Posted by: RaeAn | 10 June 2011

Welcome to LA-LA-Land…

I know I went off the grid for a bit, but exams and moving are hectic things… but I’ve now made it out to the next stop on my journey: Los Angeles!

I successfully took all my exams (haven’t checked my grades yet), had some free time to enjoy Israel, and hopped on a plane back to Atlanta, where I spent a week with my family, cleaning out/organizing my childhood room (parents want it to become a guest room now), and seeing the few friends I still have left there… and repacked all my crap to get out to LA. I then hopped onto yet another plane out to San Francisco with my dad, 4 checked bags, 1 carry-on, a guitar, a violin, and a cat. (Guess which one was the hardest to deal with during the flight? I’ll give you a hint — the one that whines the whole time while sitting under the seat. Adorable but also annoying.) Thanks to all the traveling my dad does for work, he’s a Delta Gold Medallion member, so all that stuff (except the cat — there’s a pet fee) was free to take with me.

We made it to San Francisco and to the hotel in Oakland on Sunday night, promptly passing out… in the morning, we had breakfast with my friend Brandon, who was nice enough to stick around after a night shift at the hospital to help us load up the U-Haul with stuff to take to LA. We had a storage unit for my grandmother’s car and furniture and other items that my family decided I should have, since I’ll be the only family member living in California. We then had lunch with Brandon and Don, my grandmother’s boyfriend at the home, which was lovely… and then we hit the road. Driving with the cat was far more pleasant than flying with her — at least I could let her out of the carrier, which Delta didn’t permit at all during the flight. (I had to let her out for a little while in flight to re-dose her with her sedative pills, and she managed to slip out of my hands and jump onto the head of the poor woman sitting in front of me… I apologized profusely, she said it was okay, but still — I was mortified!) But Zuli snuggled on my lap most of the drive down to LA, sleeping or looking out the window at all the strange new sights whizzing by on the highway, which was adorable.

We arrived in LA safe and sound, I met up with the girl I’m subleasing my apartment from and started getting settled in. Zuli promptly hid under the bed for a little while, of course, but she eventually ventured out to explore the new place and to play with the new toy I just bought for her. We spent Tuesday getting logistical things done — offloading the U-Haul into the storage unit here, picking up my packages that were waiting for me at school (a box I’d sent from Israel and some of my books for the semester), etc. Then we went to Glendale to Temple Sinai with Iah for Shavuot services and got my fill of Jewiness and cheesecake. (Cheesecake holiday = favorite holiday! Yummy.)

Zuli gets comfy and takes a nap on my bed after all the trauma of moving. Poor kitty... but she's adjusting and being super-adorable now!

On Wednesday, my dad and I decided to have some fun: we went to Six Flags Magic Mountain for some roller coasters! I hadn’t been to Six Flags in almost two years, and we had a blast. We of course spent far more time waiting in line than on rides — we waited over an hour for X2… it was definitely a fun ride, but not sure it was worth that much of a wait… the design of the coaster is fascinating, though: the seats can rotate 360 degrees, and there were some flame effects which were kinda neat. I liked the Riddler and Goliath better, though — pure thrills without nearly as long of a wait. My dad and I left after 5 rides — it seems we have 5-Coaster Stomachs now, which must mean I’m getting older. Ha. But it was a fantastic day trip, and we left the park when it closed at 6. We had a delicious dinner at Red Lobster (blackened tilapia — so good!) and went to Target to get some apartment basics like cat food, chairs for the balcony, toiletries, and so on, then headed back to the apartment. (Where we discovered that finding parking after 10 pm is not nearly as easy as we’d hoped… but I’ll either learn to get home early or be okay with walking several blocks to my car, I suppose!)

And yesterday, we had a relaxed morning — went to Starbucks for some coffee and reading (my dad read his novel, I started my book for my history class since we need to read about 100 pages of it before the first day of class), then to Radio Shack and back home where my dad taught me how to solder as we fixed my grandmother’s floor lamp, since one of the wires had come loose from the switch. Then I drove my dad to the airport… and I got rear-ended on the way. By a guy driving a rental car. Everyone was okay, none of my grandmother’s things that were in the trunk were broken (including the good china and glasses, so thank goodness for that), and the damage to the car isn’t too bad — I need a new tail light and some body work on the rear bumper — but it’s still annoying. Now I get to deal with Avis to make a claim. Not how I wanted to be spending my free time right when I got here, but welcome to LA, I suppose!

