A Journal, with Pictures

Holidays 2020

by on Dec.30, 2020, under Family

What a year! The pan­dem­ic has changed a lot of things but we have tried to keep our fam­i­ly tra­di­tions and still be safe. We gath­ered for the Fourth of July as usu­al at Chechessee Creek, with most of the orga­nized activ­i­ties can­celed, how­ev­er, we had our own includ­ing a huge fire­works event on the river.

We all got test­ed and then gath­ered for Thanks­giv­ing again at Chechessee. It was a great fam­i­ly Thanks­giv­ing with the usu­al feast­ing and giv­ing thanks.

Joyce and I flew down to Fort Laud­erdale for Christ­mas with Jen­nifer, Mike and, Alexan­dra on the day before Christ­mas Eve. We again had all got­ten test­ed and trans­ferred from our plane to Jen­nifer­’s car with­out much con­tact with oth­ers. Jen­nifer had planned a great hol­i­day week­end with lots of great food and being with fam­i­ly. The gift exchange on Christ­mas morn­ing was lots of fun fol­lowed by brunch. Both Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas day din­ners were eat­ing extrav­a­gan­zas, with a tra­di­tion­al prime rib of beef the piece de la resis­tance. On box­ing day we got to meet Josh Alexan­dra’s boyfriend, who joined us for din­ner. Our Forty-Nin­ers won their game so it was a great day cap­ping a great Christ­mas holiday.

Joyce and I flew back to Hilton Head on Sun­day after a ter­rif­ic fam­i­ly Christ­mas. This was the year that Hiedi’s fam­i­ly spent Christ­mas with Gary’s fam­i­ly. They then vis­it­ed the Green­bri­er for a fam­i­ly out­ing to return on the first. Joyce and I will cel­e­brate the New Year and then plan to meet the Pra­do fam­i­ly for our Christ­mas gift exchange on the week­end after New Year’s Day. Stay tuned for more images to fol­low. Hap­py New Year to all our friends.

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New Zealand 2020

by on Mar.10, 2020, under Happenings

On  Sat­ur­day, Feb­ru­ary 15 we left Savan­nah for a two-hour forty-minute flight to Hous­ton, then the fif­teen-hour flight to New Zealand on Air New Zeland. The Air New Zealand flight was very good or at least as good as a fif­teen-hour flight can be. We arrived in Auck­land ear­ly in the morn­ing where we were met by the Sea­sonz rep­re­sen­ta­tive who had us in the car in short order being dri­ven to the Auck­land Hilton. We had booked the room the night before so we were tak­en direct­ly to our room. We show­ered had lunch and met our guide for a tour of the city . The tour includ­ed a vis­it to the Auck­land Memo­r­i­al Muse­um which includes an exten­sive Mau­ri (Indige­nous peo­ple) exhib­it as well as the memo­r­i­al to the World War I New Zealan­ders who were lost. We then drove around the city as well as the quaint sub­urb of Par­nell. In the evening we dined at a water­front restau­rant called Soul and I had two of my New Zealand favorites, local oys­ters and White Bait then fin­ished with a Pavlo­va for dessert.

The City of Auck­land has grown and changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly since I had last vis­it­ed. Our stay was just one night and we left the next day which was Feb 17 since we lost a day trav­el­ing across the inter­na­tion­al date­line. The rest of our trip would take us to three Lodges on the North Island and One on the South Island over the next two weeks. Our next stop would be The Lodge at Kau­ri Cliffs which is on the East Coast (Pacif­ic Ocean) at the north end of the North Island.

