:: eye of the storm ::

About Me

A 27-year-old PA student who wants to visit all seven continents, write a book, work at a pediatric clinic in Africa, and basically meet as many of the world's challenges as possible.

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current mood:
current mood

Life List

(already accomplished)

Become a PA

Visit all 7 continents

Take a SwimTrek trip

Bike through Western Europe

Raft the Grand Canyon

Improve my Spanish proficiency

Go on safari in Africa

Trace my roots at Ellis Island

Vacation in Hawaii

Work on a hospital ship in a Third World country

Celebrate New Year's in Times Square

Visit all 50 states (29 to go: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY)

See the ruins at Pompeii

Swim in Capri's Blue Grotto

Tour Mt. Vesuvius

Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain

Tour the Colosseum

Visit the D-Day beaches

See the Mona Lisa

Visit the palace at Versailles

See the Acropolis and Parthenon

See the Egyptian pyramids

Hike the Inca Trail

Walk El Camino Santiago

Take an Alaskan cruise

View the Taj Mahal at sunrise

Hike Table Mountain in South Africa

Climb through the Amazon canopy

Walk at least part of the Great Wall of China

Get laser hair removal

Learn to surf, ski, and snowboard

Learn to drive a stick-shift

Learn to play the piano

Go on a tropical cruise

Ride horseback on the beach

Ride in a hot air balloon

Get tickets to the Olympics

Go to adult Space Camp

Witness a shuttle launch from up close

Build a full-sized snowman

Sew a quilt out of my old race T-shirts

Update and continue my Life Scrapbook

Become the oldest person to ever do the River Run

Live to be a happy, healthy 100 years old - at least!

(unlikely dreams)

vrijdag 31 oktober 2003

Current Music: Andrew W K - "Ready To Die" (in my head :))

Heeeel gezellig avondje gisteren! I only got about 4 hours of sleep, so I'm very tired now (could barely keep my eyes open in class), but we had a great time. (P: spreek je vanavond! :)) And I finally saw "Silence of the Lambs" and "Hannibal", so Mandy, I now totally understand all those comments back at Stanton about "Shut up or I'll eat you!" LOL! And, I have also now made a "Schiphol run" so Mom and Dad, I won't have any trouble getting to you on 24 Dec... :)

And - it's Halloween! I gave my American teacher a Reese's cup in class today from the package Mom sent and he said, "Oh, hey thanks! I haven't had one of these in years!" because he's been in NL for 4 years now and they for some reason don't seem to like the idea of mixing chocolate and peanut butter over here. Oh well, lekker anyway. :)

Further... not much... oh yeah, Boswell starts Monday, I'm going to see Legally Blond II on Tuesday (right M?? ;)) and my linguistics exam is Wednesday. That's as far into the future as I can see right now... :)

Oh oh oh, and I might get an electric scooter for Christmas!!! Not a moped, but like a normal Razor-type scooter, but that's electrically powered! That'd be a lot nicer to have around here than a bike - not only is it a lot faster, but there are some nasty hills by my apartment (which this thing's advertisement says it can handle) and you can just fold it up and take it with you wherever you go - no need for locks or anything. And the tires are hard plastic (I think) thus no worrying about flat tires either... the only downside is that it would be a bit heavy to put into my suitcase to take home again, but that just means I'll have to send lots of stuff home with Mom. ;) (Hi... :))

[Aside note: Hey, C!! (You know which one I mean... my cute adorable little sister you... ) - Why didn't you tell me?? I had to read it on your website! :P Anyway, love ya and let me know if I can do anything or if you wanna talk...]

Happy Halloween, everybody!

zondag 26 oktober 2003

Current Music: Amanda Marshall - "Birmingham" (in my head anyway...)

Last night was so much fun. I went with M and DK (haha, his name is the same even with my initial-system, LOL!) to M's parents' house in Nieuwekerk aan den IJssel, to have dinner. (DK almost got us into an accident on the way there - he didn't notice the cars ahead of us stopping, and he braked hard and we skidded and stopped about a centimeter from the other guy's bumper... no joke... a guy in the car next to us caught my eye and held up his thumb and forefinger with just a tiny bit of space in between, LOL! Nothing happened, but it shook us up. M lectured him all the way home... "Jij mag NOOIT meer in Mama's auto rijden!"...) Anyway, a lot of other people were there too - an American couple plus a bunch of neighbors. Heel gezellig! And the Americans didn't speak any Dutch, so there was a lot of both languages flying around all night. And nobody knew I could speak Dutch - they kept asking things like, "So can you already understand a little bit?" and M and I would just look at each other and laugh... LOL!

Anyway, the Americans were just that - very American, if you get my drift. Like... talk with authority about things which they have no clue about, have a lot of money which they take for granted, ask superficial questions and don't really care about the answers... and the woman was wearing a fairly ornate cross, too, which is so typical... I was a little ashamed, to tell you the truth. This was the first time I'd really been able to compare 'typical' Dutch with 'typical' American and wow... I really saw a difference, a lot more so than before. M noticed it too. I mean, I know not all Dutch people are perfect and not all Americans are horrible, but still. (The nice thing was, we could talk in Dutch right under their noses and they had no clue what we were saying. We were discussing language - M's and my specialty, needless to say - and the man authoritatively put some opinion out there which made no sense at all, expecting us to agree with him. We sort of nodded politely and then when the attention was off us, I said quietly, "Ik ben absoluut niet met hem eens, trouwens..." and M muttered, "Ik ook niet... en wij weten meer van talen..." Really funny! That's one of the things I like best about Dutch, I think - that it's so unusual, and nobody else knows it. :))

Anyway, echt heel gezellig. But a lot of switching back and forth between languages. And then I came home and tried to chat with Mom and I simply could not type in English... the Dutch words were coming to mind first. Wow... couple more evenings like that and I won't know my own language anymore. I'm having that problem more and more frequently these days... I sat here for like 5 minutes one day trying to think of the word for 'wasmachinesruimte'... and even when I do manage to speak English, I say things that aren't spreektaal, like "I found it really nice" (ik vond het heel leuk) and "could well be" (zou wel kunnen)... So basically I'm making Dutch-people errors. WEIRD!!! But cool. :)

And I learned something new - apparently here it's perfectly acceptable to just call someone up and say "Hey, can I come over?" In the US, you'd do that only maybe with your very best friends... but apparently that's the way it goes here. That's going to take some getting used to, though... it's been drilled into me for 19 years that "inviting yourself over" or "imposing" is really really rude. Ik moet eraan wennen...

