Thursday, January 12, 2017

The North Swell Rolls in, and I am Grateful


“The waves broke and spread their waters swiftly over the shore. One after another they massed themselves and fell; the spray tossed itself back with the energy of their fall. The waves were steeped deep-blue save for a pattern of diamond-pointed light on their backs which rippled as the backs of great horses ripple with muscles as they move. The waves fell; withdrew and fell again, like the thud of a great beast stamping.” 

―Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Tortola is known more for sailing than surfing... for the most part the trade winds blow out of the east, our waters are (fairly) protected by an archipelago of beautiful islands, and waves on the north shore are mediocre at best most of the time. It's why our beaches are so popular and perfect; they are calm and serene... perfect for swimming and lounging. Great for kids to play and splash. Perfect for paddle boarding and just kicking back... Until a north swell, rolls in, that is. Then Tortola becomes a surfers paradise and people come from around the world to surf here. When I asked my friend Aaron (a big wave surfer who live's on Hawaii's North Shore), if it really got that good here he replied, "Oh Brittany ... when it goes off - it goes OFF. It's a world-class wave".

So when there was talk that a North swell would be rolling in (they always know when it's coming due to weather patterns up north) - the biggest in eight years - I started getting excited. Partly because it's something different (yay, waves!), and partly because I am both in love with and awed by the power of the ocean (remember my review of The Wave?). If you have never had the pleasure of standing next to a beach where six to ten foot waves are crashing, let me tell you, it's incredible. The fury with which the sea hurtles itself toward land is one of the most humbling experiences to behold. The sound it makes when it crashes is almost deafening, you actually need to yell a bit to speak over it, and to see that same wave gently recede away back to the ocean...well, these magnificently and perfectly chaotic natural occurrences serve as a reminder about our place in this world. Quieting my mind is not something that comes naturally to me, but I am in my most meditative state when watching waves crash into the shore, one after another, after another... There is tremendous peace in the chaos of it all.

I am always up for a little adventure with our girls and when my dear friend Meg asked if we wanted to go "wave sighting" - I jumped. I had been thinking the exact same thing when she messaged me. We all piled into my car, cameras and kids in tow, and embarked on a spontaneous 'round the island' wave-hunting adventure. We hit all the major bays on the North side, starting in Apple and finishing in Josiah's. The drive, despite a couple fussy kids from time to time and the crazy island drivers who give me heart palpitations at every corner, was spectacular. Every turn offered a new view and I must have said, "I love it here SO much!" ten times. To live in a visually spectacular place is important to me, and holy moly, do we live in a visually spectacular place.

We stopped outside Bomba Shack and that's where we first saw the massive waves rolling in. The beaches had already all been closed because of this massive swell and the red "Do Not Swim" flags were flying in the stiff breeze. We drove along further and caught a glimpse of a "seaspraybow" - a rainbow created by the large amount of spray coming off the top of the waves glistening in the sunlight - the girls (expert rainbow spotters, in fact) were the first to see it from their view from the back seat. Pure beauty. We drove on further along the coastline, a couple waves crashing onto my car, up to the ridge road, where we continued our tour around hair-pin turns, up steep climbs and down swift slopes...we drove and drove, stopping to take pics, to tell the girls to take it in, to revel in the immense beauty of our adopted island, Tortola. The waves were roaring, powerful and magnificent from every angle. With every crash they screamed the sheer energy the ocean beholds. She can be calm, but she can be fierce. She is a force to be reckoned with.

Our final destination was in East End, in Josiah's bay. We were hoping to see surfers on the water but they weren't out this morning. The waves - we were told by some female surfers on a yoga/surf retreat that we'd just met - we're "too gnarly" in the bays we visited. Something about the period between them and the direction of the wind. We settled down at the beach, watching quietly and decided to get some snacks at Naomi's Place, a little snack shack right there on the beach.

If there is one thing that is quintessentially Caribbean to me, it is the local eatery run by a beautiful West Indian mama cooking her heart out. Naomi did not disappoint...her restaurant, a handful of tables with shell chimes dangling from every window, is as picturesque as can be. The kitchen is open and would pass no FDA test in the US, but it doesn't matter. It feels more like you are in her home than in a restaurant, and patience is the name of the game. Pots, pans and cooking utensils are everywhere and there is order in the disarray. Naomi, with her gentle demeanor and warm smile makes it that much lovelier. She shuffles around in the kitchen, tending casually to bubbling pots and spitting frying pans, her timing as natural and effortless as that of the waves to the shore.

