getting frustrated and angry with my resistance, I honored that it too was a part of me. If I just listened to it and showed a bit of compassion without indulging it completely, it was somehow satisfied. I didn’t necessarily have to agree and obey but there was a part of me that just needed to feel heard.

So when the end came and the month was finally over, I felt like I had done what I had said. My manipura was stronger than ever and I had succeeded with my tapa. I was definitely more flexible though that was merely a happy side effect. I was really pleased with my sense of balance and my increased concentration. Those to me are invaluable.

I was really excited about learning to do headstand, King of the Asanas. At first, I snuggled up to the wall just to be sure I wouldn’t fall over. But after a couple days, I was confident enough to perform it on my own, with no insurance. After class, a few of the more advanced students paid me compliments leading me to the conclusion that I had succeeded. Ofcourse, this is one posture I will keep handy in my back pocket to work on regularly. Ultimately, I would like to be able to hold it for an hour.

The closing ceremony was beautiful and serene. We got called up one by one to receive our certificates. When I heard my name, there was loud applause and hoots and hollers. I was surprised that I had made so many friends even though I wasn’t really trying. After getting a blessing, flower lei, cookie, t-shirt, protection bracelet and third eye marking, I posed for a photo. It was a good feeling to have accomplished this and I was grinning from ear to ear.

So 20 asanas, 240 sun salutations, 40 hours of lectures, 7000 baht, and 24 days of yoga later, I feel properly yogified. I had toyed with the idea of continuing on to the second month but I have decided against it. I plan on taking some time for it all to sink in and developing my own personal practice. I am pretty sure that I have reached my saturation point. Rather than plowing forward with the school, it seems more important for me to assimilate what I have just learned. Maybe I am not as hardcore as some of my fellow yogins but I think that being a mellow yogi suits me better. They call me Carmellow the Yogin…

Grateful for shifting energy.

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The Yoga Experiment Part 3 – Koh Phangan, Thailand

My third week was a bit of a blur. I was going through some serious emotional overload and it had to get worse before it got better. I started spending a bit more time with my classmates and bonding with them but I think this may have done more harm than good. Perhaps I would have been better off to have faced my fear that others would think I was anti-social.

Of course, there are the typical dramas that play out when you get a bunch of egos together. I was determined to stay far away from any cliques that were forming so I declined most invitations to socialize. However, I was curious to understand why certain people triggered me the way they did. Somehow I got it into my head that I should learn to accept and like all the people around me. After some light reflection I came to the conclusion that there are some personalities that just don’t mesh. This solidified my resolve to keep distance from those vexatious types.

I guess because we are supposedly “shifting” so much energy that issues are bound to come up. I found that I was much more aware of who was feeling what but had no idea why. Was everyone seeing the circus that was unfolding around us or was it just me? I found myself getting frustrated with petty annoyances and then got down on myself for being so judgmental. It was a vicious cycle.

I had to dig deep to find compassion for those who seemed to be oblivious they were imposing their negativity on others. At one point I stopped to consider that maybe if I am going to attempt sainthood, first and foremost I had better start practicing compassion with myself. Maybe in order to give it you must have it in abundance first. Nevertheless, this is a new idea for me and it takes constant effort to reprogram flawed habitual thinking such as this. Suffice to say, I spent a lot of the week very confused.

I found that most of the people who were at this course had traveled all the way here to Koh Phangan solely for this reason. Most of them seemed to be searching for something or running from something. I, on the other hand, just kind wandered in out of curiosity so my investment was much lower. I guess the fact that I have much lower expectations and had no preconceived notions set me apart from most of the others.

For a while I struggled with the subtle feeling of disconnect from the group but then I began to see it more as a gift. I have spent some quality moments with a select few but for the most part, I am content to be politely removed from the politics that seem to occur naturally in these types of environments. Still, it was a bit of a struggle for me as I am a social butterfly by nature.

The asanas started getting more difficult and my body was feeling it. Somehow the postures I used to loathe move up the ladder when each day they introduce something even more challenging. Infact, I find myself looking forward to the respite of poses that just last week used to push me to the edge. Funny thing how perspective works.

My will power is still going strong and I am able to keep my postures until instructed to come out. However, I observe serious bouts of anger when it feels like the teacher has completely forgotten she is teaching yoga leaving us hanging for what seems like eons.