M (the other one) and I made up our sentences for our linguistics experiment yesterday... pretty funny. They're all really stupid, but hey, that's why it was funny. We're meeting up again on Wednesday to compare findings, so I've got to get 5 people done before then. M and DK said they'd, ehm, 'meedoen', and I bet P would too and maybe even the manager of this building... that'd give her some of her own medicine... ever since she found out I know Dutch, if I try to go into the office and speak English, she grins and folds her arms across her chest and says, "Ik versta je niet!" LOL!

Guess I better go write those sentences on cards, then. Tot later, allemaal!

(P.S. Whyyyyyy won't S's computer let me archive??? Stupid Macs with a character limit... hmph. Oh well, I'll be able to do it at the library. For now, sorry about the excessive length of this page.)

zaterdag 25 oktober 2003

SDF still hasn't answered me. Maybe she's just going to deal with it by ignoring me? Hope not. But then, she was always so hard to track down back at UF... maybe she just hasn't had time? (I hope.)

Bye now - meeting M in 8 minutes to work on our linguistics thing and meeting (another :)) M in 1.5 hours to go to dinner with her, her parents, and some friends...


vrijdag 24 oktober 2003

It snowed, it snowed, IT SNOWED!!! And not just flurries, either - REAL SNOW! It started right before I left the house this morning and fell on and off - some big thick flakes, some little flurries - and then while I was sitting in class, it started to really come down. We opened the door to the outside during the pauze and it was such a change from when we went in that one of my classmates (a Dutchman, mind you) went "Oh my GOD!" LOL! But if I had woken up at noon, I would have never known... I just walked from my linguistics class to the library and except for a few puddles on the ground (and the fact that it's freezing-@$$ cold), I'd never have known there was any snow at all. Surprising how fast it can disappear. Hope that happened in Raalte too, because D was mad that he didn't get to have his motorcycle lesson, haha!

So the Florida girl has now officially seen her first snow!

That's all and I'm hungry, so bye!

donderdag 23 oktober 2003

Hoihoi! I have nothing to do today so I came to Boswell in the hope that I could print out some things, like the La Mancha application and some of the entries from this site (for my scrapbook). But the printer isn't working. Grrr.

I just e-mailed S (no, not that S... I mean SDF, from UF) to see what the deal is with the Dutch class next year. I can't believe I actually did it... I had butterflies in my stomach, LOL! She may think I'm too young or too inexperienced or don't know enough Dutch, or she may already have someone (probably does), but that's fine. I just want to know that I tried, that I asked... otherwise I'd always have wondered "what if"?

Oh, and I beat the system... I got my profile through with the secret address. Told you I would, didn't I? Go Jess, go Jess... :)

No other news...

woensdag 22 oktober 2003

Current Music: Guns & Roses - "Sweet Child of Mine"

Hello again! First off I should say that I've moved the Auschwitz description to the October archives, because this page was getting too long... so check there if that's what you're looking for.

Other stuff... well, Boswell is officially over... CI anyway. We got our evaluations today and I got a 'ruim voldoende', which is one step from the highest mark. As I'd thought, listening was my lowest grade, but Petra assured me that everyone had had similar problems. And she specifically praised my writing, saying that I'd come a long way with that, from my "Internet writing" to being able to write more formally. Anyway, so I enrolled for CII in the afternoons. I'd have liked mornings because then Petra would have still been one of my teachers, but the afternoon group gets a woman and a man as teachers so it'll be better for my listening problems to do afternoons. (Plus I won't have to get up so early! :)) I hope that works out with my Second Language Acquisition class... stupid Dutch scheduling strikes again: that class meets in the morning sometimes and in the afternoon sometimes, so I wouldn't be able to go to all of the classes. But I think it'll work out, since Boswell ends on 10 December and the university block goes on for much longer, into January or even February. I talked to the professor about it and he said that if I only had to miss classes for a few weeks, that it should be OK.

Two of my good friends from Boswell, E and L, aren't continuing... :'(. L is too busy with work and E has too many other classes. And I found out today that Dutch is E's sixth language!!! How jealous am I?!?! She's from Switzerland, so she speaks German and French (since they have 4 official languages), plus English and Spanish, plus Serbian because her parents are Serbian. And now Dutch. So she grew up bilingual and then learned 3 more languages in school, and now she's here. Apparently that's not unusual for the Swiss, but it sure is for an American. I'm sooo jealous! I'd give my right arm to have been raised bilingual...

Stupid online security rules! I have a profile on a website where people are supposed to have to subscribe (read: pay) to be able to contact you, but I think that's a rip-off, so I've been trying to find a 'secret' way to get my e-mail address into the profile. Which I did, with my Comcast address, since apparently their computer scan isn't set to pick up 'comcast' as a 'no' keyword (for instance, the computer would automatically throw your profile out if it said Hotmail or Yahoo or something, I'm sure). But then I edited the profile a little, thus had to resubmit it, and this time it caught my sneaky attempt, so now I'm fighting with cyberspace trying to find a new way to do it. And I *will* win... but I think they must have people checking them after they've been rejected a certain number of times, because this latest time, I disguised Hotmail as 'He Ought To Make An Ice Lollipop' and it still threw it out. Sigh. Oh well, I'll figure it out.

So now I have a break from Boswell until 3 November. But I still have regular classes on Tuesdays and Fridays... wonder if I could squeeze a trip in there somewhere? S and I were looking at the Eurail site to see if that was something we'd be interested in, and it is, but only for a real trip, like the one I just made. S wanted to use his to go to France cheaper, but we figured out that it's actually not that great of a deal if you're using it for that purpose. Oh well.

I'm looking forward to moving into LaMancha. Not that I want to leave here, not at all - I'm just the kind of person who always needs something to look forward to, and being excited about that will make it easier to leave when that time does eventually roll around. I've been thinking about it a lot lately... living with Dutch people so I won't 'lose' the language, having things like my stereo and all my books back again, being back in the warm weather, paying $345 instead of $410 rent... sounds nice, hé? Again, I'm absolutely not ready to leave NL - I've just been thinking about that since I need to apply within a month or two to make sure I get a place. I think international students get priority, so I want to get my name in there ASAP.

