San Antonio Sabbatical

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Well, I’m down to my final two weeks here in San Antonio.  I’ve been cramming in a lot of sightseeing and food sampling lately because in a couple of days I will be putting my car out for shipping back to the northeast region of the U.S.

Yesterday I made my first visit to Austin, Texas — the state capital and a city known for its weirdness.  Austin is only about 80 miles (a 1½-hour drive on I-35 North) from where I’m currently living.  I had heard a lot of good things about Austin and decided to go see for myself.  Prior to arriving there, I booked a 2:30 p.m. sightseeing tour by van so that I could see as much as possible in the limited time I had available.  The weather was nice for touring; temperatures rose into the 70s.  At 11:30 a.m. I arrived in Austin, parked my car at a meter ($1.00 per hour – 3 hours maximum), and asked a businesswoman who was exiting her office for directions to the Visitor Center.  She was very friendly and generous, giving me almost $3.00 in coins to feed the meter (since neither one of us had enough dollar bills to make the correct change; she refused the $5.00 bill I offered her).  We then walked together for about two blocks since she was heading in that direction anyway.  I was so appreciative of her kindness toward a total stranger and thanked her both in person and in a follow-up e-mail.  At the Visitor Center, I picked up some local information cards, mentioned that I would be taking a tour that afternoon, purchased postcards and a Texas pecan praline candy (yum!), and asked for lunch recommendations.  The friendly worker (Patsy) gave me the names of a few places within walking distance and offered to let me view the menus on their computer.

I ate lunch at Annie’s Café & Bar, one of Patsy’s recommendations.  Annie’s seems like a popular place and it was full of noisy lunchtime diners when I arrived (I was lucky to find a seat).  For a change, I ordered one of my favorite junk food dishes, a hamburger and french fries (“Bistro burger & frites”).  The portions were large — I couldn’t finish it all — and the meal was delicious.  After lunch, I re-fed my parking meter and then went to the Visitor Center to meet my tour.  On the way there, I passed a large colorful sculpture of a guitar on the sidewalk.  Music is a major theme in Austin.

The Austin in 90 Minutes Tour is a narrated van tour of Austin and the surrounding Hill Country.  I booked the reservation ($24.95 plus taxes and fees) through the Austin Tours website.  This tour is run by Austin Overtures and has three daily departures.  My 2:30 p.m. tour had only three tourists — me and two others — plus our driver/tour guide, Maggie, who has been a resident of Austin for the past 15 years.  Austin in 90 Minutes provides an overview of the city by covering a 30-mile radius of its most important features.  Maggie drove us around the area pointing out historical and cultural places while explaining their significance.  Her comments were interspersed with pre-recorded narration that is provided as a safety feature for drivers as they navigate the busy city traffic.  It was obvious that Maggie is very knowledgeable about the Austin area and she is proud of her city.  We drove around the Capitol area, the 50,000-student University of Texas campus (which houses the Blanton Art Museum and the LBJ Presidential Library), the Austin Hill Country where some famous Hollywood stars and athletes have homes, and passed some music venues, eateries, parks, and a variety of other notable buildings and sections of Austin.  I took some pictures but this was difficult to do from the van.  Maggie mentioned that Austin is a popular city for young people, especially college students and recent graduates.  This city has so much history and culture and a vibrant live music scene.  The downtown area and Hill Country show remarkable contrast.  Austin seems to have something for everyone and this adds to its appeal.

My first trip to Austin was okay.  Although I enjoyed the Austin in 90 Minutes Tour (Maggie is friendly and she did an excellent job), I wish I had more time on my own to spend walking around the city.  This day trip was squeezed into my schedule and I was tired from the previous day’s museum visits so I couldn’t fully appreciate all that Austin has to offer.  But, from what I’ve seen so far, I definitely prefer San Antonio as it is more charming in my opinion (e.g., Riverwalk and Spanish-themed architecture), has a lot of Spanish speakers, and has a great contemporary art scene (In general, I prefer visual art over music).  Also, it is more spread out.  Space is a big concern for me because I’m not a big city person to begin with.  The congestion in Austin reminded me of New York City; both have a lot to offer but there are just too many people.  San Antonio has less of a big city feel.  Surprisingly, despite the extreme summer heat, I’ve fallen in love with San Antonio (I never expected to like living in the south) and have added it to my list of places to consider for retirement.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy art but I’m better at observing it than creating it.  However, that could change in the future.  I’m looking forward to the graphic design class that I am scheduled to take next semester.  But, today, I spent several hours in two wonderful San Antonio museums.  Is there such a thing as art overload?