 

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The lodge at Kauri Cliffs, North Island NZ

by on Mar.10, 2020, under Happenings

We flew to the Bay of Islands air­port from Auck­land the after­noon of Feb­ru­ary 18th arriv­ing at the lodge late in the after­noon. Kau­ri Cliffs is a Robert­son Prop­er­ty devel­oped by an Amer­i­can who pur­chased 6500 acres and in addi­tion to the lux­u­ri­ous lodge, cot­tages and a cham­pi­onship-lev­el golf course oper­ates a sheep and cat­tle ranch on the property.  There are three Robert­son resorts in New Zealand and we will vis­it two. The Lodge and cot­tages have a spec­tac­u­lar 180-degree view of the Pacif­ic Ocean and over­look the golf course. Dur­ing the tour of the beau­ti­ful facil­i­ty, we learn that there will be a beach bar­beque that evening, so it’s time to unpack and then we are trans­port­ed over the graz­ing land and hills down to a stun­ning beach that reminds us of the Mon­terey, Cal­i­for­nia Coast. Cock­tails and great din­ing at sun­set on the beach, plus a chance to inter­act with the oth­er guests from around the world is a great way to start our New Zealand Lodge experience.

The next day we have a pri­vate char­ter to cruise the near­by Bay of Islands. After a great break­fast, we scur­ry around get­ting all the things we were told we should take, tow­els, swim­suit, sun­screen, etc. etc. and show up at the lodge with half of the list. The staff hands us a bag with every­thing need­ed when we get to our car and we real­ize we need to stop think­ing and let these great peo­ple take care of us. We arrive at the dock and are met by our Cap­tain (own­er) Alan and his first mate Jen­nifer and wel­comed aboard “Buck­et List”. We are get­ting over jet lag and our instruc­tions are we look for­ward to a relax­ing day explor­ing the Bay of Islands. This is exact­ly what we expe­ri­ence, cruis­ing through islands, see­ing the spot where Cap­tain Cook the first Euro­pean land­ed, anchor­ing in a cove and hav­ing Alan and Jen­nifer pre­pare fresh snap­per fil­lets, bar­be­qued rack of lamb served with fine New Zealand wine, topped off by a Pavlo­va for dessert. More cruis­ing and final­ly back at the dock ends a per­fect day. Again, the New Zealand theme con­tin­ues, Alan and Jen­nifer make us feel like fam­i­ly, not char­ter customers.

The evening after the cruise on the Bay of Islands dur­ing cock­tails we were treat­ed to a per­for­mance by a local Mau­ri trib­al group.

The final day at Kau­ri Cliffs includ­ed a round of golf. The course was stressed by recent droughts, but still beau­ti­ful with great holes along the coast. We enjoyed our golf and had anoth­er great din­ing expe­ri­ence then it was time to pack.

We rose to see a beau­ti­ful sun­rise then enjoyed anoth­er great break­fast over­look­ing the golf course, and ocean. Then we were off to the air­port bound for the Huka Lodge.

 

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Huka Lodge North Island NZ

by on Mar.08, 2020, under Happenings

On Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 21 we trans­ferred to the Bay of Islands Air­port from Kau­ri Cliffs Lodge. Oops the flight to Auck­land was fine, but the ongo­ing con­nec­tion Taupo air­port was can­celed, so instead, we flew to Rotarua and were dri­ven the one hour trip to Taupo where the car from Huka lodge was wait­ing. On our dri­ve, we saw exten­sive forests that were being har­vest­ed and replant­ed and a lot of geot­her­mal activ­i­ty. This part of the island was formed by vol­canic activ­i­ty. The lodge is sit­u­at­ed on the Waika­to Riv­er that flows out of Lake Taupo New Zealand’s largest lake. Our suite had a great view of the riv­er gen­tly flow­ing by. Just below the lodge is the Huka Falls, which gave the lodge its name. It orig­i­nal­ly was a fish­ing lodge. Fish­ing is still a rea­son to vis­it but of all the great din­ing expe­ri­ences we had in New Zealand, Huka Lodge had by far the best. We start­ed our first night with a gourmet tast­ing menu served to us at our pri­vate table in the wine cel­lar, paired with a dif­fer­ent New Zealand wine with each course. We fol­lowed this reg­i­men every din­ner while at Huka Lodge.

It was driz­zling a lit­tle on the sec­ond day at Huka Lodge but that did­n’t stop us from going fly fish­ing for trout on the Waika­to riv­er, with super guide Chris Bren­nan. Joyce had nev­er fly fished and it had been years since I cast a fly, but we lit­er­al­ly got tired of catch­ing nice large Rain­bow and Brown trout. We had a great time, catch and releas­ing well over 20 fish and enjoyed a pic­nic lunch on the riv­er for a great day.