Anyway, guess I'll be on my way now. It's only 15.26 but I'm really sleepy for some reason. Ciao!

dinsdag 21 oktober 2003

Boswell test: voorbij. YAY! The listening was a pain in the rear end - all men's voices, which are really difficult for me, as I said before - but the reading was easy, I was the second one done (and in half the time we were allowed :)). So I'm pretty certain that I've passed and will be going to CII - yay! But I won't have the same teachers. I don't mind switching Ciska, but I wish I could still have Petra... but I think I'm getting this certain woman that P keeps telling me is "really good... if you're four years old." LOL! We'll see.

Random thought: I got into a tongue-sticking-out contest with a baby on the back of his mom's bike yesterday... we were riding home and he kept turning around to look at me, so I OC smiled, and he grinned back and then started sticking out his tongue at me, and I could just tell from the look on his face that he thought it was the funniest thing in the world. He kept curling it up and down and wiggling it around and stuff, so I started doing the same thing back to him and we did that until we went in different directions. Funny. :)

Going to check out the La Mancha site now...

maandag 20 oktober 2003

Hoihoi! Well, today's the big day... my Boswell test! The first day of it, anyway - it's tomorrow too. And apparently it's pretty hard, at least according to my classmates who've done tests here before (to pass out of B-level). Today is grammar and writing (my two best things :)) and tomorrow is reading, listening, and speaking. I'm only worried about the listening part - I still have trouble understanding people if they have any accent other than the "standard" Dutch that I learned, and even with that I have trouble if it's a man speaking. (Deeper voices are difficult for me; I've always had female teachers from Utrecht, so they all talked exactly the same way in roughly the same pitch. Now I have to "broaden" my comprehension a little and that's not so easy.) But apart from the listening, I should be fine. Reading isn't a problem (as long as I really concentrate, because they're going to make it as difficult as possible) and as long as I remember to slow down, speaking should be fine too.

I made my scrapbook yesterday! And it's already almost half full. I need to conserve space, LOL! But that was a lot of fun - I papered the back cover with hopje wrappers, drew a big Dutch flag on the spine with paint pen, and made a sort of collage on the front. And I've got all kinds of things inside - everything from pictures to coins to flowers. And I've changed my mind about not liking those pictures - once I stuck them in the album, I realized that a couple of them are so good they look professional. (Boy, am I modest... haha D! ;)) Anyway, I'm glad I finally got off my bum and did something like this, so I won't forget all the little details once I'm back in Florida.

It's only 10.48 and I don't have class until 13.15, but I came early so I could, together with all my normal computer things, print out portions of my website journal to stick in the scrapbook. (I left spaces for them.) But the computer room is reserved for some group or other, so I'm in the kantine on one of the 3 computers in there. No printer, dus. Oh well, I'll do it after class then.

Wish me luck!

zaterdag 18 oktober 2003

Does somebody want to explain to me why S's computer wouldn't let me type more than a certain amount of text in here last night? It didn't make any sense - as far as I know, you're unlimited in the number of characters you can have. So I had to chop a few sentences out of my Poland story. Not that it's not long enough anyway :) but it's the principle of the thing.

Today's a busy day... I slept like a rock (unsurprisingly) and so far I've gotten my film developed, bought the Veldhuis & Kemper CD that MediaMarkt didn't have (yay for Free Record Shop, even if their USA shipping sucks), gotten a new strippenkaart, gotten scrapbook stuff (can't wait to go home and start), and bought 3 T-shirts at H&M. Yes, T-shirts - I know it's winter, but I'll wear them as layers, and besides, since it's now cold outside, the Dutch seem to think it's their duty to keep it three times as warm inside... so it's nice to come in overheated after a 30-minute bike ride and immediately strip down to cool off, instead of having to sit in a heated room in a sweatshirt. Anyway, point is, I've had a fairly productive afternoon (and spent a fair amount of money, haha!) And now I have to go to Edah since there's no food in the house, but then I'm going to start on my Dutch scrapbook, yay!

But my pictures came out a little 'funny'... Mom, help me explain what I mean here... like, sharper, and the contrast between light and shadow is more pronounced, and colors seem 'stronger'. (Before you ask: the color film was 200 and the B&W was 400, so that's not it.) Maybe they have a different type of processing here? Oh well. They're still fine, they just don't look like Target. :)

OK, gonna go now.

vrijdag 17 oktober 2003

Current Music: Marco Borsato - "Slaap maar"

Well, I made it back from Poland. Lots of adventures to tell! A total of 3 buses and 8 trains… you better believe there are adventures. :) So this is going to be very very long; I apologize in advance. But here are the high points: as I SMSed to P, D, M, and S – never go to Poland without (a) an interpreter, (b) very warm clothes, (c) a lot of zloty coins, and (d) SOMETHING TO DO DURING SIX-HOUR STOPOVERS!

Keep reading for the details.

OK, so I left at 13.42 on Wednesday and the first train – to Duisberg – really had nothing noteworthy except that there was this guy a couple of rows back singing, in heavily German-accented English, “Cross the water… cross the waves…” but at about one-sixth of the song’s normal speed. And the two women across from me found it as amusing as I did – we kept looking at each other and grinning.

Second train, Duisberg to Berlin. That train was cool for one reason: Dutch people! I was waiting for the bathroom and there was a young mother walking around with her little girl, about 1 1/2 years old – you know how kids that age are, they like to walk, even if it’s just back and forth. Which is what they were doing, with the mother carrying on a monologue the whole time – you know how moms are. So I was just standing there and smiling at the girl once in a while, but then when they came closer I realized that the mother was speaking Dutch to the girl and not German. (I must have said “Sorry, I don’t speak German” about 100 times on this trip… LOL!) So I started listening. And then the little girl just walked right up to me and grinned and waved Hi. So I of course smiled and waved back and then said “Zij is echt een schat, hoor!” to the mom. Then it was finally my turn for the bathroom, but when I came out, they were still walking there, and the girl got confused for a second as I walked past because there were two women next to her, so she grabbed my hand instead of her mom’s. Then she looked up, saw me, and let go. I just smiled again and said ‘Doei!’ to the baby and walked back to my seat, but as I went, I heard the mom still talking to the baby, and she said, “Zij was ook Nederlands!” meaning me. I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the trip. :)

