VRCurassow

Curaçao Island

culture

Blut und Boden

Papiamentu

Picking the way very careful here, keepin' an eye peeled for pitfalls and booby-traps.
It wouldn't be the first time someone got himself lynched for not showing proper respect for...
whatever happened to tickle other people's lynching fancy.



Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair Amazon.de Amazon.uk Amazon.ca
True Democracy
Language may be the only thing around that's really, truly, democratic.
The best thing about it is, EveryPerson has his own, personal and private version.
It's ironic enough that dictators often try to use that very same instrument to manipulate the masses.

Not a Scholar
So what you read here may be all wrong, according to the experts. It's strictly a layman's view, caveat emptor:-
Papiamentu is a language mainly spoken on Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. There is some usage on the islands of St. Maarten and St. Eustatius, but that is temporary export - the real language there is English (after the beewee fashion). The problem, because that's what it is, is that these people prefer to speak Papiamentu.
Papiamentu evolved as a lingua franca among slaves and their traders. It is derived from Portuguese and local African languages, with a dash of Spanish, French, English, Dutch and who even cares what more thrown in to spice it up. It has the smallest distribution of the Caribbean Creole languages: Beewee English, Haïtian Patois and, to stretch a point, Suriname's Srnan Tongo. The old St. Eustatius Negerhollandsch has died long since, regretted by nobody. Let us over-estimate there are 250 thousand Papiamentu speakers, of whom 100 thousand use the rather different Arubian version. That's not very much, altogether - come right down to it, extremely little.
There may be some 50 thousand or even more Papiamentu speakers presently living in Holland, but their kids learn to speak Dutch. An American who went to live in Holland once told me that he had always wanted to speak a secret language, and now he did: Dutch. He should try Papiamentu (or just clam up and keep his precious thoughts to himself).

Willemstad burns

Di Nos e Ta! [It's Ours!]
In the years after the infamous 1969 Willemstad riots and their aftermath the politicians shamelessly exploited and stirred up the feelings of xenophobia and isolationism in the population. Bumbling amateurs they were, it took them a while to really get around to it (they must have been to busy filling their own pockets—first things first—you grudgingly have to admit they got something right: their own priorities), but after a while they started seriously efforting. In the 1980s, when things were getting really bad already, we got a National Flag (not national in the accepted sense at all: it was a Curaçao flag, and we had a national Antillean flag long since, thank you) and a Day of the Hymn and Flag. They did not have to write a hymn, it was all ready since around 1950 - written by two Dutch Fraters van Tilburg, and in Papiamentu, too: music frater M. Candidus, text frater M. Radulphus. Mazzel tof, even when no public attention was wasted on such awkward details. The flag was different. A design competition was won, depending on whom you talk to, by either a Yu'i Korsou or yet another makamba [honkie]. With our very own flag and hymn, we now were all ready for our very own language. And lo and behold, that one was around as well! So another movement was started to push our oh so unique tongue.

Blut und Boden

There is a fraction in any population that does not like patriotism. These WiseAcring Freaks are not to be blamed for preferring to shut up about this - shut up, put up, or die (at the very least, get very sick), only too often is the choice offered, if any. Check out my lighting example Erich Kästner. But to these weirdly unhealthy characters, all this flag-waving and solemn hymn-singing smacks of fascism. They are always shouted down; then, after the war and bloodshed are over, everybody else would rather forget about it, and just plain hates them for bringing it up again... Is this a system to learn from your foolish mistakes? But you may want to know two funny things: Any language is unique—and none is.

Just one example: When Hitler invaded Österreich (what you guys call Austria) he was welcomed in Wien (what you guys call Vienna) by a mob of tens of thousands. After the war was over, a journalist was unable to find one single person who had been there.



Fascism (which in this context I mistakenly define as super nationalism—We Are the Best in the World, My Country Wright or Rongphooey on all that) is always accompanied by movements to stress what is seen as the unique superiority of a nation's own characteristics.
Since about 1900 Ireland started acting for independence, alas, not over yet by a long way; the people there have had to learn Celtic in school. Signs in Celtic and English are still the norm there, fooling foreign visitors into weird prononciations of names like Dunn Laoghaire (say: Dunlearie—sorry, that's how you'd write it in English, clumsy enough already). To make it even worse, that's the very own Irish brand of Celtic labeled Gaelic. By the way, Ireland was 'neutral' in WWII against Hitler, not at all coïncidental:
Under Hitler's inspired Führership the Germans went back to a completely impractical, but echt Deutsch Gothic script which had been abandoned long before, but which no stupid bloody foreigner Schweinhund could hope to read without training. I can read it (after an effort that took some doing), but it's godawful clumsy.
Before World War II, Japan started the calligraphy cult (it's not over yet, either). The characters they used for writing were so full of mystically beautiful symbolism related to the downright disgusting Bushido code, it touched their very heartstrings. And only Japanese could read them! Wow! And so practical - I never met a Japanese who could write my name, but we can write all theirs pretty damn well. And I've met many - I like them.