This morning at 10:30 I arrived at the gorgeous (drool!) and historic Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, the first museum of modern art in Texas.  I didn’t leave until 3½ hours later.  The McNay Art Museum is set on well-manicured grounds in the Alamo Heights section of San Antonio.  Prices are reasonable — $8.00 for adults; $5.00 for students; and an extra $5.00 fee for their current exhibit, “Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism”  (through January 16, 2011).  I was warmly greeted at the door and given a brief summary of the collections along with a Visitor Guide (map).  I stopped at the featured exhibit first and admired paintings by many artists, including those of Claude Monet, one of my favorites.  Then, I wandered through the rest of the house/museum (both levels) — including the large picturesque patio — in a happy frame of mind engulfed by decorative and peaceful surroundings.  While upstairs in the Orientation Gallery, I watched a short film about the life of Marion Koogler McNay and the founding of the McNay Art Museum.  Viewing all of this great artwork made me feel inspired (and gave me some ideas of things to try with my own art next semester).  Visiting museums is like being transported to another world (art museums are my favorite, followed by science museums, and lastly, history museums).  Art is a very powerful tool of expression and I like seeing the innovative — and sometimes crazy — works that artists produce.  As a somewhat creative person myself, I can certainly appreciate the time, talent, and technique that are required.  I spent the last ½-hour at the McNay Art Museum in its unique gift shop with a variety of cute art-inspired items for sale.  Of course, I had to buy a few small things.

So, after leaving the McNay Art Museum at 2:00 p.m., I got lost on the way to the Italian restaurant that I wanted to try for lunch, and arrived there around 3:00 p.m.  Piatti Ristorante & Bar (not far from the McNay Art Museum and right by Quarry Market) has a mouthwatering website and great reviews, so it made my to-do list.  By the time I got there the lunch crowd was gone so it was quiet (which I like).  I chose to sit inside in a booth — there are tables out on the patio too — and received prompt and polite service.  I ordered Bruschetta (Vine Ripened Tomato Crudo, Blue-Bonnet Farm Basil Pesto, Garlic & Grilled Sourdough Bread) and Ravioli Alla Zucca (House-Made Butternut Squash Ravioli, Brown Butter Sage Sauce) — this is usually offered as a special selection at certain times, but they were kind enough to make it for me since I saw it listed on their website and asked, and Iced Tea.  While waiting for my meal, I ate a couple of slices of bread dipped in their delicious oil mix.  My lunch arrived rather quickly and it too was tasty.  I loved the Bruschetta; it was flavorful and full of tomatoes.  The Ravioli was good too, but the flavor combination (especially the sauce) was new to me so it takes time to get used to.  As usual, I ended up taking home leftovers.  Piatti is a restaurant that I would highly recommend to others.

The final stop was to The Museo Alameda in the Market Square area of downtown San Antonio.  I arrived there at 4:15 p.m.  Be aware that no parking is available at the museum, but there are parking spots on the street (I was lucky to find the one remaining free spot nearby — $1.50 per hour; I paid for two hours since the museum closes at 6:00 p.m.) and there are parking lots/garages downtown from which you can take a bus.  The Museo Alameda is the nation’s largest Latino museum and the first formal affiliate of the Smithsonian outside of Washington, D.C.  This museum is housed in an attractive pink corner building with an artsy metal cut-out design exterior that hints at the creative and cultural pieces inside.  The Museo Alameda is inexpensive ($4.00 for adults; $2.00 for students).  The current exhibition (through July 15, 2011) is “Revolution & Renaissance: Mexico & San Antonio 1910-2010”.  The collection represents a variety of styles and artistic media and the items are attractively displayed on both gallery levels.  Once again, it felt good to be in the presence of so much art.  As the exhibition title suggests, the artwork contains some troubling images (e.g., war) as well as peaceful ones.  I’m glad I finally got to visit The Museo Alameda.  It was on my to-do list for a while, but the current exhibit just opened less than two weeks ago.  The more I see of San Antonio and learn of its history and culture, the more impressed I am by the contributions of many groups, especially Latinos.  Since my sabbatical project involves learning more about Latino history and culture, this Museo Alameda visit was a perfect fit.  I hope you’ll add it to your travel itinerary.