Third train: Berlin to Katowice. Here’s where things really got interesting. I was ever so briefly alone in my train compartment – wonder of wonders – thinking, “Wow, maybe I can get some sleep after all.” I had no sooner taken out my contacts when two older woman walked in, and one of them asked me a question in German which I didn’t fully catch but which included the words “vrije plaats” (German is ‘freie platz’ or something I think, maar ja.) so I had to say yes. (Oh yeah, English: literally ‘free place’, as in, is there room here?). So they stayed in there with me. One was about 65, the other about 80. And here’s the funny part: the younger one spoke Polish and German but no English, the older one spoke Polish and a little English but no German, and I spoke English and Dutch (and Spanish, OC, but that’s a nonissue here) and no Polish. Well, OK, about 5 words of Polish, thanks to Izabella, only one or two of which I remember now that camp is over, LOL! But anyway, the point was, we could all talk to each other well enough – using ‘pidgen’ versions of whatever our common language was, plus a lot of sign language and even a few drawings – but we couldn’t all three talk at the same time. Lots of translation going on there, dus. Interesting situation! Slow Dutch, combined with what little German I know, worked OK with the younger woman, and slow English with lots of sign language worked for the other one. But the funny thing is, I started understanding Polish! Maybe I just thought I did, but I noticed certain words that were similar to either Dutch or Spanish and then once someone translated to me what they were talking about, the translation made sense. I mean, I couldn’t follow a conversation or anything, but I caught words here and there. Like, the younger woman would say something to the older one in Polish and then gesture at me and say something that sounded like ‘proberen’. So I guessed that she was saying “Try to explain it to her”, and I asked and I was right! :) Stuff like that. And I could follow German, too – not so well from that woman, but for example, the one who came to our compartment to check our tickets was easy to understand. She had to sell the older woman a ticket, too, as it turned out, and was really getting annoyed because the younger woman had to translate for the older one and they kept asking questions and wouldn’t just buy the ticket – she was saying things like, “I don’t have a lot of time here!” and “So does she have it or not?” (meaning a ten-cent coin) She was young, 20s, and she kept rolling her eyes in my direction, like I was an ally. Pretty funny.

Anyway, that was fun for a while, but after a couple of hours especially the older woman started to get really annoying. (She even wrote down her address and phone number and insisted that I call her.) And I was so tired that I was speaking in the wrong languages to the wrong people. So I finally persuaded them to shut up and let me go to sleep, but then around 2.30, we noticed that the heater wasn’t working in our compartment, so we got up and moved. Oh, and did I mention that they woke us up to ask for tickets and passports like six times??? Tickets 3x, passports 3x. OK, so once at the German-Polish border, that’s fine, I understand, but where did the rest of that come from? I was annoyed. So yeah, not much sleep to be had there. And then to top it off, they ‘pulled a Granddaddy’ (Mom knows what I mean :)) and got all worried about me being by myself in the train (since they got off before me, around 3.30) so they started talking to this man (in Polish, OC) and made him stay in the compartment with me. Which was extremely annoying – first because he spoke not one single word of English, and second because I’m not the naïve little baby that older people always seem to think I am. Sigh. The one thing he was good for was telling me (when he got off) something that sounded like, “Stapze, dan Katowice!” – meaning there was one more station first, called something that sounded like Stapze but was really spelled differently – and then my stop. But I confirmed that with a random person in the hall, just to make sure. :) Polish train stations are not at all well marked the way German and Dutch ones are, and it would have been very easy to miss it.

So I got to Katowice, walked right across the platform onto my train to Oswiecim (at least one transfer went smoothly!), arrived there an hour later and walked into the station, thinking “OK, so far so good – now find an ATM, get some zloty (Polish money) for the bus and the bathroom, and then be on my way!” Well, guess what. No ATM. That’s right – in a train station, no ATM. So I tried to see if the woman in the bathroom would take Euro coins and we couldn’t understand each other. So I gave up and tried one of the ticket sellers – no English there either. Then a couple of people about my age who were waiting for buses – also no. It was ridiculous! I mean, I know I’m a little spoiled since the Dutch are among the best in the world with language, but this was truly absurd – English is the most useful world language to know right now, especially if you work in a train station in a town that gets so many foreign visitors! (And if you asked any random street people if they spoke English, their response was a knowing look and “Auschwitz?” I felt like a real tourist… sigh… don’t like that feeling.)

Anyway, I knew Auschwitz was within walking distance and I knew the people there must speak English, so my main problem was the bathroom. I kept thinking, “If they’re going to charge me for the bathroom and then not give me a way to pay them for it, then I have no problem with popping a squat behind a bush!” Which I fortunately did not have to do, but the possibility was definitely there…

So I set out walking for Auschwitz. The train station map had that clearly enough marked, all right, but they didn’t clearly mark where the station was (duuuuh) so there was no way to get my bearings. (I even knew the word for ‘station’, although I can’t remember it now – ‘stadzji’ or something – and even that didn’t help.) I finally just decided to start walking and go in the same direction as the buses, and then I found a road called ‘something Oswiecimia’ and I knew that Oswiecim is the Polish spelling of Auschwitz, so I knew I was OK then.) Anyway, the people in the Auschwitz museum changed a little money for me and then all was well.