I had to laugh once or twice with the bizarre thoughts that would lure me towards a mental tantrum. I continue to struggle with my focus and concentration. One hot afternoon when my legs were burning from salabasana (locust pose) I heard the happy tune blasting from the ice cream bike as he puttered by. My body was quivering from the exertion and beads of salty sweat dripped onto my mat. I tell you, it was all I could do to keep from running out of that room yelling “Wait for me Mr Ice Cream! Save me from this yoga hell!!!”

The lectures this week covered topics like vegetarianism, karma yoga, and the yamas and niyama. They keep introducing us to these purification techniques which I do admit are getting stranger and stranger. The theory is that the more pure we are, the less we will resonate with lower energies. Since I figured it couldn’t hurt to increase my odds, I attempted to step up my pure factor. I resolved to perform them all at least once as a good little investigative yogi should. Something that is good for me could really feel *that* bad, right? What could be worse than having to twist and squeeze into Garudasana for five minutes? But afterwards, my body was very clear (in more than one way) that I’d better be selective with which ones I will keep in my routine.

Now I am heading into my last week. I am kind of excited and also a little nervous. I sense that I am on the verge of a breakthrough of some sort. At the very least, we get a few very interesting lectures I am keen on such as lucid dreaming. We also get initiated into some new kind of meditation I haven’t heard of before. Hopefully my mind and my body start syncing up so I can absorb the final stretch.

Grateful for purity.

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The Yoga Experiment Part 2 – Koh Phangan, Thailand

A week ago, I spent my break at the beach snorkeling with some of my classmates. I got some great footage of schools of sunset colored parrotfish before my camera died. I was pretty bummed that my Olympus which was supposedly waterproof/shockproof didn’t hold up.

After a quick bit of internet research to find a fix, I found out I was not the only one with this glitch. Seems half the models out there are failing. So there is a good chance I won’t be able to post any more photos which is really too bad since there are so many once in a lifetime shots occurring. After four tries with this brand, I guess that is it for me and Olympus.

My second week of yoga school went well enough but it really got intense. We are advancing quickly adding harder asanas and 12 sets of sun salutations every day. There is much less theory and more practice. I have been struggling as my emotions are flipflopping everywhere. I am doing alright with the postures but its my head that is the problem. I can’t seem to focus no matter how hard I try. Infact, I would say it was easier the first week. Now my mind is rebelling in every way it knows how.

I can’t even begin to understand how some of these thoughts leak into my day. Things that happened when I was 6 are replaying themselves to me. Unfinished conversations I had with old mates present themselves again for consideration. Random outbursts of sharp judgmental thoughts about so and so doing such and such appall and embarrass my higher self. New and wonderful ways to solve all sorts of problems that I don’t even have pop up in my consciousness. Not to mention the no holds barred peanut gallery constantly critiquing my performance. “Monkey Mind” they call it but I would say mine is something more like a mosquito. Sucking my energy flitting around uncontrollably with that ever annoying buzz you just can’t get away from.

I did make a few positive steps forward with my practice which kept my morale high enough to make it to Saturday. The soles of my feet have stopped burning and I am able to stand stone still for at least 20 seconds. My balance seems to have improved which makes a huge difference in postures like cakrasana and sarvangasana. I am surprised at how quickly I got the somewhat intimidating shoulder stand yet how far away I am from reaching the seemingly simple gomukhasana.

Since I am finding it such a challenge to tame my body and brain, I have helped myself to a generous slice of humble pie. There are certainly more overt ways to learn about humility and I’m grateful for chance to take the gentle path. I guess when it comes down to it, I need to stop comparing myself to others and quit trying to be perfect, whatever that means. I sense that Compassion is another significant training that is waiting in the wings eagerly.

Could it be that trying harder is not always the best way? Could my new mantra be to try *softer*? This is a brand new direction for me and it is a bit of a mind trip. Being accustomed to pressure cooker world that says bigger, faster, stronger = better, it is a real challenge to accept peace and harmony as another way. Having resigned myself to stress as the way to success, its hard to accept that there may be a more efficient (and possibly even more effective!?!) path of less resistance. It takes so much to *just walk*…when I know I can run and possibly even win the marathon. But then I remember, there is no race. And knowing that, I have already won.