Today is orientation for the summer session at HUC; I’ll be meeting my “big sister,” Natalie, who will be picking me up, and we’ll be doing some community service and getting information we need for the summer and then having shabbat dinner together. That starts at 2, so I’ll probably try to get some grocery shopping done before that, and I’ll have the weekend off before classes start on Monday!

I’ve decided to continue blogging on here for a while — I’m not sure how often I’ll post, but I think the title is still appropriate, especially considering where I’m living for the summer. It’s definitely Jewville around here — I’m in the Pico-Robertson area, and I’ve seen tons of religious Jews walking around to go to Shavuot services, and 90% of the businesses within 3 blocks of my apartment are kosher. I couldn’t get groceries yesterday because all of the markets were closed for Shavuot! It’ll be a nice way to transition back to America, after living in Jerusalem for a year. I doubt I’ll be able to afford living in this area for the rest of the year, but I’ll figure out where I’ll be once I find a roommate and we can discuss neighborhoods. (Any suggestions, either for roommates or locations to look, will be more than welcome! I can stay in this apartment until August 1, but then I need to be in my own place.)

That’s all for now — life is moving on, LA is my home for the next two years, and I’m adjusting to it slowly but I’ll get there.

Shabbat Shalom, everyone!

~ Rae

Posted by: RaeAn | 14 May 2011

Hello, Exam Week.

Nice to see you’re finally here. Now, please be gentle, and leave as quickly as possible. Thanks.

So yes, it’s officially final exam week: the last Shabbat of the school year has just come to a close here in Jerusalem and the stress on campus is almost palpable. (Well, technically we have one more Shabbat together, but it’s after exams are over, so I’m counting it as the first Shabbat of next school year because my brain likes that better.)

For my eight classes this semester, I have 3 papers and 5 exams… all of the papers are done (I just need to do a final run-through edit of 2 of them) and the exams start Monday morning. Liturgy, then Hebrew, then Late Antiquities, then Bible, then Grammar. I’m not looking forward to any of the above. It’s going to be a painfully stressful week — but soon, it will be over, and on Thursday at 11:30 am Jerusalem time, I’ll officially be a second-year HUC student! Then I get to celebrate by going to the class Beit Cafe and a little get-together at a friend’s apartment, then I pack up and head out to Tel Aviv to spend my last few days in Israel with Gal and to relax.

I leave for the US on May 26, so if you’re in Israel and want to see me before I leave, that’s your deadline! Call or email or something. We’ll find a time to hang out.

I arrive in the US on May 27, so if you’re in Georgia and want to see me, you have from then until June 6 to see me, and contact me about that and we’ll figure something out. I have a grand total of five things on my To-Do list for my 10 days in Georgia (1. Doctor, 2. Dentist, 3. Haircut, 4. Unpack, 5. Repack), so the rest of my time can be spent being social or relaxing by the neighborhood pool with a good book (or you!).

If you’re in LA or know someone in LA, also contact me — I don’t know anyone in the city except the portion of my classmates who will also be going to the LA campus, most of whom won’t be there until fall semester starts in August, and I’ll be looking for a social life at some point! 😉 I’ll be there from June 7ish until… 2013, basically, since I’m in the year-round program so I don’t even get summers off. Woohoo.

Since I’m sure someone is curious (no one ever comments on this blog, but I get a ton of hits on it every day — even when I don’t actually post anything new, which is weird, but still pretty neat — and people always bug me to keep updating, so I know someone will want to know who hasn’t already asked me about this), yes, the boy and I are splitting up when I leave the country. He can’t come to the US, and I can’t stay here. We’ve decided it’s the best for both of us, and it’s been a wonderful year with him, and I’ll miss him terribly… but the memories are only good, and life is taking us in different directions, so the world will keep on turning. Don’t expect me to be happy about it right when I get back, but I’m doing my best to enjoy the little time we have left together here. Hence the spending the last few days in Tel Aviv so I get maximum boy-exposure before the big metal bird takes me home. 🙂

However, he will be battling some rather serious health issues over the next few months, perhaps even longer — so if you’re the praying type, I know I’d really appreciate it if you kept him in your prayers (Gal ben Baruch / גל בן ברוך)… he’s not really religious, so he might call me as soon as he sees this update to yell at me for putting this up, but I figure we’ll take any brownie points we can get with the Big Guy in the Sky with the hopes that everything goes well for him. It’s not my place to post any more details than this, but his family might start a financial campaign for his treatments soon — I’ll keep you updated on such if and when that starts so we can help the boy who has been so good to me this year and has helped me navigate the complexities of living in Israel in a way I never would have been able to had I not had him in my life.