As we waited for our food, the girls checked out Naomi's shell collection and played barefoot in the sand outside her place, we brought no toys and they were perfectly content to explore and play using their minds.  The tingling of shell chimes blowing in the wind combined with the dull roar of crashing waves and the tinny background drone of Naomi's alarm clock radio set the scene. I looked around, surrounded by people I love, and felt a humongous wave of gratitude wash over me. What began as a little spontaneous island adventure had shaken my senses, awakened my creativity and reminded me all that I love about island life.

And my God, do I love island life. For all the challenges and struggles it presents, the beauty it brings forth - for me, my family - is worth it all. Like the waves crashing into the shore, there is magnificence in the chaos.

“[The waves] move across a faint horizon, the rush of love and the surge of grief, the respite of peace and then fear again, the heart that beats and then lies still, the rise and fall and rise and fall of all of it, the incoming and the outgoing, the infinite procession of life. And the ocean wraps the earth, a reminder. The mysteries come forward in waves.” 

―Susan Casey, The Wave







Saturday, December 24, 2016

Twas the Night Before Christmas: Nautical Style

It's Christmas Eve!! I have SO much to write about and SO much to share, but time has not allowed...so those things will have to wait - suffice it to say that life has been insanely hectic (we have a new boat and moved aboard three days before Christmas!) and amazing (we have a new boat and it's Christmas!) I am prepping for a weekend of festivities so cannot give you all the details just yet but for now, we want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and share this oldie but goodie re-write of an old classic I wrote a few years back...

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the boat, 
not a creature was stirring, not even a roach.
The dry bags were hung on the davits with care, 
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their berth, 
while visions of snorkeling filled them with mirth.
And mama in her ponytail and I in my headlamp, 
had just dropped the 'hook in a new harbor "camp".

When out on the deck there arose such a clatter, 
I sprang from the nav station to see what was the matter.
To the aft cabin I flew like a flash, 
grabbed my machete and opened the hatch.

The full moonlight sparkled and danced on the ocean, 
while our boat gently rocked with a side to side motion.
When what to my sun-tired eyes should appear, 
but a flying pirogue pulled by eight tiny deer.
With a laughing old helmsman singin' a Caribbean shtick, 
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than dolphins, his coursers they came, 
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:
"Now Dasher! Now Dancer! 
Now Prancer! Now Vixen!
On Comet! On Cupid!
On Donner! On Blitzen!
From the top of the mast all the way to the clew!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away you!"

As sea birds before a wild hurricane fly, 
when met with an obstacle, take to the sky.
Over twinkling anchor lights 'round the harbor they flew
with a boat full of parts and St. Nicholas, too. 

When suddenly I heard on the cabin-top roof 
the prancing and pawing of each tiny hoof.
As I clicked off my headlamp and was turning around, 
down the companionway stairs came St. Nick with a bound!

Hawaiian shirt, bermuda shorts and waternut in hand,
his feet and his face were all covered in sand.
A sack full of provisions he had slung on his hub
and he looked like a man just returned from Sam's Club.

His eyes, how they sparkled!  His wrinkles, how cheery!
His cheeks were all sunburned, his nose was all peely!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a sail, 
the ends of his beard housed a braid, like a tail.
The stump of his Cuban cast a faint yellow glow,
but the Old Salt, he knew better than to smoke down below.
His face was all weathered, and he had a big tum, 
from a lifetime of rays and plenty of fun. 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old Salt
and I knew right away this was not an assault.
A wink of his eye and a swig of his rum, 
soon gave me to know he was nothing but fun.

He spoke not a word, but got to work down below
And serviced our systems with the speed of a pro!
He cleaned up our terminals and replaced an old hose, 
After halving my "to-do" list, up the companionway he rose.