On Sun­day we drove back to Rotarua to vis­it a Mau­ri Trib­al meet­ing house (Marae) and learn about the Mau­ri peo­ple. We were treat­ed to the wel­com­ing cer­e­mo­ny which made us hon­orary trib­al mem­bers, we watched tra­di­tion­al dances and saw how a feast (Han­gi Meal) was pre­pared then cooked under the ground on heat­ed stones. While the meal was cook­ing we took a short excur­sion to near­by falls hiked through the for­est then watched white water raft­ing. Again, the New Zealand hos­pi­tal­i­ty pro­vid­ed by the two Mau­ri fam­i­lies made us feel right at home wel­com­ing us and treat­ed us like family.

One last incred­i­ble din­ing expe­ri­ence, then time to pack and in the morn­ing after anoth­er great break­fast we were off to Cape Kid­nap­pers by car.

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Cape Kidnappers North Island NZ

by on Mar.08, 2020, under Happenings

On Mon­day, Feb­ru­ary 24 we were dri­ven the two-hour dri­ve to the Hawks Bay Region stop­ping for lunch at the Clear View Win­ery. This is one of the wine regions of New Zealand with the largest city in the area Napi­er. Napi­er is inter­est­ing in that it was destroyed by an earth­quake in the 1920s and rebuilt in the art deco style. After lunch, we con­tin­ued the short dis­tance to the Farm at Cape Kid­nap­pers, which is a 6000-acre work­ing ranch with approx­i­mate­ly 2000 sheep and 500 cat­tle. Over­look­ing the bay is the world rat­ed top 100 Cape Kid­nap­per golf course and lodge where we stayed. Our suite had a great view of the prop­er­ty and Hawks Bay and was only a short walk from the beau­ti­ful lodge. This is anoth­er Robert­son resort so we knew the evening rou­tine, cock­tails, and canapes served in the lounge area fol­lowed by a gourmet din­ner with fine NZ wine and out­stand­ing service.

Our first day of explo­ration start­ed with a Kiwi dis­cov­ery walk. Lau­ra our nat­u­ral­ist guide took a group of guests into the woods to find a Kiwi, which is the nation­al bird of NZ and an endan­gered species. To help pre­serve the Kiwi pop­u­la­tion a num­ber of Kiwi sanc­tu­ar­ies have been estab­lished to increase the sur­vival rate of young birds. Cape Kid­nap­pers Farm is one of the sanc­tu­ar­ies and Lau­ra used a radio direc­tion find­er to locate one of the chicks that had a radio tag. We got a brief­ing on the Kiwi and saw the humon­gous egg of this species. The full-grown Kiwi is about the size of a chick­en and does not fly. Kiwi’s are noc­tur­nal feed­ers so the Kiwi was awak­ened from his sleep so we could observe it. Lau­ra weighed the bird, checked its health then placed it back in a bur­row with some food. It was an inter­est­ing and edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence and helped us work up an appetite for lunch.

After lunch, it was time for a Can-Am (All-Ter­rain Vehi­cle) tour of the prop­er­ty. This includ­ed a vis­it to the fur­ther­most reach­es of the farm through old creek beds, across expan­sive farm­land and down to the ocean.  We also vis­it­ed the rook­ery of the Gan­net, the chicks first flight is eight-day non-stop to Aus­tralia. This is the largest rook­ery and it is esti­mat­ed that these birds con­sume eleven tons of fish per day. We observed the par­ents feed­ing the chicks.

On Wednes­day we played the Cape Kid­nap­per golf course. This is a stun­ning set­ting and the design­er Tom Doak took advan­tage of the sea­side cliffs and rugged ter­rain to pro­duce a visu­al­ly spec­tac­u­lar and dif­fi­cult test of golf. We enjoyed our round and had a “small world” expe­ri­ence on the 16th. hole. A sin­gle caught up with us so we let him play through and low and behold it was Will May­hall a fel­low mem­ber at Chechessee Creek Club.

Anoth­er nice evening enjoy­ing the great din­ing expe­ri­ence and ser­vice, then pack. Tomor­row after break­fast we leave for the South Island.