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Entrada #8 de diario:   domingo,  el 28 de noviembre de 2010

El semestre terminará en dos semanas.  Hay mucha información que he aprendido sobre latinos y sus culturas.

Capítulo 9 de Hispanics and the Future of America examina la salud física y mental de los latinos.  A pesar de tener baja posición socioeconómica que los caucásicos, los latinos como un grupo tiene menos mortalidad que los caucásicos (p. 365).  Este hecho se llama “epidemiological paradox” y es muy interesante y sorprendente y necesita más investigación.  Una preocupación principal es la salud de los niños latinos – especialmente la condición de sobrepeso – porque los niños son la futura de la sociedad.  Los estudios indican mejor salud mental para los inmigrantes recientes que los inmigrantes que están aquí por un tiempo muy largo (p. 376).  Es posible que el proceso de aculturación tenga un efecto negativo en la salud de los latinos.  Necesitamos más información, estadísticas, y explicaciones para entender que pasan en las vidas de los inmigrantes latinos.  En mi clínica bilingüe, los clientes latinos tienen muchos problemas con depresión y ansiedad.  Estas condiciones son universales; son comunes en non-latinos también.

Encontré un libro de referencia para ayudarme con las entrevistas y las sesiones de terapia con clientes hispanoblantes.  Es Medical Spanish: A Psychologist’s Guide (Complete Volume) por Craig A. Sinkinson, M.D. y es disponible en Amazon.com.  Este libro tiene muchas palabras y frases útiles en inglés y español.  Probablemente, no podré manejar las sesiones clínicas totalmente en español a causa de los matices de la lengua, las diferencias culturales, y mis obligaciones éticas, pero quiero entender suficiente cuando mis clientes usen palabras españoles para describir algo.  Siempre necesitaré un co-terapeuta o supervisor bilingüe para estos tipos de casos.

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Yesterday I did another foodie tour.  While the weather didn’t seem promising with early morning freezing temperatures, it did warm up to the latter 50s/early 60s by the afternoon for this outdoor activity.  This King William Culinary and Culture Walking Tour ($39 for adults; $35 for local residents) was offered by Historic Texas Tours, the company with whom I did the Flavors of San Antonio Foodie Tour and the San Antonio Mission Trail Tour.  Gracie, Alex’s daughter, led yesterday’s foodie tour which is described as a leisurely walking tour that combines cuisine, history, and art.

This King William Culinary and Culture Walking Tour began at 1:30 p.m. in the artsy Blue Star area of San Antonio.  There were 11 of us in all, including our tour guide, Gracie.  We walked around nearby as Gracie explained the important historical elements such as the area’s German heritage and architecture.  We passed by several beautiful and expensive homes and learned about their significance.  Gracie, like her father, is friendly and knowledgeable about the subject matter.  After about one-half hour of walking, the tour group made the first of four restaurant stops.

The Friendly Spot Ice House (formerly King Willie’s) was our first place for sampling foods.  It’s a cute kid-friendly snack place with a playground.  We were given thick tortilla chips with three dips — guacamole, salsa, and ceviche.  I don’t like raw meat or shellfish, so I didn’t try the ceviche, but the chips and other dips were really good.  We then got to try “street tacos” (soft taco shells filled with pork cubes and pickled purple onions).  These were okay, but I prefer hard shell tacos filled with ground beef.

Our next stop was Frosted Delights by Joyce, a bakery that has been open for only six weeks.  Each member of the group got to sample one of their mousse cupcakes and one of their many flavors of either coffee or tea.  I tried the “Pretty-N-Pink” Cupcake (strawberry cupcake with strawberry mousse icing) and Spring Jasmine Green Tea.  The cupcake was delicious; I especially liked the dark flakes of strawberry flavor that had been baked into the batter.  The mousse frosting was sweet, light, and creamy.  The tea was flavorful.