He jumped into his boat, to his team gave a whistle,
and away they all went like a nautical missile.
But I heard him exclaim as he sailed through the night
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

© original adaptation written by Brittany Meyers, property of Windtraveler.net

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Few of Our Favorite Things: 2016 Christmas Edition

© Tom Wang | Dreamstime.com - Santa Claus sitting on beach chairs. Christmas holiday concept.
It's the most wonderful time of the year! But for many, it can be super stressful. Christmas is not all about presents (for our girls we are sticking to the "something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read" gift giving plan to keep it simple and not make it all about "stuff"), but it is about the spirit of giving and, let's face it, getting and giving presents is so much fun! Some folks, however, are tricky to buy for and others (like me!) get stumped and need some inspiration for ideas. For those of you who can identify with one or both of those scenarios, this post is for you. I have compiled this list of tried and true products that we LOVE and use regularly if not daily.  Another bonus? Many of these items are under $50 and won't break the bank.

If you'd like to check out last year's list, here are some more ideas for the saltiest sailors in your circle.



Micro Scooter - These Swiss-designed scooters are THE BEST. Period. Our girls rip around the marina like little pros and to see their skill and confidence develop and soar has been amazing. Micro scooters are very well constructed and super durable, but the best part is how intuitive they are. You don't "steer" by using your arms, but rather leaning your body right and left, honing large motor coordination skills. We use ours every day and they are a huge hit with the other kids around the marina - in fact I think several are getting them for Christmas as a direct result of seeing ours!

The Wagon Store Folding Sport Wagon - We. LOVE. THIS. WAGON. The twins are getting quite independent these days and no longer like to sit in their stroller to stay contained, but when we hit the beach here I don't want to lug all our gear and I still like to have a way to contain the kids. Enter: this wagon. I did a ton of research on all things "wagon" and this brand consistently had the best reviews. It is collapsible and can easily be stowed on deck or in the back of a car, and it also doubles for fun when all the marina kids pull each other around in it!

Magna-Tiles Set - We have loved these for years. When it comes to toys for our girls, we look for things that are a) quality b) educational and c) easy to store. Magna tiles fit all criteria beautifully. Our girls have spent hours upon hours creating palaces, homes, cars and creations with our set. A toy that is super engaging and brain developing? YES.

Books - One thing we do not limit on our boat is books for the kids. All three of our girls LOVE books and "reading ". Some of our favorite are the Berenstain Bears, Usborne lift the flap books, Julia Donaldson books, Tod Parr books and any book that helps drive home important lessons. I will be doing an additional post on our favorite children's books soon because reading is something that is very important to our family.

Bronwen Jewelry - I have sang this jeweler praise for years now. I absolutely LOVE her stuff and if I could afford to buy it all, I would. Her handcrafted pieces are made for active women. I wear my waterweave bracelets every single day and they still look like new despite daily swimming.  I seriously cannot stress how much I love her simple, stylish work.

Wallaroo Tahiti Fedora - I love hats and have an obscene number of them. Gotta protect the skin! I have been on the hunt for a good fedora-type sun hat for over a year and I finally found them in the Wallaroo Tahiti fedora. Super well made, doesn't loose shape, and fits like a dream. I have two, one with the turquoise band and one with a taupe band and they go with just about any outfit I own. Also great for bad hair days (of which I have many!)

SCOUT Daytripper Tote - I discovered this company last year and I am not looking back. We have SO many of the SCOUT products on our boat it was hard to narrow down what to highlight, but this tote takes the cake. I have two (blue striped and the black and white pictured) and I use them every single day. They are big enough to carry all the gear I tote around for three tots, but not so big it feels like a burden. Plus, they are waterproof and do not stain! Any spills or nastiness that gets on the bag wipes right off. There are so many different colors and styles to chose from that it will be hard to select just one!

LSpace Women's Bikini Separates - Bikinis are my weakness and I have WAY too many. But, hey, I live on a boat in an island and pretty much live in swimwear. I found this brand a few months ago and holy moly, I LOVE them. They look so good on, are very well made, and all the pieces can be mixed and matched. Super cute.



Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag - I have never known Scott without this messenger bag, he has had his that long. Now that he is a bonafide businessman (albeit one that wears board shorts all day) he needed to dig this bag out as his briefcase. It goes with him everywhere and the bags are super strong, water proof and last FOREVER.