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Blanket Bay Lodge South Island NZ

by on Mar.07, 2020, under Happenings

On Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 27 we flew from Hawks Bay on the North Island to Auck­land and then to Queen­stown on the south end of the South Island. We trav­eled by car an hour to the south end of Lake Lake Wakatipu to the Blan­ket Bay Lodge. The lodge is a very impres­sive stone and wood struc­ture over­look­ing the lake and the Liv­ingston Moun­tains. Our suite was at the south end of the hotel and had a patio and win­dows that gave us spec­tac­u­lar great views.

The weath­er changed our plans for Fri­day so we moved the day’s activ­i­ties to Sun­day and enjoyed a day of relax­ing at the lodge and a vis­it to the lit­tle town of Glenorchy for some shop­ping and sight­see­ing in the driz­zle. Sat­ur­day the weath­er coop­er­at­ed so we embarked on our Dart Riv­er Jet Boat Wilder­ness excur­sion. This includ­ed a mini-bus ride through the coun­try­side lead­ing to the rivers enter­ing the south end of the lake, then a hike through the for­est and final­ly a Jet Boat ride up then back down the Dart Riv­er. The Jet Boats are fast and boun­cy able to trav­el with only 8 inch­es draft over the rocky riv­er rapids. We had pon­chos but we still got a lit­tle wet but the incred­i­ble scenery and excit­ing ride made it worth it.

Sun­day was our last day of tour­ing and it was also Joyce’s Birth­day. We were picked up in front of the lodge after break­fast by our heli­copter for the morn­ing. We lift­ed off head­ed across the lake and climbed over the Liv­ingston Moun­tains, through val­leys, over glac­i­ers, tra­versed the val­ley to the next range, the Franklin Moun­tains, and descend­ed into Mil­ford Sound to the beach on the Tas­man­ian sea. A recent “rain event” washed a large amount of drift­wood and a num­ber of boul­ders onto the beach which made for an inter­est­ing walk. We land­ed on a glac­i­er and the beach for a hike as well as on the side of the moun­tain over­look­ing Lake Wakatipu and had a cham­pagne birth­day toast. The sites were spec­tac­u­lar, our pilot Rene was great and when we were done we land­ed back on the east side of the lake at Moon­light lodge the head­quar­ters of a 33000 acre “Sheep Sta­tion” (Ranch). One inter­est­ing obser­va­tion was that the glac­i­ers had a red hue, which was caused by ash from the recent fires in Aus­tralia. The three-hour heli­copter explo­ration of the South Island moun­tains was one of the high­lights of our trip.

We were met by Pad­dy our driver/guide at Moon­light lodge and were intro­duced to John Fos­ter the own­er of the sheep sta­tion. We then took a tour via a Can-Am ATV (All-Ter­rain Vehi­cle). We drove up and down over lots of rugged ter­rains which is where John rais­es his sheep. The area is graz­ing land, native beech for­est, lakes, rivers, min­ing huts, and tracks from the gold min­ing era. Before lunch, we explored pri­mar­i­ly sheep graz­ing land with panoram­ic views of the moun­tains. We then enjoyed a pic­nic lunch with John and Gin­ny Fos­ter and his son and grand­son as well as Pad­dy in front of Moon­light lodge which is also John and Gin­nys home. In keep­ing with our entire New Zealand expe­ri­ence, we were wel­comed and treat­ed like fam­i­ly in the typ­i­cal open com­fort­able sin­cere style of the peo­ple of this beau­ti­ful coun­try. We learned a lot about the busi­ness of pro­duc­ing fine meri­no wool, main­ly that it includes a lot of hard work and the mar­ket for wool is uncer­tain. After lunch, we reluc­tant­ly said our good­byes to con­tin­ue our tour. Pad­dy then took us down the canyon which was a major gold-pro­duc­ing area, with rema­nents of past min­ing activ­i­ty and beau­ti­ful clear streams to ford. We swapped vehi­cles and then toured what was the gold rush town of Arrow­town that is now most­ly shops and restau­rants for tourist. We then head­ed back to the Blan­ket Bay lodge for our last din­ner in New Zealand.