Half way through my week, I had to do a visa run. This is one of the exciting routines that farangs (foreigners) living in Thailand, get to partake in once every few months. It involves crossing over a border (usually Malaysia or Burma, here in these parts), getting stamped out of Thailand, then into said country, then out of said country, then back into Thailand. The whole process took me only 10 minutes but it was the 20 hours of travel time that was the real pain.

Luckily I came upon an organized systematic border run which for 1900 baht (60 dollars) pretty much did everything for me. The price was right and it took all the guesswork out of what could have potentially been a headache and a half. I was glad to have taken the easy option. Having exhausted myself with the yoga, I don’t think it would have gone so smoothly had I gone it alone.

One snail slow six hour night boat, one really fast ten hour A/C van ride driven by a guy who calls himself Schumacher (!), four stamps in the passport, three coffees, four mini banana muffins, no sleep, two new friends, one 3 hour ferry later, I was home. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see my scooter waiting for me at the pier. Even though I had not even been gone a day, I was so relieved to be back on Ko Phangan. I tell you, island life is where it’s at.

Today I woke, stretched in the sun, picked several varieties of purple and yellow flowers in my garden, cut up some watermelon and papaya to eat with a splash of lime, and watched the guy next door try everything to knock a coconut down from the tree. A half hour later, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when he let out an unabashed victory “yeehaw!” proudly presenting his take to his lover. I went to town to pick up some fruit for the week and also found a purple hammock for 170 baht (5 dollars). What’s a beach house without a hammock? It only took me an hour to figure out how to put the thing up but I think I need to work on my knot skills.

Now Sunday is just about over and I am officially halfway through the course. I am feeling optimistic but a little nervous if I were to be completely honest. We’ve had some very interesting lectures and it has put a lot of questions in my mind. I am now contemplating things I have not ever imagined would enter my path. I suppose what will be, will be. I will keep plugging away and hopefully, the answers will present themselves.

Grateful for paradox.

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The Yoga Experiment – Koh Phangan, Thailand

So a week ago I decided to try something drastic. Well I didn’t know it was that intense in the beginning but its proving so. I had originally planned to sit on my butt and do a whole lotta nuthin for a couple months. Well that didn’t last long. About 3 days to be exact.

I kept driving past Agama Yoga school which is just down the road from me, so I decided to stop in. Both times no one was around so my queries went unanswered. I decided it wasn’t meant to be and let the idea go. Then I started meeting all sorts of people who were involved with this place in one way or another. I decided to give it another try.

It just so happened that the one month intensive course was starting on Monday. And the first day was free. Well honestly, how could I refuse. I decided to attend the first day fully intending not to like it. If the place wasn’t full of egotistical self proclaimed spiritual gurus then surely the students would be cliquish and/or resentful that such a lightweight like myself was their wasting time asking the stupid questions. Somehow they would hate me for slowing them on the sacred path to enlightenment. At the very least I would wreck their “chi” with my clumsy self. Last time I set foot in a yoga studio I slashed my toe open making a bloody mess. Not very Zen, let me tell you. Besides all that, what business do I have going to a yoga school? I don’t even know the first thing about yoga!

Um so yeah…I was wrong. On all accounts.

The first day I was a little intimidated by the heavy silence as we waited for our teacher dressed completely in white who was perched cross legged at the front to open his eyes. I nervously snuck a few sideways peeks at the other new students and was quite surprised by the obvious range in the demographics. I could sense that there were some that were just as green as I which made it a little easier to relax.

Once the class started, it didn’t take long to realize that I had potentially opened Pandoras Box. The overview had grabbed my interest promising to cover everything from diet to natural healing methods to cleansing techniques to psychology to music meditation to yin/yang balancing to philosophy to mental concentration. AND we would learn about all the different kinds of yoga like Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Tantra, Karma, Nidra, Bhakti, among others. But when he mentioned that we would even talk about lucid dreaming and how that was connected to a type of yoga we would be studying, I was hooked.

I guess I was really excited that we would be spending so much time with theory. I have done “yoga” in the past but it was really more just like gymnastics because I didn’t understand why or what I was really doing. Bend like this, twist like that, hold it and breathe. Well, that just didn’t do it for me. Here we would learn only one new asana (posture) a day and we would look at it from every angle: physically, mentally, emotionally, scientifically, historically, spiritually, and symbolically. I was keen, let me tell you.