Well… I guess that’s enough procrastinating for now. I can only write so much before I feel guilty about neglecting school work. (Darn work ethic — it’s so annoying sometimes!) Back to translating more liturgy. Some of this stuff we’re supposed to say in prayer every day? It’s kinda weird. Whoever wrote some of these must have been on something that wouldn’t be legal nowadays. Also, none of them would pass a grammar exam today. Stupid rabbinic Hebrew. It’s dumb. But I have to know it anyway, so off I go! (Then, probably, some Late Antiquities review, unless I fall asleep on the siddur. Again. Oops.)

Oh, also, I’ll be writing an essay that connects Star Trek with something we’ve learned in Liturgy class. My nerdity knows no bounds. But it’s a FANTASTIC connection and I get all giggly when I think about it. (For the Trekkies out there, it’s TNG season 3… but I’m not giving away which episode yet!) I’ve started the essay, but I want to get it just right before I put it out there. Plus, this way, if I’m ever asked to deliver a sermon for a service at a Star Trek convention, I’ll totally be prepared. 😉

Hope all is well with everyone! I’m sorry I suck at updating often enough, but HUC doesn’t give us much time to rest, so this blog has been a little dead recently. I might not have another chance to post until after finals, so to all of my classmates, בהצלחה!

See you on the other side!

~ Rae

Posted by: RaeAn | 2 May 2011

Yom HaShoah

Today, we remember those whole lives were affected by the Shoah, or the Holocaust — today is Yom HaShoah here in Israel and across the world.

Yesterday, since my friend Leonard is in town, he came to two classes at HUC with me since he’s considering applying some day; then while I finished classes, he explored Jerusalem. He came back to see me while I was working at the library and then we decided to roam around looking for some dinner… unfortunately, we didn’t realize (mostly, I didn’t realize — it’s his first time in Israel, but I should’ve known this) that all the restaurants close the night before and the day of Yom HaShoah. That was a colossal failure…

“Damn you, Hitler. I blame you for this.”
                   — as so eloquently phrased by a frustrated me after the 5th block of closed-up restaurants.

All joking aside, Yom HaShoah is pretty serious business here. We didn’t have class today; instead, we had services, a tekes (ceremony), and two study sessions at school. The roommate and I had to go to the Arnona office (Arnona = renter’s tax, which means we were dealing with Israeli bureaucracy, grawr!) first thing, so instead of services and the first half of the tekes, we went to Yaffo Street to try to get our student discount on the Arnona. (That thing’s expensive without the discount!) We got the notary from the court house, then went to the Arnona offices themselves at 9:00 am to do our thing… but there was another tekes going on and the office was closed until the end of the ceremony. So we waited outside the Arnona offices with a bunch of other people for 45 minutes until they re-opened and a few dozen impatient Israeli bodies shoved around in “line” (very, very heavy quotes on that one) to get in and get numbers and get seated. After we got a number, we sat down… then a few minutes later, the siren goes off.

Every year, at 10:00 am, a siren sounds for a full 2 minutes throughout the entire country, during which everyone stands up and is quiet for the whole time. (Yes, Israelis are quiet for a full 2 minutes.. hard to imagine, but true!) A little video of a highway during the Yom HaShoah siren if you care to watch:

(The siren starts about 1 minute in, so feel free to fast forward to 0:58 or so to catch it.)

People actually stop their cars and get out to stand up for the siren. It’s really a incredibly impressive occurrence: an entire country takes two minutes to reflect on those lost in the Holocaust. 

Well, almost an entire country: when I was living in Tel Aviv, I was at a busy intersection near the university when the siren went off, and while most people stopped and were quiet, some Arab boys didn’t stop what they were doing at all — they kept talking on their cell phones and to each other, crossing the streets, etc. Much of the Arab population here feels no connection to Yom HaShoah (understandably so, I think), and some don’t feel the need to participate in the communal moment of silence. 