In hon­or of the birth­day, the lodge poured cham­pagne for cock­tails and since it was a beau­ti­ful evening we dined out­doors on the deck with the incred­i­ble view we have enjoyed so much. It was anoth­er exquis­ite din­ner with anoth­er excel­lent New Zealand wine fin­ished with a birth­day cake to cap off a won­der­ful stay.

 

We had a leisure­ly morn­ing Mon­day pack­ing and one last great break­fast served by the out­stand­ing Blan­ket Bay staff. Our dri­ver picked us up and we were dri­ven back to Queen­stown for our flight back to the U.S. through Auck­land. This was the fifth trip orga­nized by Tony Huff­man for us and again it was anoth­er incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence. Tony and his asso­ciates as well as his part­ners, in this case, Sea­sonz in New Zealand, made the trip effort­less, absolute­ly first class with every detail attend­ed to. Our New Zealand expe­ri­ence was one of the best ever, Thanks, Tony.

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Christmas 2019

by on Dec.29, 2019, under Family

Anoth­er great fam­i­ly Christ­mas, maybe the best ever. The grand­chil­dren are matur­ing and every­one seems to just enjoy get­ting togeth­er and add Christ­mas tra­di­tions and its spe­cial. Jen­nifer, Mike, and Alexan­dra drove from Flori­da on the Sat­ur­day before Christ­mas and we met at the cot­tage at Chechessee Creek. It was relax­ing, with some pre-Christ­mas things includ­ing dec­o­rat­ing the Christ­mas tree. On Christ­mas eve Hei­di, Gary, Brenn, Caitlin, and Kin­sey came over from Savan­nah arriv­ing in time for Christ­mas eve din­ner. Plen­ty of food and cheer with antic­i­pa­tion for Christ­mas morn­ings gift exchange. Christ­mas morn­ing dawned a beau­ti­ful day and every­one was up at the appoint­ed 7:45 AM that had been nego­ti­at­ed the evening before. It was great fun with every­one enjoy­ing the gift-giv­ing and receiv­ing. This was fol­lowed by a hearty brunch, then on to fig­ur­ing out how to oper­ate new things or start­ing new books, etc. There were trips to Spring Island, vis­its to the gym and relaxing.

Christ­mas din­ner prepa­ra­tion start­ed right after brunch with the 15-pound prime rib going into the oven. Every­one did their thing until around 5:00 PM when the ther­mome­ter said the cen­ter­piece was done and we gath­ered and final prepa­ra­tions were com­plet­ed, includ­ing carv­ing the roast. It was a great Christ­mas feast and after the bless­ing was said we indulged. After din­ner, there was Apple and Mince pie and more Christ­mas fun.

The day after Christ­mas, there was some shop­ping by a few brave soles, Brenn and Gary went fish­ing, the gym got heavy good use, there were trips to Spring Island and some read­ing and relax­ing. Brenn, Gary and­Mike sight­ed in Bren­n’s new pel­let gun behind the cot­tage, Mike, Alexan­dra, and Gil went to the shoot­ing range and sharp­ened their pis­tol shoot­ing eye. In the evening, Gary went out and brought the fam­i­ly bar­beque from one of the favorite local restau­rants and we again had more than enough to eat and drink. After din­ner more fam­i­ly social­iz­ing. Fri­day the Mont­gomerys and Prado’s head­ed home. Joyce and Gil had a qui­et din­ner of left­over roast, fresh veg­eta­bles from the Spring Island farm, and the last of the mince pie. The tree came down and great mem­o­ries were all that was left as we head­ed back to Hilton Head. What a great fam­i­ly hol­i­day week!

 

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Thanksgiving 2019

by on Dec.03, 2019, under Family

Joyce and I flew to Fort Laud­erdale Flori­da for Thanks­giv­ing. A beau­ti­ful day and a per­fect flight. By the time we had unloaded and put the cov­er on the air­plane, Jen­nifer was there to pick us up and take us to Casa Mont­gomery a lux­u­ry resort in South West Ranch­es. We stopped for lunch and got set­tled and it was time for cock­tails and a bar­beque in Jen­nifer and Mikes’s new­ly redone out­door kitchen.