The third place we ate at was Casbeers At The Church, a restaurant located in a former Methodist church (which we went upstairs to see after eating).  Here we sampled enchiladas topped with chili (mine was cheeseless) and “buckshot balls” (breaded and deep-fried meatballs filled with cheese, jalopeno, and panko bread crumbs) with salsa ranch for dipping along with iced tea and water.  I was provided with a no-cheese buckshot ball.  I think this was the first time I had heard of or tried buckshot balls and I really liked them.  It’s an interesting and tasty combination of ingredients.

Our final restaurant stop was at the Blue Star Brewing Company Restaurant & Bar where we began the tour.  Here we sampled pecan pie and their homemade lemon soda (from pure cane sugar rather than corn syrup).  Both were good, but a bit sweet in my opinion.  On this King William Culinary and Culture Walking Tour, we sampled a variety of mostly snacks and desserts and got to see some of the local culture.  Although we passed by a few art galleries and boutiques, we didn’t stop inside.  Tour participants seem to have had a good time, and the tour ended around 5:00 p.m.

One place that I was hoping we would stop at is Rosario’s Mexican Café y Cantina, a popular restaurant that is highly recommended by San Antonio‘s locals.  Gracie mentioned that this food tour visits Rosario’s on Thursdays, but that Rosario’s can’t accommodate the tour group for samplings on Saturdays due to its high volume of customers then.  So, once the foodie tour had ended, I walked down to Rosario’s (located at the corner of S. Alamo and St. Mary’s) and ordered a take-out dinner to bring home.  I had Pollo con Mole (boneless chicken breast smothered in our delicious molé sauce and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds; served with rice & refried beans), Sopa de Pozole (lightly seasoned broth, diced pork, hominy and shredded cabbage, garnished with fresh onions, cilantro, oregano, crispy corn chips), and a virgin strawberry daiquiri.  The meal came with soft corn and flour tortillas.  Later that evening, I ate this meal and enjoyed both the tasty chicken dish and the savory soup.  The daiquiri was too watery and could have used more strawberry flavor.  But, overall, I was pleased.  The menu at Rosario’s has a wide selection of Mexican dishes and its diners rave about the wonderful food.  I’m glad I got to give it a try before leaving town.

Prior to the foodie tour, I started the day by meeting Elvia, my SEFLA Spanish teacher, for breakfast.  I drove to her house (she lives in the King William area where I would later be meeting the tour group) and arrived at 8:30 a.m.  As planned, we walked to the historical Guenther House which has a restaurant, museum, and store.  We ate a delicious breakfast in The Guenther House Restaurant.  (This was my first time there; Elvia had been there previously).  I had the special pioneer breakfast of two pancakes, two country sausage patties, and a fruit cup along with hot tea.  Elvia had an egg dish with fruit and coffee.  Both of us really enjoyed our meals.  The ambience was warm and welcoming and the place was decorated for the holidays — Christmas tree, colorful lights, large candy house, etc.  We walked through the adjoining museum and store; I took pictures and bought a few postcards and a decorative refrigerator magnet.  After The Guenther House, Elvia and I walked by the river and around the King William/Southtown area and visited art galleries and shops.  This was fun to do especially as the weather warmed up.  Elvia and I finished up around 1:00 p.m. then I headed over to the Blue Star area and browsed a bit before my foodie tour.  I really like this artsy part of town.  This was my third time here.  Previously, I came with Elvia for Mueritos Fest First Friday and with Donna Simon for a Studio Art Tour.

As you can see, I had an activity-filled “pig out” Saturday.  OMG!  Six restaurants in one day — that’s definitely a record for me (even though four of them were for samples only rather than for full meals).  It’s really true that San Antonio has lots of great food.  Come on over and see for yourself!