Buff Adult UV Headwear - No red necks around here! Working day in and day out in the sun means we need to protect ourselves before it gets the best of us and sometimes, sunscreen doesn't cut it. These versatile head scarves are great to keep the sun off your neck and can also be worn a bunch of different ways. They have these for both men and women and they are also great for anyone who runs, skis or does just about anything active.

Klein Canvas Zipper Tool Bags - I got Scott this set of tool bags on a whim way back in 2010 when we left on our first boat. He LOVES them. They take a real beating and have stood the test of time. Scott loves that his tools are organized and if he needs something, he just brings out one small bag instead of a huge bulky tool case. One bag holds "every day" tools (the ones we use most), another holds all his wrenches, another all the screw drivers, and so on.

O'Neill Santa Cruz Boardshort - Scott has several pairs of these and they are super comfortable, look great on, and fit well. He's very picky when it comes to how clothes fit so if the board shorts pass the Scott test, they are legit!



USB Essential Oil Ultrasonic LED Diffuser - I love diffusing essential oils in our boat for both scent and health. This little diffuser is the perfect size for our boat and runs off a USB power chord. It has a nice light option and various time settings. Add a little water, a few drops of essential oil, and your home will smell lovely!

SCOUT Hang-10 Storage Bin - I mentioned this company above and we have no fewer than five of these bins on our boat. They are foldable, super sturdy and look so much nicer than any other collapsible bin I have found. They are great for organizing toys, clothes and just about anything. Also, they are 'wipe clean' so will almost never get stained or dirty.

Cacala 100% Cotton Pestemal Turkish Towel - Yes, these are here again. We love these towels so much that it's hard to make a list of things we use and not include Turkish towels. They are thin, absorbent, quick to dry, easy to wash, take up a fraction of the space of a traditional towel and are so versatile. We use ours as bath towels, beach towels, sarongs, picnic blankets and fort-makers. They are awesome.

Sound Monkey Rugged Bluetooth Speaker - We love music and now we bring it wherever we go! This bluetooth speaker is super durable and the perfect size for on the go. It's waterproof and dustproof and has great sound - at full volume it can really get the party started!




MIRA 1 Liter Stainless Steel Coffee Pot & French Press - Many of you recall how much I love my Aeropress, and I still do love that. But these days, I drink a LOT of coffee and making one cup at a time is not efficient. I got this stainless steel model and I absolutely LOVE it. It makes one liter of delicious coffee and looks pretty on the counter to boot!

5 Piece Mini Utensil Set - Regular sized spatula sets take up a ton of room on a boat - this little set is the perfect size and I love the versatility of all the pieces. Another product that is used every single day on our boat.

Magic Bullet Express Mixing Set - I am on  a major smoothie kick these days and every day I have a vitamin and protein packed smoothie for lunch. This little mixer is what I use! We've had ours for over four years and it's still going strong! Super efficient and just the right size for one serving, the Magic Bullet is one powerful little gadget. I also use mine to make dressings, dips and salsas. Bonus is that it's super small and takes up very little space.

Copco 16-Ounce Reusable To Go Mug - Now that I am driving the girls to school three days a week, and since I rarely get to take a sip of my coffee until well after it is poured, I use this cup daily to not only keep my bev nice and warm, but also to be able to take it to go.

***

So there you have it! A few of our favorite things that I hope make the Holiday Season shine just a little bit brighter for you and your loved ones. Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Power of Words and Beauty of Sharing: New Friends in Far Off Places

Being a writer, it's very easy for me to feel anonymous. It's an incredibly solitary pastime and more often than not, I live in my own head. Sure, I know we have a healthy audience for our website and Facebook page, but still, the reach and power of this blog when I am behind the computer banging away at the keyboard is often lost on me...I write and share what I feel with the hopes that someone will like it, or that maybe it will resonate, inspire, or - at the very least - that I will be happy to have written whatever it was that I wrote so that when my memory fades I will always have something to look back on.