warasetakena hari
the closest I can get

What makes this hilarious is that the Japanese script really is a bastardized version of the Chinese one; just like Papiamentu is nothing but... you know.
In the central India state of Madhya Pradesh, run by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, in 2006 an edict came out that schoolbooks for 5-year old children should get rid of beloved classics like 'Mary had a little lamb' and 'Twinkle twinkle little star.' These must be replaced by poetry written by real Indian literators - in English, of course! (Never mind what the people want: In India, Kipling is still much more popular than in England, where he tends to be looked down upon as an imperialistic colonial.)
Do you need more examples (they turn my stomach) to see the similarities between all this and the Papiamentu cult?
Okay, so here's one. Anything to oblige:

I Saw That Before...
Just read 'Papiamentu', 'Curaçao' and all that for the asterixes. At the end you'll find the source.
The love of many * for their language is natural and respectable, but the * autonomism hiding behind their language struggle is not a less suspect nationalism than all other nationalisms. And here, on this small scale, we can clearly see the diabolical in it. That does not lie in that somebody who speaks a regional language would not be allowed to conserve it. Rather in that a group of drivers suddenly wishes to conserve the haphazard collective of gene carriers they form, and which has been formed out of at least three older similar collectives (tribes). They make a myth out of their people and allow themselves to be possessed by this myth. This they do with the technique of all nationalism, they identify their personal maladjustedness with the greater collective, whether this is more their own fault or in a larger measure not, with a collective tension towards 'the others'. They want to maintain that tension and therefore oblige their 'people members', who were not used to speaking *, to start doing it. I know from personal experience far too many *, against whom the last few years a strong moral pressure was applied to be *. It is not so that the * movement wants to maintain the * regional languages, but it wishes to fix a * people considerably much farther than it has been fixed, and for this reason one of these days a common * language will be introduced. The number of people living in * that only speaks *, turned out to be a minority; apart from that there are many distinct * dialects. This has to change, some feel. Why? An non-suspect inspector of primary schools now declares that he gave all possible cooperation to forming bi-langual test classes, but in the entire province only nine were established. There just was no more interest. Than that interest must come, feel the drivers of their 'people'. Why, for God's sake?
From J.B. Charles' Volg het Spoor Terug, Amsterdam 1963.
The original language and people are Fries and Friesland [Freezian].
Charles is the pseudonym of a Dutch criminologist who fought in the World War II resistance. He wrote several books describing how the ex-Nazis in Holland and Germany for a very large part kept the positions (and riches) they had obtained during the war. In his books I first encountered the terms 'crypto-fascism' and 'proto-fascism' to describe the state of mind that led to the Nazi, Franco and Mussolini excesses. Not to mention the Jihad, Khmer Rouge and Stalinism.


St. Maarten's Jealous?
In March 2006, some 'cultural experts' on the island of St. Maarten decided that the island's particular way of abusing the English language is a unique cultural phenomenon, and they would hold on to it. Rather than teach Dutch at school or even the King's English, books will be printed to teach the poor pupils the politically, if neither grammatically nor phonetically correct, corrupted version. (The Dutch half of St. Maarten has some 35,000 inhabitants—may be a lot more, with many illegal aliens speaking other languages like Haïtian Patois).


Count' em:
In June 2006, minister of education Leeflang declared that we have three (count 'em) languages: English - Papiamentu - Dutch. Blow me down! Is exactly what my old school friend Jack Veeris, same function in 1984, said twenty years ago. Makes one wonder once again what's the use of getting all excited. (I do take good note she left out Spanish.) But MAN did not like the idea and started boycotting it. They're getting pretty good at that; lots of training.


papiamentu interlude
kabes di mariku
maripompun, Omphalophthalmum rubrum
AKA kabés di mariku, literally queer's head
(out-of-fashion vegetable)