So now we get to the description of the actual camps. (For those who don’t know, Auschwitz is really called Auschwitz-Birkenau; Birkenau is also known as “Auschwitz II”, and that part of the camp is where most of the mass murder took place. There was also apparently a third, much lesser known part which is not open to the public.) So I saw Auschwitz first and it was… well… overrun with schoolchildren, first (about 16-18 years old; anyone under 14 is not allowed in), but second, disappointingly ‘altered’. It’s hard to connect this Auschwitz with the grainy black-and-white pictures we all have in our heads. I chose to go look around on my own rather than wait 2 hours for the guided tour in English (it looked like it was going to rain and I desperately wanted to take pictures) so off I went. I took a million pictures; hopefully some will come out well. (Lots of digital ones too - I'm dying to have my computer back so I can see them full-size.) But as I said… altered. The place is a real museum now, not just the preserved remains of what was once there. About half of the “blocks”, where the inmates lived, have been turned into exhibits, with lots of big modern museum-type boards with pictures and maps and writing. But there’s also some original stuff - old beds in one part, pictures in another part, prisoners’ clothing and a few personal items, and one room that actually had hundreds of thousands of kilograms of women’s hair encased behind a glass wall. You could smell hair as soon as you walked into that room. There were also things like scaled-down models of the camp and old cans of Zyklon-B. Each block has a ‘theme’ – living conditions, for example, or extermination, or geographical statistics or something. There are also entire hallways with rows and rows of framed pictures of inmates, all in their striped pajamalike uniforms. Under the pictures it says the name, date of birth, date of internment, and date of death. Some visitors have stuck flowers behind a couple of the pictures – relatives, I suppose. There was also a big memorial in the courtyard next to block 11, with flowers and candles. And, of course, the iron ‘arbeit macht frei’ (= lit. ‘work frees’) above the entry gate. The thing is, though, that you always picture that as being a sort of standalone thing, with barbed-wire fencing stretching away from it on either side. But it’s not; there’s a building on the left side of it and it’s smaller than you expect and there’s a traffic-control arm in front of it and, well, it just doesn’t look like the main entryway to such a horrific place! Actually, the whole place is pretty small – surprisingly so. I wished I had Rena’s Promise with me so I could see which block she’d been in, but I didn’t have it, so I just peeked into all of them. (Did you know they even had ‘standing cells’, too small to lie down in, for special punishment?)

I spent a couple of hours there, trying to wander on my own, away from the school groups. I did succeed a couple of times, but once, there were so many kids crammed into one building (the one with the hair and the starvation statistics) that I literally could not find the door. I got frustrated (I’d had about 2-3 hours sleep and was not in the mood to have kids further mess up an experience that already wasn’t what I’d expected) and sat down on a bench and drank some water and just waited for them to leave. But those starvation pictures – they’re something else. I mean, we’ve all seen them, but I read the caption on one of the massive pictures, one of an emaciated, naked woman. It said that before Auschwitz, she was 160 cm and 75 kg (exactly my size, I might add, which is maybe why I noticed) and that at the time of the photo, she was 25 kg. TWENTY-FIVE KILOGRAMS… one-third of her normal weight. I couldn’t believe she was still alive to have her picture taken.

Anyway, I’d been told that I absolutely had to go to Birkenau, that it was a lot better, etc. I was feeling rather skeptical, but I knew I couldn’t miss it now that I was there, and decided I’d go right then (around 11.30) and beat the kids there. So I did, and let me just say, Birkenau is completely different. First of all, it’s enormous. Second of all, forget all these restored blocks and brick structures and stuff that Auschwitz has. Birkenau is a huge open plain with wooden barnlike barracks and crumbling brick chimneys stabbing randomly against the sky (they’re all that remains of most of the wooden barracks). I mean, you’re literally climbing over fallen barbed wire to get around this place. There are railroad tracks running down the center of the camp and a huge watchtower right when you enter, from which the SS guards kept watch. I got to go up there (snuck in with the schoolkids – guess they were good for something) but even then, you still can’t see the whole camp. It’s huge! And seems more real.

I wandered on my own, again. And again, there were some startlingly beautiful things (for instance, small yellow flowers growing amongst fallen barbed wire), but this camp really gives a better impression of what it was like to be there. Because it’s so big and empty, you can’t hear anyone else speaking unless they’re right next to you, and it was a gloomy, gray day (though it never really rained) and bitterly cold. I was walking alone amongst the wooden structures that used to be, among other things, bathrooms, and I stopped for some reason – maybe to take a picture, I don’t know. But what I remember is, seeing those schoolkids further up the way, clustered around their guide, solemn-faced - but hearing absolutely no noise, as though someone had clamped earmuffs on my head. And then I did hear a noise – the creaking of the wooden door as it blew softly in the wind. And that was it. Just it; I can’t explain it any better, writer though I am. It made it seem so deserted and eerie. Really, you people need to go see this. You’ll hear the lonesome creaking of the doors, and you’ll shiver from the cold, but all you’ll be able to think about is how much colder the inmates had to have been. And you’ll feel oddly guilty for wearing that coat and hat.

The crematoria were here as well, but the Nazis got nervous near the end of the war and tore them down. They’re way at the back of the camp. There are also areas back here where ashes were thrown, including a pond (popularly called ‘dark water’ or ‘black water’ or something) which contains the ashes of crematoria victims. I didn’t see that, which is my single biggest regret – I had been walking all day, my feet hurt, my back hurt from my backpack, I was freezing, and I couldn’t even see clearly where this place was – far off in a corner of the camp, I believe. So I turned back, but if anybody else goes there… take a look (or a pic) for me, OK? But anyway, there’s also a monument there, between two of the ruined crematoria. I was over by the leftmost pile of rubble, reading the signs and trying to figure out exactly where all of this would have taken place. It’s very weird to realize that, since it’s collapsed, you’re basically looking into a gas chamber (the chambers were underground) and standing just a few meters from the spot where the gas pellets were dropped in. And on the diagram, you can see exactly the places where they entered the underground area, took off their clothes, and went into the “showers”… and then you look to your left and there it is! Really unbelievable; probably the most, um, indrukwekkend part of the whole trip for me. (Indrukwekkend… I learned that word while standing next to those crematoria, actually, and I still can’t think of an English equivalent… “it made the biggest impression”, I guess is what I mean, but ‘impressive’ isn’t the right word… *sigh*.)

Well, anyway, here’s how I learned that word: while I was studying the map, an older couple came up behind me and started trying to figure out the same things… in Dutch! The woman said something like, “So are we next to the entrance now?” She walked over to the ruin while her husband and I stayed in front of the diagram. So I pointed to the end of a long hallway on the diagram and said, “Dat is de ingang, denk ik; en wij zijn nu hier, toch?” and pointed to another place. So the man and I got into a conversation which the woman eventually joined; turns out her husband is a philosophy teacher and has always wanted to see Auschwitz because he knew a few people that were there, and this week is his 75th birthday and her present to him was to fly him to Krakow and spend a week there, and see, among other things, Auschwitz. They were from somewhere near Arnhem. Really nice people! The woman asked, “Ben jij ook Nederlander?” and I had to explain my whole studying-in-Utrecht situation again, and they both looked really impressed and told me, “Jij kunt al best goed Nederlands spreken! Da’s moeilijk…” and so on.