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Only three weeks left in San Antonio.  It’s hard to believe how quickly the time is passing by.  Two days ago I had my last Spanish lesson at SEFLA.  I’m so glad that Elvia and I were able to work together for these last ten weeks.  Her lessons were very helpful and I learned a lot.  She shared with me some really good websites for learning and practicing Spanish, and now I’ll share them with you:

Yesterday was Thanksgiving day.  I feel very blessed and have a lot to be thankful for in my life.  As an optimist, I often focus on the positives and express gratitude as appropriate.  I hope that you also take the time to acknowledge the good people and things in your life, not only on Thanksgiving, but always.  Since I couldn’t be with my own family this Thanksgiving, I accepted an invitation from one of OLLU‘s graduate students, Rosanna (who is in my lecture class and practicum), to have Thanksgiving dinner at her aunt’s house in San Antonio.  It was so sweet of them to invite me.  I arrived with a fruit-and-nut basket and was immediately greeted by the large friendly dog and other family members.  There were about 15 of us — aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends — and everyone was so warm and welcoming.  Rosanna reminded me that is is a Mexican family (from El Paso, Texas) and this is how they are.  We ate a delicious dinner in the back yard, then had dessert inside while watching two movies, Walt Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” (the famous Ebenezer Scrooge tale by Charles Dickens, starring Jim Carrey) and “Winter’s Bone” (a tragic story of poverty, drugs, and cruelty which made us even more appreciative of our own blessings).  I enjoyed my five hours there with great food, people, and conversation.  Sharing the holidays with kind-hearted people is truly a blessing and I’m glad to have made new acquaintances in San Antonio.

Today was a day of rest.  I avoided the “Black Friday” frenzy at the malls.  I’ll do my holiday gift shopping later.  I’m still trying to do some pleasure reading, and recently finished a book of cartoons, When Do They Serve the Wine? The Folly, Flexibility, and Fun of Being a Woman by Liza Donnelly.  There are still several other books on my to-read list, but I’ve been temporarily sidetracked by my reading of Spanish books.

Sampling San Antonio‘s restaurants remains high on my to-do list, so tomorrow I’m scheduled to go on another food tour.  As usual, I’ll report back once it’s over.

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It’s Thanksgiving week so my Monday evening class was canceled.  I used the free day to visit the quaint Hill Country area of Texas.  Monday, November 22nd was a great day to do this outdoor activity because the weather was beautiful; it was unusually warm with temperatures reaching almost 80 degrees (yes, in late November!).  I booked this 7½-hour Hill Country Tour with Alamo Sightseeing Tours (adult price is $59.50 plus taxes).  There were eight of us plus the tour guide/van driver, Tom, who picked us up in the Alamo Plaza area for a 9:00 a.m. departure.

Our itinerary included a rest stop in Blanco, a stop in Johnson City to see where 36th U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson grew up (we visited his boyhood home), and then to Stonewall to tour the LBJ Ranch (Johnson Family Cemetery, the reconstructed birthplace/home and the barn behind the house) and the Texas White House which are operated by the National Park Service.  These morning activities were full of history and culture.  I’m not a history buff (history has always been my worst subject in school) but I really liked hearing about President Johnson’s upbringing and presidency.  I was born in the latter ’60s, towards the end of his presidency during this conflict-ridden period in U.S. history, but I was too young to know it then.  This part of the tour was very informative — lots of facts were provided by Tom and by one of the park rangers who took us inside of LBJ’s remote White House (it’s nice!).  We saw several furnished rooms.  The park ranger mentioned the significance of this day — November 22, 1963 was when 35th U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated.  He said that LBJ’s cook was baking a pie for President Kennedy’s expected arrival at the LBJ Ranch when the news of his assassination spread across the world.  We saw the original oven in the kitchen of the Texas White House on the LBJ Ranch.  It was a nice coincidence that our tour group visited the ranch on that significant date.   As we drove through the Texas Hill Country, we passed  several types of animals — longhorns and other cattle, buffalo, deer, emus, and goats, for example.