While I was in the Arnona office this morning, since Yom HaShoah is a pretty big-deal holiday here to the Jews, the majority of the people in line were Arab. I expected as much; there were a few of us whitey Jews in there, but much of the crowd had Muslim head-coverings. So when the siren went off at 10:00 am, I stood up at my chair in the waiting area, as did all the staff of the building and the other Jews in the crowd. The Arabs didn’t stand — which I wholly expected.

What surprised me, after seeing how little the Tel Aviv guys respected the moment of silence, was how quiet everyone was — including the Arabs. One Arab woman’s cell phone rang during the siren, and she had such a look of horror on her face, shock that her phone would be the one to ruin the silence of the moment, and she instantly turned it off with a look of annoyance at whoever had the poor judgment to call her right then. I suppose the cynic could say that she was so frustrated because she’s in a room fully staffed by Jews and an Arab woman would have more trouble dealing with the Jewish municipal staff so she didn’t want to cause any trouble, but from watching her as she put her cell phone back away in her purse, I get the feeling that she wanted to respect the moment. The Holocaust didn’t cause the trauma to the Arab community that it did to the Jewish one so I wholly understand that they don’t feel the need to commemorate the day like we do, but I think she, and the others in the room who chose not to stand during the siren, recognized that the moment has sanctity and meaning to others in the room, and to cause an interruption would be disrespectful. 

It gave me some hope for some cross-cultural understanding here. There’s a lot of work to be done, for sure, but there are glimmers of hope that mutual respect can be found among the peoples here. No matter how small they are — they’re there, and I think we need to appreciate that.

I hope everyone had a meaningful Yom HaShoah. Remember the 6 million Jews and millions of others whose lives were ended too soon, and the many millions more whose lives have been lived in the shadow of this great tragedy.

Never again. 

(Update on Passover vacation to come, I hope, but it’s finals time now: up to the final P of the end-of-year sequence of Purim, Pesach, Packing, so I’m a little frazzled at the moment! I got tons of great pictures, and the week was fantastic: Amsterdam with Beth, then Copenhagen and Goteborg with the family. A great vacation overall!)


~ Rae

Posted by: RaeAn | 30 March 2011

Hello Again!

“Only three days between posts?” you say — “Are you sick?”

Yes. Yes, I am. I have a lovely little bout of food poisoning. Luckily, the doctor says it’s not a big one and I’ll be fine in a day. But in the meantime, I’m bored and okay with procrastinating enough to write a post.

So, Jenn and Beth have left the country and are currently in France, which means I’m no longer playing tour guide (well, until Derek comes on April 6!) and back to school stuff it is.

Oh, since I forgot to post any pictures from Purim itself, here are some! I went as Catwoman. You can’t see in the pictures very well, but I have thigh-high boots and a fake black whip. Teehee.


Me on Purim. I like the mask a lot. Well, I did until it broke in my purse... thankfully, it waited until Purim was over to break.

Chuck waves emphatically at the Purim moon. I like this photo even though it has nothing to do with Purim other than the fact that I shot it right before we went into the gay Purim party in Talpiyot.

Some friends of mine: Jessica (we met at the Jerusalem Open House), Deb (went to UMD with me and made Aliyah), Esther (Deb's roommate here), me, and Sarah (also went to UMD with me and made Aliyah). I love Purim ridiculousness.

Yay Purim!

Also, at some point, a few weeks ago, I bought another plant. Remember Charlie the Chili Plant?

Well, he used to look like this:


Charlie the Chili Plant, all pretty and new...

Well, I suck at keeping plants alive, so today, he looks a little less perky:


He didn't last very long. RIP Charlie the Chili Plant.

But I bought a mini orange plant, and I was determined not to kill this one so fast. A month in, and I think she’s lasted long enough to get a name: Olivia the Orange Tree!

She's all pretty! And still green! And the oranges are getting ripe! (And they're delicious, by the way -- totally edible.) Check out the one hiding behind its friend on the bottom there... that will be absolutely delicious in two days. Yum.