Papiamentu spelling
Say around 1990 a commission was installed, after many false starts, to arrive at a standard spelling. The result, again from my layman's point of view, can only be called horrible. The main mistake they made was to try to arrive at an all-encompassing solution, apparently without realizing spelling and writing a language is different from speaking it. It's plumb impossible to cover all occasions, and it shows.
To make it even worse, the commission seems to have judged that Dutch and English, very important influences on Papiamentu, were to be discounted and the spelling should be as much as possible Spanish-like. (The way they tell it, they opted for a phonetic rather than an etymological spelling.) But they had to give up on this. One result is that we now have, for example, an umlaut, which is totally out of place in Spanish. The month June, Juni in Dutch and, so, in Papiamentu, is spelled Yüni. Thus all relationship with roots found in other languages is lost, making it much harder for Papiamentu speakers to learn them. Isolationism again. Click here for examples that are amusing - or sad, depending on your mood. Some (at least physically) grown-ups even changed their names' spelling to go along with the Rules! Others feel that those who make spelling mistakes in public should be fined. Talk about Tyranny (it's a law in France, I guess dating from the revolution: 'Off with hes/hir head!')
Funny: A Dutchman felt he had to apologize for the spelling mistakes made in the slides he projected during a lecture - he had based the spelling on the Papiamentu dictionary he had bought as soon as he arrived. My Significant Other once had to spell her name over the phone: i - oh, is that i like in sedney or like in wip? Which is a Dutch word meaning seasaw, but in Papiamentu you'd spell it wep; but, then again, there it'd mean "swing". Oh mine Gott... will this foolishness ever end?
To add to the general confusion, Aruba, where Papiamentu is called Papiamento, opted for an etymological spelling (Darwin would nod, thinking of the Galápagos finches), with the result that in a 2005 test the Arubians made an average of 8.1 mistakes versus 9.2 for the Curaçao version. (One of the test sentences was: Naturally, in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, we understand Dutch, the language of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Now check this, please.)
Just like the French omit the accents in their e-mails, most Papiamentu writing does so all the time. A good thing too, because that veritable jungle of accents tends to make texts unreadable; while in French, they are a help.
A very funny unintended result is that several words have, in those short years, changed because of the spelling; Djes has become djis. But don't make the mistake of blaming Papiamentu too hard for all this - it's a habit with languages of so-called developing nations, a euphemism for poor. Wan Pipel means (you'll never guess) One People in Suriname; and Air Niugini stands for Air [Papua] New Guinea. Haïtian political party Lespwa means l'espoir—the hope (rotsaruck); and their passport is labeled Republik d'Ayiti - paspo. In Japan, not exactly a poor nation, milk is called miriku - but only spelled that way in romanji. What the English language does with French is enough to make you weep (better laugh:) Secours became Succour. And in Dutch, they used to say sausemangelen [Curaçaosche amandelen - Curaçao almonds] or kasaussies [Curaçaotjes - little things from Curaçao] for peanuts.

Papiamentu Schools
Officially, the teaching language in most schools was changed from Dutch to Papiamentu in 2004. This was sheer tyranny. People went away weeping when they found their kids could not be placed on one of the few remaining schools in Dutch, as they full well realized that this was a serious handicap for them if they wanted to go follow a university study (mostly, in Holland). The fact that there was no money for school books anyway, let alone to write and print a complete new range in Papiamentu, was of no concern to the politicians; nor the fact that, for just one example, economical integration of schools in Raleigh, North Carolina has resulted in overall students' dramatic improvement (New York Times, 2005-09-25); there's no doubt the Dutch-language schools are for higher income families. (One Dutch language school even had to be closed down early 2006 because it was too expensive, which resulted in it getting only 21 pupils instead of the minimum 100 needed to be subsidized.)
When in October 2005 the pupils at the Römerschool, specialized in bilingual education, returned from a short vacation their Dutch teaching materials had disappeared and been replaced with Papiamentu. Orders of the government. The parents' commission contacted a lawyer, and several parents started to look for other schools for their children.
Two government officials explained to the parents that they did not have the right to decide on the teaching language for their children, which only served to stir up more bad feelings; a snappy come-back remark was heard to the effect that the law on school language is not even valid yet. In fact, you have to conclude from this, the government was breaking the law here - and on all other schools, as well.
The government decided to keep Dutch out of the Römerschool despite the protests, and despite the fact that teaching materials in Papiamentu are not widely enough available anywhere. MAN grabbed the opportunity to come out with yet another fearless statement that interference by Holland (which has not been forthcoming anyway - a lot they care) in this language matter was not acceptable; they also announced considering introducing English as a second language. Very wise, as virtually all students have to go to Dutch universities in Holland.
The Römerschool teachers were forbidden to talk about the subject at all, and MAN commented it was usual all over the world that the government decided on the instruction language, not the parents. We have to agree; but it's not usual that the government consists of crooks, at least not officially convicted ones. And there are more things usual all over the world that most of us would not agree with. That's democracy in practice, folks!
One result was that Segundo Demei started an action to open another Dutch-language school.
Then deputy Cova gave in, just like that - for this year's batch of school children, at least. Cova has refused to give any of his decisions on paper - only verbal; there are suspicions that he feels that's safer.
With the outcome of the 2006 elections, the replacement of Dutch by Papiamentu may have been halted; for now.
In May 2006 Bonaire parents started protesting massively against the replacement of Dutch by Papiamentu, as well.
Author Frank Martinus was the first to start a school in Papiamentu, in the early 1980s. The law then had to be changed to permit this. But as a matter of practical fact, almost all schools have been in Papiamentu long since. Martinus' argument was that it is much easier for kids to get lessons in their own language, which at first sight seems so obvious, it's a truism.
But consider: At school, my brothers and I all skipped the first grade. This was not because we were so smart, even if we were, but because that first year was used for teaching Dutch (which we happened to speak at home) in a total immersion system. It was absolutely forbidden to speak Papiamentu, which I always felt was a gross injustice - until I learned that this is the best way to guarantee quick results.
I also can't possibly avoid thinking of my daughter, who spoke Dutch and was totally immersed in Papiamentu at school (where the official language was Dutch!) She always was at the top of her class, which gives me the choice between believing either she's a genius, or that it doesn't matter so much if you get schooling in your mother's tongue.
Otrabanda Burns
May 1969: Otrabanda gutted