After our LBJ Ranch vist, Tom dropped us off in Fredericksburg (a charming German town) around 1:00 p.m where we were to spend the remainder of the trip on our own.  First, we split up to eat lunch at one of the many restaurants on Main Street.  Then, we used the free time to do sightseeing and shopping.  At the Peach Pit BBQ Restaurant (the name reminds me of the popular TV show, “Beverly Hills, 90210”), I ate a delicious barbecue meal (beef brisket with green beans, potato salad, and macaroni salad) and drank Hawaiian Punch.  This was a comfortable homey restaurant with really good food.  Around 2:00 p.m. I strolled along Main Street, looked inside of an art gallery and bath shop, and purchased a jigsaw puzzle (one of my hobbies) and small book from the Spunky Monkey toy store.  Then, I returned to the drop-off/pick-up location to meet the van for the ride back to San Antonio.  Everyone on the tour seemed to have had a good time.  Tom dropped off passengers at their hotels.  I returned to the Alamo Plaza area around 5:00 p.m.  While there, I went to the Häagen-Dazs shop and treated myself to a kiddie cup of Vanilla Chip ice cream (I came prepared with my Lactaid pills).  About ½-hour later, I drove home.

Overall, I had a good time on this Hill Country Tour offered by Alamo Sightseeing Tours.  This company has a selection of other tours as well.

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Entrada #7 de diario:   domingo,  el 21 de noviembre de 2010

Mi práctica semanal en la clínica bilingüe (Community Counseling Service) es muy interesante.  Estoy aprendiendo mucho, pero el aprendizaje tomará más tiempo para asimilar.  Durante este semestre estoy asistiendo la clínica española los martes con el supervisor       Dr. Ezequiel Peña y también he visitado por dos veces el equipo bilingüe los miércoles con la supervisora Sra. Diana Lincón.  Los dos equipos tienen estudiantes diferentes.  Me gusta ver la variedad de los casos (por ejemplo, una clienta en particular cambia frecuentemente las lenguas de inglés y español – “code switching”) y los estilos de terapia y supervisión.  La principal manera para manejar la terapia en la clínica es “postmodern”/narrativa.  A mí, esta manera es diferente.  Mi entrenamiento psicológico fue ecléctico; ahora, mi estilo favorito es cognitivo-behavioral.  Trabajo en una universidad generalmente con estudiantes non-latinos (no hay mucha diversidad en mi pueblo rural en Pennsylvania) y uso una forma de terapia breve.  Intento combinar la terapia con el cliente; personas diferentes responden bien a los estilos diferentes de terapia.  Veo que los estilos “postmodern” son buenos con la población latina.  Necesito leer y ver más sobre este estilo.

En la clínica, hay problemas de depresión, ansiedad, relaciones familiares, estrés de inmigración, y otras dificultades.  Los inmigrantes recientes son única población clínica y una que es nueva a mí.  He aprendido muchas cosas en esta clase, el libro de texto, la clínica, la conferencia de NLPA, y el programa especial en OLLU este mes con el Obispo John C. Wester.  Por lo tanto, estaré lista en el futuro cuando recibiría más clientes latinos.  Un caso interesante en mi clínica es de una abuela y sus nietas – el poder y la resistencia de la familia.  Dos compañeras de clínica y clase (Celina y Martha C.) hicieron una buena presentación sobre este caso para NLPA y para esta clase.  Otras presentadores en clase discutieron temas importantes como aculturación (Gabriel), trauma y estrés postraumático (Stephanie), Centroamérica (Martha G. y Rosanna), y posmodernismo (Yadira).

Es importante y necesario para manejar la terapia efectivamente y éticamente que los terapeutas tengan no solamente la competencia lingüístico sino también la competencia cultural.  El certificado de PSSSP en OLLU provee conocimiento de ambas cosas.  Hay en la revista gradPSYCH (edición de septiembre de 2010) un buen artículo sobre la competencia cultural.  Mi tiempo aquí en San Antonio es breve (solamente por este semestre).  Para mejorar mis habilidades orales con la lengua, me matriculé en clases privadas de español en SEFLA (Spanish, English and Foreign Languages for America, Inc.), una escuela local.  Mi maestra, Elvia, es excelente.  Mi énfasis es conversación porque esta es mi problema más grande.  (Mis habilidades escritas son mejores porque tengo más tiempo para pensar, examinar, y revisar.)  Hace ocho años que estudio español (con descansos) y mi nivel es intermedio, pero debe ser más alta.  Me gusta la lengua española y continuaré aprenderla.         

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