If there was something to this yoga, I was going to find out. Jens, our teacher, invited the skeptics (such as I) to take a challenge. He encouraged us to give it a month. Make it an experiment. For heaven sake, don’t take his or anyone else’s word for it. Test it out with an open mind. It was this type of thinking that sold me.

I made the commitment to trust their system while giving it my all. In the very least, I would become a little more bendy. If nothing happens, then I haven’t lost anything but a couple hundred dollars. For six hours a day, six days a week of instruction, information, exercise, and potential enlightenment (or at least a good start), it seemed like a heck of a deal. So, why not?

The first few days I admit, were a little strange with trying to get used to the “warming exercises”. They included shaking your head around violently which kinda goes against everything I had ever been taught about neck safety. At one point, I was pretty sure my head was going to fly right off. Also we have to poke around in our chest with our thumbs to release some toxins. I had trouble with this one because my nails are too long and didn’t want to slice myself right open.

One thing I learned was how hard it is to just stand still. I felt like a wobbly mess and wondered if anyone else was having the same problem with standing. Oh god, how ever will I be able to do the actual bendy poses without falling right over. Luckily everyone is supposed to have their eyes closed which help us focus and concentrate. I also think it is to keep us from breaking out in hysterical laughter. I can only imagine what 20 people whipping their heads around in unison must look like.

I loved the lectures which ranged from technical information to esoteric to philosophical ideas. Another bit of info we were given was how to purify our bodies. I am now tongue scraping, sea salt rubbing, neti potting, and eye flushing. Its peculiar but at some level it makes sense. I guess if I want to be a yogi for a month, I better smell like one.

We learned several different poses like pascimottanasana, trikonasana, and bhujangasana which the technique I was already familiar. But now I understand which chakras they work on and what the effects as well as benefits come with each pose.

We also learned sahaja agnisara dhauti which works with bioenergy. We area supposed to deep massage around our bellybutton which will activate the manipura chakra. Yes indeedy, I felt very odd bent over working away furiously looking for that elusive little chakra. It has got to be in there somewhere but heck if I can find it, let alone wake it up! Once when I was feeling particularly naughty, I snuck a look at the rest of the class all hunched over wiggling away like a bunch of chickens. It was REALLY hard not to laugh out loud but I managed, filing that memory away for a later time when I may need some comic relief.

The first day, I felt seriously nauseas after the first 5 minutes which indicated in itself that something major was happening. I cautiously pushed forward and by day 6, I made it through an entire session with composure. Sure, I am drenched in sweat but hey, that’s all par for the course.

I can now stand still without feeling like the leaning Tower of Pisa. I learned that my voice actually sounds quite pretty when I am singing the sun salutations. I think something is happening with my heart chakra because I felt something very unusual the other day. Maybe it is the fact that I am taking such good care of myself in such a heavenly environment.

The yoga hall is quite open so we experience nature consistently through our 6 hour day. From uplifting birdsongs to chirping geckos cheering us on to sudden heavy downpours that beat the roof like a million drums. Often curious bright colored butterflies flutter around during the rising crickets chorus just before our final relaxation. It is quite inspiring, to say the least.

Grateful for experiments.

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Staying fit on the Ship

I woke up really early today although I didn’t plan to. I tried to sleep in but I supposed that my internal clock wanted me up and in the gym. I tried to get myself sorted as quietly as I could so as not to wake up my roommate.

There were a few early birds wandering around the otherwise very quiet sleeping ship. The coffee shop wasn’t open yet so I headed up to the lido deck to grab a tea. Next I wandered over for some fitness but I was about 15 minutes early. I plopped myself down on a chair and watched the other hardcore health nuts pace impatiently in front of the locked gym door.

After logging a half hour on the treadmill, I squeezed myself into the overfilled stretch class. Back on the treadmill again, I watched half a movie (Bedtime Stories…Keri Russell wasn‘t able to save this Adam Sandler flop) before listening to my grumbling tummy. It was commanding some food so I grabbed a light breakfast in the busy buffet breakfast area. After noshing on some fruit, muslei, and yogurt, I felt pleasantly satiated. I was really glad to have passed up the typical eggs, bacon, and carb-fest that is available in spades at the breakfast buffet. I can only imagine what a lump I would feel like if I took part in that madness.