The fact is that since 1969, when Papiamentu started to take over, the level of education has been dropping. This is not to blame Papiamentu per se for that, but it still undeniably is one factor in this general degradation.
It was a real laugh, albeit a grim one, to me when I was told about a research project where it turned out the kids did much better in their own language, so there you were. Forgetting the details, this was oblivious of the fact that this was on the Windward Islands - where English is the commonly used language!
At the start of the campaign for the 2006 Antillean government elections (Staten) PAR announced they would strive to re-introduce Dutch as the primary school language, as long as the Antilles have chosen to remain part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Even if Unesco has declared that the mother language is best for children to be educated in, PAR thought other priorities are more important here. Hear, hear. And, anyway, let us not forget that Unesco is not a pope-like infallible organization anyway. You merely have to consider the fact that the World Health Organization recommends alternative therapies in medicine.
After in 2006 when the schools were allowed to decide on their own what instruction language to use, not a single one has opted for Dutch instead of Papiamentu, apart from those already doving so. The same fight to get a place at a Dutch-language school was confidently expected for the 2007-2008 school year, and duly broke. There still are only four Dutch-language and one bi-lingual school, with hundreds of parents forming lines to try and get their kids on those, March 2007. The other schools, for whatever reason, did not elect to choose Dutch, according to minister Leeflang against the parents' wishes. Political party Forsa Korsou, for their usual strictly opportunistic reasons, had also been against using Dutch at schools. But shortly before the 2007 elections they suddenly switched this preference for Papiamentu - to using English.

Tourism
It is also very hard to reconcile all this with the intention, as at least expressed by Our Leaders, that the economic future of Curaçao lies in tourism. Most tourists, no matter how, come from Holland (40% in 2005). You can wish different, but that's the fact. Well, in this year of 2005 it's almost impossible to find somebody below forty years of age who speaks decent Dutch (all those over that age speak an excellent Dutch). Not incidentally, knowledge of other languages has seemingly deteriorated as well.

Frank Martinus
The case of this author is a weird one, to me. He is of my generation, with, as far as I know, a mother from Suriname. The Surinamese are generally held to be rather backward and stupid here, maybe because they often think it's smarter to speak Dutch than their own Srnan Tongo. Anyway, as I understand it, Frank was pushed by his mother to learn good Dutch and did so, to the extent that he went to study Dutch at a Dutch university and turned into one of the best-known Dutch authors with his novel Dubbelspel, in Dutch, followed by others, almost all in Dutch as well. Matter of fact, in 2004 he was elected one of the 100 most famous (or popular, or whatever) Dutchmen. He was not quite that popular in the 2006 NA elections, where he got 33 votes.
So this highly intelligent but almost as superstitious guy, who once confessed to me that he finds it awkward to speak Papiamentu, and who has made it exactly because he has a very good command of the Dutch language, starts a school in Papiamentu! He is married to a Surinamese woman (who, for some reason, regularly signs letters to newspaper editors that obviously were written by Martinus) and I'm positively convinced their common language is Dutch—but for the sake of their daughter they spoke Papiamentu at home. One gropes in vain to find logical and comprehensible reasons for this; it certainly is beyond my understanding.
But his latest activities gave me a clue. His 6th book, De Deserteurs is set against the American revolution, and how this was more about robbing other people of freedom than ensuring their own. This, at first and second sights, sounds like insanely paranoid historical falsifications. I can tell you I won't read the book; I have read several others and it was a punishment, so don't take my word for it. It does fit in well with another idea of his: having the Dutch pay €6G over 20 years (300M/year) zur Wiedergutmachung of the period of slavery—on education. Sorry Frank, that's completely irrealistic. It's 3.3 times the worst-case Antillean national debt (or 6 times that of 'independent' Curaçao) If, as it looks like, Dutch professor Piet Emmer is right, it works out at roughly €12K/slave. The case would be thrown out of any court of justice; but he still has a chance of getting something, because, as author Boeli van Leeuwen (rather another cup of tea, he) once remarked to me about Holland: This place is filled with 15 million masochists.
Frank Martinus became a professor of Papiamentu at UNA in 2009 and who can deny that he is one of the best men persons around for the job?
The one time Frank Martinus touched my heart is when he quoted our (Antillean Dutch) author Colá Debrot at me, giving his own interpretation: When, oh when, will we stop this rubbish and just look at each other as fellow human beings, as people?