But every now and then something happens that reminds me of the power of my words. Of the beauty sharing. Of how putting our lives out there (which is something I have both directly and indirectly been criticized for) connects us so beautifully to others. One time it was a heartfelt email about how a "childless by choice" family decided to become parents as a direct result of this blog. Another time it was a tear-jerking missive from a veteran for whom our blog was a beacon of light while he was deployed overseas. Every single week we meet readers and followers who share our joy and love our story. We come home to treasures and gifts for the girls on the deck of our boat and readers come to our marina to meet us and say 'hi'. It's wonderful and I'm grateful to be able to touch these lives and - in turn - be touched by them. Because it is for sure a two-way street.

***

This week, my writer's spirit was touched again when we received a manilla envelope of no fewer than 47 hand drawn cards from one (very special) blog follower's 3rd grade classroom. The lovely Phyllis Dantzler reached out one day via Facebook and shared with me some pictures that her kids had drawn after being inspired by our story. "Could I send them to you?" she asked.  I was so touched by this that I reached out and we began a personal correspondence:
"I tell ya these kids live 40 miles from Edisto Beach SC and some have never seen the ocean. Cottageville is a small country town outside of Charleston. Low income area. When I told them about your family they were thrilled. We read one of your blogs together in class and for our writing block they wrote the letters to y'all. They loved seeing all the photos on our Smartboard. They call me their mermaid teacher lol. When we have spare time or inside recess guess what they want to read about? (your adventures). I heard one student talking on the playground about her new friends who live on a sailboat! Enjoy your wonderful life and we will live vicariously through you!!"
So she sent my mom the envelope of pictures who brought them down with her last week. And they are magic.

As a mom of tiny people who is constantly inundated by teachable moments, and who is particularly sensitive to making sure my kids not only accept but embrace others for their differences, what Phyllis did with her classroom really touched me. Not only did she use our lifestyle to engage her students with the earth and ocean, but she has also planted the seed to inspire thinking outside the box. On the surface, looking at our photos and reading about our lifestyle doesn't seem like much - but opening young minds to other ways of life, new ways of thinking, and exposing them to the world in a very human and relatable way - though watching other children - is actually quite powerful and brilliant. She is helping to normalize other ways of thinking and living, helping to fertilize young dreams and it is a great honor that she is using our family as a vehicle to do this.


The letters and pictures were precious and touching as all children's art is. "I want to live on a boat too one day" wrote several children. "Your kids are like roses, they are pretty" wrote another. "I want to come snorgle with you. I have never been snorgeling" wrote another adorable child (how cute is the misspelling of snorkel!?!). "You are a nice family, I want to visit you one day"...The girls and I flipped through all the pictures and notes, one by one, and I read to them these lovely messages from children we've never met, who live thousands of miles away and who's lives are so very different from our own. The exercise was two fold, of course, I wanted to share these lovely cards with the girls so that the student's effort was not wasted, but I also want our children to understand that not everyone lives like we do, and that we are very, very lucky to be able to live in such a unique way, and how neat it is that other's live different ways. Being grateful is another life lesson I am really trying to drill into the girls. (Side note: We'll see how I'm doing with my "lessons" and "teachable moments"...most days I'm wanting to pull my hair out and pretty sure I'm failing...sigh!)
So to the lovely Mrs. Dantzler's class, I want to give a great, big THANK YOU. Your lovely cards and words truly made our holiday season and warmed our hearts. If there is one piece of advice I could give to all the students in all the world it is one simple word: R E A D. Just, read.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” 
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
Be kind. Be good. Help others. Find beauty and magic in the little things. And read, read, read. Curiosity about the world combined with a love of knowledge and a thirst for reading are the keys to the universe (in my humble opinion). Your mind has no limits so fill it with good knowledge that can take you places and make your dreams come true.

In this vein, we have chosen some of our favorite books to add to your library to be read aloud together. We hope you enjoy our small selection and that these wonderful books (that are staples in our personal library), inspire some great conversations and life lessons. They should be arriving to Mrs. Dantzler any day now to be enjoyed in the New Year and beyond:

Oh, The Places You'll Go! - This is a classic Dr. Seuss book that should be read by EVERYONE, regularly. It offers fun, whimsical and valuable advice about life and making dreams come true. I read this book to Isla every single day for the first six months of her life (would have loved to read it to the twins as much but...twins. They were having none of it!) This is good for kids of all ages, from 1-100.