It’s funny how traveling outside Holland makes me feel so much more at home in it. Like, I love traveling, and when I go back to Florida or the US after being somewhere, I never think “Oh, it’s so good to be home!” the way some people do. But meeting Dutch people while I’m in a big cold country where nobody understands English… it makes you feel a bond with those people, you know? And also, me and my phobia of mistakes…well, being so helpless in Germany and Poland made me realize that I *can* handle myself in Dutch. It was such a relief to be back. So I guess P was right… I’m not scared to speak anymore. I absolutely did not expect that to be a benefit of a trip to Poland, but hey, cool anyway. :)

OK, the trip back. Well, I was done a bit earlier than I’d expected so I took the first train I could get from Oswiecim to Katowice, at about 16.30, instead of the 20.30 one that I’d planned for at home. But then I got a nasty surprise in Katowice – only 2 trains to Berlin run per day – one at 9.45 and one at 23.06. I was so angry! But I OC couldn’t do anything about it, so I sat around in a freezing Polish train station for five and a half hours. And naturally I needed the bathroom (twice) and had no Polish coins (and only one bill, which I’m saving…), but the nice thing is, there you pay AFTER you go, so what could they do when I only had euros? ;) Haha… Anyway, yeah, so no benches or chairs or anywhere to wait, just the floor, and it wasn’t a nice station like Utrecht with a heated inside, oh no, this was Eastern Europe, so 4 platforms + underground tunnel connecting them + a few shops at each end = serviceable train station. Completely open to the cold and the wind, and I had to stay there for hours and hours, sitting on the hard cold steps like a bum. Luckily D called then and distracted me (even if he wasn’t calling for a particularly good reason, LOL D!) for at least a few minutes, but then I didn’t want him to hang up – I miss him anyway because we haven’t seen each other in a while, but on top of that, considering I was cold and lonely and mad and very tired, it was so good to talk to someone that I could understand! (But I suppose I’m glad I did hang up… wonder what the charge is for international calls to and from Poland?… :S) All I could think was, ik wil naar huis! (My Dutch home, I mean - not America. :)) Time has never gone by that slowly, not even when I was a little kid on Christmas and Catie and I would wait for it to be 7.00 so we could wake Mom and Dad up. At that point it was like, please just let this be over now! But then I was thinking in Dutch instead of English and that made me laugh and then I got the Acda en de Munnik song “Naar huis” stuck in my head and I somehow waited it out. :)

So, the overnight train - when I finally got on it - was a half hour late getting to Berlin for some reason, so I missed my train to Amersfoort by 15 minutes. “Annoying, but no real problem,” I thought, “Berlin’s a huge city [really, it has about 10 train stations] and I can get to Utrecht from pretty much anywhere in Holland, so there’ll be another one soon.” Uh, no. The only train that runs from Berlin to NL is bound for Schiphol, though it makes a few other stops on the way (Deventer, Amersfoort, etc.), so I had to wait for the twin of the train I’d just missed – four hours later. So I stumbled downstairs and discovered that Berlin Zoologisch Garten (the station) does have heating in the shop area, so I bought snacks from the vending machine (they had waffles in there! How cool is that?!) and changed my clothes in the bathroom (1.10 euro! Highway robbery!) and sat by the elevator reading The Little Friend (yeah, my book order thankfully came in to Broese the exact morning that I left, so I had books) until it was time to go. And when I saw the platform sign switch over to list places I knew, etc., I got the biggest grin. (D: the BSG strikes again!) So, rode to Amersfoort, bought an Utrecht ticket (by myself at the loket for the first time), and came home. Total delay time: almost 10 hours. My reward: a kaassouffle out of the wall. I burned my tongue on one once and I was somewhat lacking in taste buds for about three days, but they’re still lekker. (Shut up, S. :)) Anyway, so I got home around 19.00.

The verdict: it was worth it, especially considering it's a chance I'll probably never get again. But I'm definitely beginning to see why D hates trains - the whole traveling fiasco sort of distracted me from really thinking about what I had seen. And I still want to go to Mauthausen because apparently that's the one that's still almost exactly like it was. Plus, it's a lot closer. But I'll wait a LONG time before I do that, thank you very much! :)

New idea: I want to make a scrapbook about my time in Holland, but not a big unwieldy one - more like an oversized journal; one where you can write on the pages and have spaces for pix. I have lots of stuff to put in there (that’s why I saved the zloty bill). Maybe tomorrow…

Closing thought: Boswell test Monday and Tuesday! That’s the end test which judges if I can pass to the next level, CII. I’m not really worried, but I *am* hoping I’ll get interesting things as speaking topics, etc. Most of this stuff is so boring that I can’t even pay attention to it in English.

OK, it is BEDTIME!!! My own bed… *sigh of rapture*

maandag 13 oktober 2003

Hoihoi. In the pauze... nothing new. Just made the October archive, so that's where all the entries are that you don't see. Going to see M tomorrow, yay. :) Leaving for Auschwitz in 2 days, yay again. And the guys are finally getting out of Egypt tonight, yay a third time.

Back to class... btw, does anyone still read this? Let me know, because I feel like I'm typing into nothingness.

zondag 12 oktober 2003

Current Music: Acda en de Munnik - "De kapitein deel II"

In the library again. Randomness...

You know, they may have been joking, but when I was out with P and M the other night, they told me that they thought I should teach the beginning Dutch class when I go back to Florida. That had never occurred to me - and really, they were probably joking - and I didn't really 'register' the thought at the time, but now that I've thought about it for a few days, I think I'd actually like it a lot. My Dutch will be almost perfect by then (I hope, haha, after 10 more months!) so I could definitely teach a class of people that don't know *any* Dutch, and people have told me all my life that I'm a "natural teacher", so I always thought maybe I'd do that someday... and I've got a lot of ideas for things to do. For example, a short writing assignment every night - *very* short, like 5 sentences or something - instead of a bunch of book exercises. Writing is an "active" skill, like speaking, and you remember things you do actively much better than things you do passively (e.g. things you read). Plus, 90% of people are extremely visual and do better when they can see things, so having to come up with sentences on your own and then write them down makes them "stick" better in your brain than things like filling in blanks in a workbook. Another idea: questions. People always have questions and then either forget them or decide not to ask them, so my idea is to have the students have to bring in a question every day. It can be about anything - grammar, Dutch culture, scheldwoorden, a specific word, anything. For instance, someone could be doing their writing assignment and then they think, "Hmm, if this were English, I'd say this with '-ing', but I don't know how to do that in Dutch." Boom, there's their question for the next day - how do you form the gerund in Dutch? So then we can work on "aan het ___" and "zitten te ___" and so forth. And if they *have* to form a question, it makes them think more about what they know and don't know with regard to the language - and not only that, but you almost always remember the answers to questions that *you* yourself ask (but you might not remember the answer if, for example, you read it somewhere). Plus it's a way to get even the shyer people to participate. And songs, too - I always learn a lot of words that way... OK, OK, whoa, sorry, I'm getting carried away here. I don't even know if this interests anyone at all, but I've been lying awake the past couple of nights thinking about it.