I think the fact that I put Olivia in a place where she gets the right amount of sun (a little, but not a lot) and where I’ll actually remember to water her sometimes… those help with her staying-alive mission. I don’t have a totally brown thumb after all! (So far………)

— — — — —

Yesterday, I was able to rally my strength enough despite being sick to be on a panel at Hebrew University. There’s a class there for some of the Masa grant recipients who are there on an education grant. It’s for students who study abroad in Israel and are interested in Jewish education. So I spoke to them along with two professionals, a rabbi and a former Jewish school administrator, who are both here doing a fellowship on Jewish education for mid-career professionals. Seems pretty neat. So I told the students about the Jewish Education program at HUC, how I chose to go there, what I plan to do with my life, and so on.

The thing I love most about being on panels is that it makes me get my thoughts together, and when it comes to what I want to do with my life, that’s a good thing to make me do every once in a while. Things get clearer to me when I explain them to other people — that’s one of the major reasons why I’m going into education: the teacher learns just as much as the students. And I love learning. (Yup, I’m a nerd. I’m comfortable with that.) So if teaching is the best way to learn, that’s what I plan to do… I really hope I could offer some useful insights for the students I spoke with. There was a girl there from Atlanta who is at UMD majoring in Jewish Studies — sounds familiar, right? — and we chatted a bit, played a little Jewish geography, and talked about options in the field of Jewish Education. Most of the students are my sister’s age, mostly juniors in college, and I enjoyed speaking with them. I also was able to make connections with the other panelists and the panel coordinator, who emailed me a resource that could help a lot with my thesis/curriculum that I’ll be doing at HUC, if I do it on the subject I’m thinking about doing it on (Jewish sex and diversity education for K-12 students). It’s a bit early in the HUC game to have that set yet, so we’ll see what the future brings. But even if I don’t do my thesis on the subject, it’s one I’m very much interested in, so the person he recommended I connect with could be good for me regardless.

Also, while I was on Hebrew U’s campus, I stumbled on a used book sale, with books under 30 shekels. (About $7.) I got several books that I’m super-excited about: a book on theories of learning, one on the sociology of single-parent family formations, one on gender and social power, one on Jewish national identity in Israel (in Hebrew), and one on the siddur and Jewish liturgy by Steinsaltz (also in Hebrew). Basically, I’m a Jewish education and feminism nerd. But if you know me at all, you already knew that. 😉

— — — — —

I also finally have my Passover break plans set! (Well, mostly, at least.) I’ll be spending a few days in Amsterdam, doing seder there probably (let me know if you know anyone in Amsterdam that might have a place for me at their seder, or who might know someone who would!), then heading to Copenhagen to see my sister and parents. We’ll go to Sweden at some point to see my cousins, who live in Gothenburg, and then I’ll fly back to Tel Aviv with a day to relax before classes start again. I’m excited to see Europe and my family again! (And I haven’t seen my dad since July, since he couldn’t make it on the trip when my mom and sister were here in January.) So Passover should be a good time. 🙂

And here’s a pretty Jerusalem flower because spring is starting here!


It's so pretty! And it was on my path home from school. Yay!

Unfortunately, with spring beauty comes spring allergies. I’m not enjoying those much. Yich.

But yes. Those are some random updates. I’m going to try to enjoy the rest of my sick-day and hope I can get to school tomorrow.

Have a good weekend!

~ Rae

Posted by: RaeAn | 27 March 2011

Time for the Three P’s…

So I had lunch with my former cantor a little over a week ago, just before Purim (yet another one of those Jewish holidays with a “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!” theme behind it), and he said when he was at HUC, that time of year began what he called the Three P’s:




Apparently, once you hit the first of the Three P’s, time just swooshes by and holy snap, just like that, you’re back in the US.

And hoo boy. If the past week since Purim is any indication, I’m scared I’ll get whiplash from how fast this time is going to go by.

So I spent Purim running around between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv depending on where the fun things to do happened to be at any given point in time. I had some chill time with a good friend on Thursday and Friday nights, then spent Saturday and Sunday at a gay Purim party and a Progressive Judaism Megillah reading, respectively. (Megillah = the scroll we read on Purim that tells the story of the holiday. Also known as the Book of Esther.) Also, I spent time with Gal, which is always something I look forward to during the week. I know, it’s mushy. You can throw tomatoes at me later.