Wednes­day was a day of relax­ing, some shop­ping, and ear­ly prepa­ra­tion for tomor­row’s feast. Weath­er was great so we enjoyed the day which fin­ished with din­ner out­side on a per­fect Flori­da evening. Thanks­giv­ing day saw the seri­ous meal prepa­ra­tion get start­ed, some foot­ball view­ing, more relax­ing and a mid-day snack. Alexan­dra showed off her Christ­mas dec­o­rat­ed room and we hung out until it was time. Jen­nifer cooked the turkey in their out­door kitchen, and Mike did the carv­ing. It was a great way to give thanks and enjoy our fam­i­ly over a great din­ner. We enjoyed pump­kin pie, then Alexan­dra enter­tained on the piano. Real­ly, a great fam­i­ly day.

Black Fri­day saw a lit­tle bit of shop­ping and Alexan­dra did some rid­ing, but the main activ­i­ty was enjoy­ing fam­i­ly and relax­ing. The cooks got the night off and we did Asian at a near­by restaurant.

Sat­ur­day after break­fast we left Fort Laud­erdale Exec­u­tive air­port on anoth­er per­fect day for the two and a half hour flight back to Hilton Head. Anoth­er great flight and by twelve-thir­ty we were hav­ing lunch at our favorite Mex­i­can restau­rant on the Island. Anoth­er great Thanks­giv­ing with min­i­mum stress and max­i­mum fam­i­ly fun.

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Patty, Suzy and Tina’s visit to the Low Country

by on Nov.11, 2019, under Family

My three sis­ters from Ore­gon came to South Car­oli­na at the end of Octo­ber for a short vis­it. We did a lot of tour­ing includ­ing Hilton Head Island, Savan­nah, the cot­tage at Chechessee Creek, Spring Island, Beau­fort and Bluffton. The Pra­do fam­i­ly joined us while we were at the Chechessee Creek cot­tage and treat­ed our vis­i­tors to a boat tour of the riv­er and marsh­land sur­round­ing Spring Island. We did a trol­ly tour of Savan­nah includ­ing a tour of the Mer­cer House famous from the book and movie, Mid­night in the land of good and evil. They also toured Beau­fort by car­riage as well as dip­ping their toes in the Atlantic ocean ” I can’t believe the water is so warm”.  We also did a lot of eat­ing of local dish­es and even saw a Man­a­tee at the dock where we had lunch on Hilton Head Island. What fol­lows are some pic­tures from the visit:

Hilton Head Island Touring

Tour­ing Savannah

Tour­ing Beaufort

Chechessee Creek, Spring Island

Bluffton and Hilton Head Island

The weath­er was per­fect and we caught up on fam­i­ly hap­pen­ings and were re-intro­duced to the Low Coun­try of South Car­oli­na. We thor­ough­ly enjoyed the com­pa­ny and vowed to get togeth­er soon and hope­ful­ly include more of the family.

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Family trip to Africa 2019

by on Jul.31, 2019, under Family

We depart­ed our home air­ports on Sun­day, July 14, met in Atlanta where we board­ed our fif­teen and half hour flight to Johan­nes­burg, South Africa. We were met after clear­ing cus­toms by the Aber­crom­bie & Kent rep­re­sen­ta­tive and escort­ed across the street to the Inter­con­ti­nen­tal Hotel where we would spend the night. The next morn­ing after break­fast, we were escort­ed to our char­tered flight to Botswana, with a stop to clear cus­toms in Maun, then on to our des­ti­na­tion, Sanc­tu­ary Chief’s Camp.

We arrived at the camp and were met by the staff singing a native wel­come song. We dropped our bags in our room, had lunch on the deck, and we are off on our first game drive.

Every­one was excit­ed about our first dri­ve and we saw lots of inter­est­ing ani­mals, but there was antic­i­pa­tion to see some of the big cats and oth­er big animals.

That evening we set­tled in and then were treat­ed to a show put on by the local tribe mem­bers on the staff. Cock­tails and din­ner are excel­lent and we were off to a great start on our adventure.

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