Other news - I'm going to Auschwitz on Wednesday! Well, actually Thursday, but the journey begins on Wednesday. :) There's something with the route, though - they don't have all of it in the computer or something - so the woman sold me tickets to Katowice and back but couldn't give me the last leg, from there to Oswiecim. She told me I could buy that in Duisberg, my first stopover. Shouldn't be a problem, I guess... we shall see. :)

Hey Mom, I bought some black-and-white film for that trip, but I made sure to get one that said C-41 on the box - so that means they can develop it normally even though it's B&W, right?

We're off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz...

vrijdag 10 oktober 2003

Current Music: the hum of computers...

About to head home, but first, a few random thoughts:

+ Alarm clocks are the devil. They rudely wake you up on days when you can sleep in, and on days when you absolutely must be up by 7.10, they stay silent and laugh at your panicked state when you finally do wake up.
+ How could you possibly survive for weeks and weeks underneath a bunch of Egyptian rubble? They never really clearly say where all that water's coming from, you know... how are they getting water in the middle of a desert? Oh well, teletext says they're getting out (FINALLY) on Monday, so...
+ Does anybody want to be part of my linguistics experiment? All you have to do is (a) be a native Dutch speaker, and (b) read about 40 sentences out loud while I tape you. That's it. I need 5 people. Please?
+ I hate pigeons. Who was my friend back at Stanton who hated the pigeons? Erin? No... Becka! Hey Becka - ever ridden your bike through them (and had them fly at your head, missing you so narrowly that people along the road went, "Ooohhhh!")???
+ I have Spanish Salsa Pringles at home and I'm hungry.

(By the way, the Egyptian guy asked, "So what do you think about us spending some more time together?" which gave me my opening... he still makes me uncomfortable, but at least now I know that he has no illusions over what I might be thinking.)

THE SUN IS SHINING!!! And I do not have my bike, because I decided to outsmart the weather by taking the bus. A "Weather" should never try to outsmart 'the weather' I suppose... yeah yeah, lame joke, but laugh anyway, OK? :)

Tot maandag!

woensdag 8 oktober 2003

What do you do when a guy (whom you want nothing to do with) really really wants to date you - you can tell - but he won't say so? I can't bring it up because he hasn't said anything - he'd deny it if I did say something - but I can just tell. (Girls, you know what I mean.) It's this guy from Egypt who lives in Zeist; I met him on the bus one day. He calls/SMSs me multiple times a day and the one time I gave him a chance and went over to Zeist - he had some flimsy excuse about needing Dutch help - I tried to leave after a couple hours by saying I had to go buy a coat, but then he asked if he could come along and I couldn't exactly say no, so we ended up going shopping in the Hoog Catherijne and he started getting all 'touchy', like if he was pointing something out he'd take me by the arm, etc. Now, if I liked him at all it wouldn't be a problem, but I don't - he gives me the creeps. So I've been ignoring his calls, but I forgot that he takes Boswell classes too, and at the same time as me. So today he came into the computer room before class but didn't see me, so I left quickly, but then he ran into me downstairs and was all excited to see me - he even had this cross that he had gotten at church especially for me. "They were giving them out free, so I got one for you." He was wearing it around his neck and took it off and gave it to me. I told him I was an atheist and he said "Doesn't matter- it beings luck." So now not only do I have a damn cross in my backpack, but I had to lie on my feet and say I hadn't gotten any of his calls or SMSs, that there was something wrong with my phone, etc. But that just made things worse because since my phone was "broken" and he couldn't call me to set something up, he on the spot asked when we could get together. Said he just wanted to talk to me. So now I have to meet him tomorrow afternoon and I don't want to. That's a very uncomfortable situation to be in because if I bring it up, he'll deny it and I'll look like a fool. So. Here we sit. I actually hope that he will bring it up tomorrow, so I can dismiss it and he'll know where we stand. Sigh.

Anyway, on to something else. Except there is nothing else. Oh wait, yes there is. I went out with P and M last night and we talked only Dutch for like three hours, and then I went home at like 1.00 (with a taxi since the buses had stopped) and went to bed and dreamed in Dutch. How cool is that? They say that's when you know that you've really got a handle on a language. I dreamed in Spanish a few times before I started learning Dutch. But not anymore. *sad sigh* Oh well. Anyway, isn't that cool? I have no idea anymore what the dream was about, but knowing me it was probably interesting - I have the weirdest dreams of anyone I know. Except perhaps for my mom, who has a recurring dream about trying to put in a huge contact lens. (She got all excited when she saw Mike's contact lens in Monsters, Inc.) LOL!

Wow, it's already getting dark and it's only 16.42. (And, of course, still raining.) Time to go home...

dinsdag 7 oktober 2003

It's 74 degrees in Jacksonville. I just saw that on my Comcast start page. *wistful sigh* I could be at the beach, or swimming with N, or doing something outside... but it's nasty here - high of 12 (Celsius... no clue what that is in Fahrenheit but trust me, it's cold!). And it's raining and gray and windy (Dutch: 'guur') and I of course took my bike anyway so I sat through a linguistics test with wet pants. And my umbrella blew inside out like 10 times. Sigh. Oh well - a true Dutch experience, I guess! :)

Further... not much to tell. I just ordered some books off broese.net - Het Achterhuis, which is Anne Frank's diary in Dutch (the original language), The Color Purple, which was highly recommended to me by... someone... ??? Forgot who, but it sounded good and I'm dying for something to read. And then The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, which is finally, after all my waiting, out in paperback. I should get them within 3 days. YAY!

I am so glad to be at a normal computer again! (Even if it isn't mine. *sniff*) S (wie gisteren jarig was, trouwens - 24 jaar) swears by Macs but I hate them. I use his sometimes because it's better than nothing, but I like my Delete key, thank you very much, and my Ctrl commands, and being able to open more than one IE window with just a click. It just goes so much faster...