Then, right after Purim ended, my friends Jenn and Beth flew in to visit me for a week! They’re leaving tomorrow, but it seems like they just landed yesterday. We went to the shuk, Ben Yehuda Street, the Old City (twice), Tel Aviv, and they were able to get to Bethlehem today while I was in class. Beth is about to move to Paris for three months before she starts grad school at NYU, and Jenn wanted to go with her for a little bit just to travel some… and they figured they could stop in Israel for a week before moving on to France. Also, Jenn works in a Pirate bar. Sometimes I wonder how I can expect to compete with people whose lives are so interesting. I mean, living in Israel is pretty exciting and all, but Paris and Pirates are also exciting. There are some more P’s for you.

Oh, yeah, and yet another lovely P in this country: Pigua!

Pigua (pronounced pee-GOO-ah) translates to “attack,” but it’s used in reference to any act of terror committed in Israel. The first time Jenn, Beth, and I were in the Old City, last Wednesday, a bomb went off across the street from the Central Bus Station. That’s only about 20 minutes’ walk from my apartment, but we were in an entirely different part of the city, so we were perfectly fine and in no danger whatsoever.

There are also articles with real news about the pigua, if you want. Oh, and beyond that, there were also almost a dozen rockets tossed over into Israel within a day of the bombing. There are so many things wrong with Arab-Israeli relations right now that I don’t even know where to begin… so instead, I’ll just move on. But overall, don’t worry, I’m okay, everyone I know is okay, all HUC students are okay, and while we might be stressed out by such things, we can’t let it affect daily life or else the jerkwads in charge of these things win. So yes, it’s still perfectly safe for me to be here, just as safe as it was last week, so please don’t get any grey hairs over me. Really.

But after those shenanigans on Wednesday, Jenn, Beth, and I went to Tel Aviv on Thursday for some relaxing and partying in that city with Gal and his friends. We even had Shabbat dinner on the beach at sunset on Friday night, which was pretty awesome, and went up to Azraeli Tower to see the gorgeous view at sunset on Saturday night.

So gorgeous. Thanks a million to Gal for the ideas to go there!

And today, they went to Bethlehem, and I met them in the Old City a second time to go on a tour of the Western Wall tunnels. I’d done the tour before with my mom and sister, but there was some different info the second time around, so it was pretty neat. We then got food and stopped by a little food and wine festival that we stumbled upon on our way out of the city… then we decided to stop spending money, so we went back to my place to hang out with my friend Emily and drink wine because that’s what 4 girls in their mid-twenties do on a Sunday night when they’re sitting around a table in candlelight. (The power went out for a little, I lit candles, but decided to keep them burning even after Megan got the power back on because I like the ambiance and I’m just girly like that, so there.)

And now, I’m off to bed because it’s late here, I have class tomorrow, and Beth and Jenn leave tomorrow for France. Jenn will spend a week in France and go back to the US; Beth will be there for a little while longer.

Also, scarily enough, Passover is in 3 weeks. In 60 days, I leave Israel. Time flies when you’re having fun. Or when you’re stressed. I wholly expect the next two months to be full of both situations. Derek is coming to visit me in 2 weeks, then I’ll be spending Passover in Europe, then I spend as much time as I can with the people I’ll miss when I leave Israel and seeing the things I want to do before I go (like the Biblical Zoo — I still haven’t been!), then I’ll be moving to LA with a cat and whatever stuff I can fit into a suitcase. (Or three.) I think I found a sublet for the summer, which would be a huge relief to have that set — honestly, moving to California kinda makes me nervous. I’ve only been in LA for a grand total of 36 hours in my life (not including NFTY Convention, which was inside a hotel the whole time, so not really in LA, per se) so I have no idea if I’ll like it there. But only time will tell, right?

And with that, I’m off to bed. Before I go, though, here’s a little post-Purim treat for you:

I have a soft spot for cute singing Jewish boys. Maybe that’s why I’m dating one of those types right now. But the Maccabeats have some good eye and ear and Jew candy for you all.

Oh, one more thing: Israel switches the clocks on Thursday night for Sha’on Kayitz (summer time, aka Daylight Savings Time in the US). So starting Friday morning, we’ll be back on the 7-hours-ahead-of-the-East-Coast situation as opposed to the 6 we have right now. Just in case you were thinking about Skyping me sometime. 😉

Laila tov, all!

~ Rae

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