The Snail and the Whale - We love ALL of Julia Donaldson's book but this one is one of our favorites, it tells the tale of a travel eager snail who hitches a ride around the world on the tail of a whale despite snickers from her fellow snail community. They have loads of wonderful adventures and the snail learns a valuable lesson about her potential despite being so small in a big, big world.

Lola Tortola: Caribbean Limericks - We first bought this book in the Grenadines when we were sailing with Isla. It's lovely little limericks about the islands. The pictures are gorgeous and it's a great way to learn the names of some of the islands here in the Caribbean. We have traveled to just about all the islands they rhyme about! Maybe you can even try to write your own limericks!

The Jolly Mon - This great book, by Jimmy Buffett, is based on the lovely song "Jolly Mon" which tells the tale a of an island man who sang beautiful songs with a magical guitar. He takes off on a little sailboat to bring his music to all the neighboring islands, has a run-in with pirates, and is saved by a magic dolphin. A great little story.

The Little Island - This book is a magical classic that tells the story of a small island in the ocean. The island changes with storms and seasons and, one day when a cat visits, we learn about the interconnectedness of life. It's a lovely, timeless story.

***

We hope you all enjoy this selection of stories from your boat friends on Tortola. Thank you for touching our hearts and opening our minds. Big love to all of you kids! THANK YOU.

Haven being cheeky. As usual. She LOVED looking at all the pictures and wanted to color them in!
What beautiful pictures we got from the minds of these lovely children! We cherish all of them!

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Subscription for a Sun Seeker: A Sneak Peak into the Sunshine Society

I have always loved the sun and the tropics. Always. It's no shocker to anyone who knows me well that I live in the islands. The constant backdrop of jaw-dropping beauty, the quirkiness of island living, the three-quarter time pace of life, and the mixed cultural milieu are all parts of what I absolutely love about living on a 'rock'... Most of all, however, I love the sun. I don't worship it in a Magda from Something About Mary sort of way (gotta take care of our skin people!), but I learned early on that my mood directly correlates with the weather and when the sun is shining, life - for me - is brighter, happier and just...better.

I realize that there are many people out there like me who's moods correlate with the sun, for whom water calms their soul, and who eagerly count down the days to their next beach vacation. Unlike me, however, many of these folks cannot actually *live* in paradise like I do.

Enter: THE SUNSHINE SOCIETY!


The Sunshine Society is a monthly subscription box delivered right to your door, full of authentic tropical goodness, from an island with love. For $40 a month, your will receive:
  • 4 – 6 hand-selected island gifts each month
  • (Avg. $70+ retail value in every box!)
  • Boxes feature unique themes, varying tropical destinations, and a connection to the fascinating women who call them home.
  • Beach life gifts, custom accessories by island artisans, and many more treats from the tropics.

I was gifted a box to review and I have to tell you, being a subscription box newbie I had no idea what to expect but I was very pleasantly surprised. Every single item was packaged beautifully and opening up my sunshine box made me feel giddy like a kid on Christmas (speaking of, this would make a great gift!)

This is what was packed in my box o' sun!

If you know our boat and our style, you know this rustic island wind chime is RIGHT up my alley! 
I have recently fallen in love with the body scrubs from this local brand, so I was so stoked to discover more of their goodies
This beautiful signature sunshine society necklace (on a 16" sterling silver chain) is so delicate and beautiful.
I. LOVE. THIS.
 My favorite item in the box is hand's down the Lotus and Luna beach kimono which, in the states, would retail at a boutique for $50 or more. It is so beautiful, well made, light and functional. It can be worn over a bikini at the beach to keep the sun off my shoulders, or over a regular tank top to spruce up an evening outfit, or just rolled up and thrown in a bag to be worn when needed. I love it and it's become a staple of mine. Only wish I had some more in other colors!
I love the Sunshine Society!
If you or someone you love is longing for a dose of sunshine straight from the islands, this box is for you! Thank you SUNSHINE SOCIETY for adding a little more sun into my life. SIGN UP TODAY to get your dose of island sun and fun!

*Full disclosure: I received my box of Sunshine for free in return for a review. All opinions are my own. 
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