Anybody want to go to a concentration camp? I've always wanted to see one, and then over the summer I read this memoir called Rena's Promise, about two sisters who survived 3 years in Auschwitz. Ever since then I wanted to see it and I have a long weekend so I think I'm going to. I'd like someone to go with me, but it's not exactly a 'fun' trip - two night trains and a day at a concentration camp - so I don't mind going alone. It'll be an adventure. :) I'll have to skip a day of Boswell, but what's one day? Now linguistics, that would matter, but Boswell really doesn't. So I'll leave Wednesday (the 15th) afternoon, take a night train to Oswiecim (Polish spelling and pronunciation of Auschwitz), get there around 8.30 on Thursday, see the camp then, take another night train back, and get back to Utrecht around 14.00 on Friday. And then D and I had tentative plans to go to Warner Bros Movie World in Germany on Saturday if he's free from work... we'll see. I hope he is because that sounds like fun!

OK, I need to get off this computer while the rain is still holding off - hopefully I can get home before another deluge begins (but I somehow doubt it). It better not rain tonight - I'm supposed to meet P and maybe M at 22.00 at the post office and I do NOT want to ride through the rain again. OK, think. What do I still have to do? I have to look up the weather at Auschwitz, e-mail M, stop by Hema to look for bed linens and black-and-white film, go to Edah (yes, again)...

Enne... nu hoor ik donder. Right on cue. *zucht* Tot ziens, allemaal...

vrijdag 3 oktober 2003

Current Music: once again, the typing of everyone in the computerzaal

Hello again from the Boswell computer room. I might possibly, dare I say it, get my computer back sometime within the next week. Possibly. We zullen wel zien. But anyway, today was a good day. I thought it was going to be terrible because I had one of those slap-the-alarm-and-fall-back-asleep mornings and I woke up literally 10 minutes before I had to leave the house, but it turned out to be a really good day because of linguistics. (I'm going to brag for a second now, sorry, only because I'm so relieved!) Remember that linguistics paper that I was stressing out over? Well, I turned it in on the due date, and as I did, I noticed that everybody else had done it a completely different way than I. We had to analyze the pronunciation of 10 words by this kid Amahl, looking at what modifications he made and why, etc. Anyway, so I did it the only way I knew how - the way any IBer would have done it - writing an essay, mentioning trends that I noticed between the pronunciations, which sounds he seemed to change most often, how old he was when he started to improve, etc. I didn't even use all of the data, but I used enough to make my point. I remember thinking, This really isn't my best work, but I was so frustrated with the computer thing that I just printed it out and went to turn it in... but then I looked at the pile and absolutely everyone else had taken a completely different approach. They had labeled the sections of their papers with the words they were analyzing and then written a paragraph or two on each analysis. I freaked out, thinking this was some Dutch thing that I didn't know about, that this was the 'right' way and mine was all wrong, etc. I mean, every single one was that way! But it was way too late to do anything about it, so I just slapped the paper on the pile with a sigh...

Anyway, we got them back today with a mark out of 25, and he said he generally marked them in increments of 5, but that only five or six people had gotten lower than 15. I was squirming, certain I was one of those. And then when he finally (at the end of class... why do they always do that?!) let us go through the piles of papers, it took me forever to find mine, and I had that sinking feeling in my stomach... But once I did find it, my jaw absolutely hit my knees. 25/25, the only perfect score I saw in the whole stack! He loved my analysis and wrote positive comments on every page, and at the end he praised me for doing a "very good paper" with the "difficult variant" of writing about the trends instead of each individual word. Never mind that I never even considered that there was another way to do it... he just made my day! :) Go Jess, go Jess...

Other good things... I couldn't get that Acda en de Munnik song "De kapitein deel II" out of my head, so I bought the CD yesterday. It's a live CD, so the version isn't as good (volgens mij anyway) but I still had it on repeat all the way to class today. :) And, I finally "made contact", zeg maar, with someone in my linguistics class... we just got a new assignment which is rather like a psychological experiment, looks extremely cool... but anyway, we have to do it in groups (any native Dutch speaker reading this who wants to be a test subject, you're welcome to... all you have to do is read some sentences out loud), and so I came across this really nice girl, M, at the back of the room who, as it turns out, lived in America for a while when she was younger and so speaks perfect American English. Anyway, so we're going to work together. Yay, making friends. :) And one of the girls from my Boswell class also invited me out "to do something sometime", one of those open invitations, you know, but still nice... nice to feel like I fit in.

OK, it's 17.00 and I'm starving. Time to go home and eat! And it's the WEEKEND... yay! (P.S. maar maandag heb ik een 'spreekbeurt' waarin ik 5 minuten alleen maar Nederlands moet spreken, voor de hele klas... weet iemand misschien hoe je "CPR" in het Nederlands zegt???)

Tot later!

woensdag 1 oktober 2003

Current Music: the typing of everyone in the computer room, haha!

Very very quick update - I'm in the pauze and I have to go back to class in a few minutes. My computer is still god-knows-where in Holland being fixed (they said it would take 14 days), but I just wanted to make a few notes for my adoring public :) haha...

S came in very very late last night, around 4.00, and then left the refrigerator open after making a sandwich. So my orange juice was room-temp this morning. And I haven't dared to check the ice cream...

My Fridays are going to suck from now on, because my linguistics class has made some changes. I'm now going to have phonology class from 9 to 11, syntax class from 11 to 1, and then ride over to Boswell for Dutch class from 13.15 to 16.00. So 7 straight hours of class. Can you see me jumping up and down?? It's like high school again...

I got a new coat! :) Probably the heaviest one I've ever had. It was 40 euro from H&M and it's cream-colored and very warm. :) Florida girl takes her first step into the coldest winter of her life...

We just did a very very very cool song in class - "Kapitein deel II" from Acda en de Munnik. I love them, but I had never heard that song and we just analyzed it in class. It's a fun day! Other reasons it's a good day: it's not too cold, I got new headphones, I'm wearing my favorite jeans, and I bought a new Marco Borsato CD for 8 euro at MediaMarkt, so now I can finally listen to "Vogelvrij", which has been in my head all week (and the only place I had it was on my computer, of course).

Anyway, it's a good day. But - back to class now...

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