I took a coffee while watching the fruit and vegetable carving demonstration. It was fascinating how quickly and masterfully they made elaborate flowers out of watermelons. I chuckled at the bunny, monkey, and various cartoonish characters they produced out of cantalope, broccoli, zucchini, grapefruit and the like.

I found a peaceful quiet space up in the Skywalkers Lounge where I almost fell asleep. Just then, a group of excited Cruise Critic members showed for the meet up. I surveyed the group of mostly older couples and decided not to join them. I felt a little too subdued to try and muster up the energy for a meet and greet.

I made my way down to the room to discover a note from Darren who had indicated that he had gone swimming. I decided to read for a while down by the coffee bar when suddenly he showed up. We took a stroll through to the library then decided to go for lunch. There was a mediocre sushi bar which we both joked must have been made with rice from Japan from the last time around. All the soya sauce and wasabi in the world couldn’t revive this maki. I found a pile of juicy sweet watermelon which pleased my palate more.

Next I thought it would be nice to take a nap since I didn’t really sleep well. I laid in bed for some time before realizing that no, I wasn’t going to sleep after all. I guess the rest was sufficient though because I bounced out of bed and to the gym where I was able to crank out a solid upper body session. I am a little miffed that I my headphones seem to be failing because they are an integral component of my program. I will have to see if I can secure some in Alaska because apparently, according to an Asian couple I met in the hot tub, Japan is not a good place to go shopping.

After raising my body temperature exponentially, I slipped into the much cooler pool for some laps. The ship must have slowed down quite a bit as the water was quiet calm compared to the sloshing waves of this morning. I really enjoyed the gentle yet satisfying stretches twisting around the swimming pool gave me. I vowed to make a refreshing dip a part of my daily routine.

It was formal night but Darren and I skipped the monkey suit circus instead heading to the buffet. It was much more tame and orderly than the gong show that was lunch. I discovered some succulent spiced shrimp and paired them up with some fresh pineapple. Yum. For dessert I was able harness my self control, bypassing the cakes and ice cream completely. I opted for a healthy yogurt, apple, and walnut concoction I put together. It was most delightful and I recognized that this lighter choice will not only be happy on my lips, but more forgiving on my hips.

It is only day two of this 5 week voyage but already I am creating some discoveries that will likely keep me happy to the end. As long as I stay active, regulate my food portions, and keep peaceful, I should be able to stay in balance.

Grateful for swimming.

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Natural Health Plan

One of my recent goals has been to achieve a high state of health which means stabilizing my energy levels and losing a bit of extra weight. I enlisted the lady who knows best about these things. Mom has been teaching me about eating raw vegan and sharing with me her innate knowledge of all things natural.

Along with reading up on health matters, I have been introducing mom to Earths General Stores’ free media library. Here there are critical documentaries and oodles of activist information. I have developed some pretty great recipes including ginger pear chips and the best fruit salad you ever did taste.

One of our staples is green smoothies which we usually drink a jar of every day. Mom likes to include avocados and bananas in hers. I like to use beets, apples (picked fresh of the tree), raspberries, and blueberries. We both add lots of greens like kale, lettuce, dandylions, various flowers and edible weeds. The cool thing is that no two ever taste the same. It’s like a daily health masterpiece and I love testing out new flavors. Luckily, we brought the Vita-Mix (the Rolls Royce of blenders) which is an integral part of the smoothie operation.

Grateful for preventative health plan.

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Smokin` hot and then some

What can I say? It`s hot. Smokin` hot, as my yoga instructors would say. This past week, I have made it to yoga everyday though I have given myself a break. I have allowed myself to take it easy only pushing to about 85 percent of my ability. I even warned Ricky before one of the classes though I managed to do a whole lot better than I had predicted. read more

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Toe Slice and Nice Kites

This week was a good one for the most part although I was super busy with this new game. I also had a bunch of month end stuff to get done so I actually missed a few parties that I would have liked to attend. But that`s the thing with parties…there will always be another one. read more

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Double Double

Everyday, I try to learn something new. A sure way to make this happen is by trying something you have never done before. On Friday I did just that. I did two hot yoga classes back to back. I made sure I was well rested then went in for the 930am class. I made sure to take easy and pace myself. In the hour between classes, I had an herbal energy drink and some bites of power cookie. Then I went back into the room and rested before the next round. read more

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