landskantoor

Papiamentu Tyranny
Some of the guys who sit up there and push Papiamentu don't mind if they push it down our throats. They will also tell us regularly we have to speak a pure Papiamentu. As if a pure language, or race, can be found anywhere in the world; but what's actually meant here is merely, use no Dutch words - replace them with Spanish. Very funny, or sad, is how the part of Willemstad to the West of Annabaai harbor is now officially called Otrobanda, because Papiamentu doesn't know any declensions. Trouble is, this name stems from the Spanish and, as you can check by a brief look in phone books or by a simple walk around, it has always been Otrabanda [the other side]. Again, no sense of history. And all those good citizens follow suit like sheep. Next, they'll think of renaming pigeon ala blanka to ala blanku or find even more unpronounceable improvements.
Yes, I know part of Otrabanda has always been called Otrobanda, to wit, the part where all the musicians used to live - even though Edgar Palm himself called it Otrabanda, so I'm not really sure again here. My point, rather, is: People never thought to question this dictated decision.
What strikes my warped mind as funny, many people arrive at this site by searching for Otrabanda, never Otrobanda.

Even funnier is the fooling around with the name of our folklorist harvest festival. It was first called simadán in contrast with carnavál; then, last year, it was discovered that the word simadán is from Bonaire, oh horror! Now, all of a sudden we're all supposed to call it séu. Such childishness: It's still the same folklore (oh horror). (Not that there's much to harvest.)

Toko Otrabanda


Language, Language...
When an official police spokesman oops person initially refuses to speak anything but Papiamentu to an English journalist who has recently arrived here, you may well wonder what will happen to you when you speak only English, Dutch or much worse, Haïtian Patois, and you have to contact the Bulls. Ex police chief Oldenboom in June 2006 referred to a case where, in court, a policeman turned out not to speak Dutch; Oldenboom naturally wondered who, then, had written the proces verbaal [police report] and how this man could have become a cop in the first place.
Even the Antillean department of education refused to speak anything but Papiamentu to Will Johnson, representative of Saba where English is the common language. In January 2006 ex-minister Lamp apologized when he read about this.
Fraters van Tilburg
Because the Dutch government did not care much about the black members of the population, they cared even less about educating them. So the Fraters van Tilburg (a Dutch religious order) and the Zusters van Roosendaal or Schijndel (same, but for nuns) stepped in. One result is 75% of the Curaçao people still call themselves Roman Catholics. (Another result is that everybody over 40 counts in Dutch.) Both the Brothers and Nuns stopped their activities in education in, roughly, the 1970s.
A certain part of the intelligentsia (that part that used to be referred to as salon communists, a term that went out of use with the salons themselves) wished and wishes to label the Fraters as colonial oppressors. Much as I hate religion myself, this I can only regard as an historical falsification. The Fraters themselves were, sadly, deluded as far as religion is concerned. But the recorded facts are that there was much interest on their part in the development of Papiamentu as a language. They went to the first theatrical plays in Papiamentu and actively supported pioneering authors like Pierre Lauffer. To label them tyrannical is entirely misplaced and, in comparison with the Papiamentu promotors' attitude, downright cynical.

Yu'i Korsou
This means child of Curaçao, taken from the Dutch Landskind. That last word means nothing but child of the country; when you were born in Curaçao, you were a Curaçao citizen. Matter of fact, my youngest brother was a test case here; when my mother, at the time registered as a Curaçao citizen, got a child during a stay in Holland, he was declared to be a landskind.
These days, however, it is totally unclear what the term means. It is somehow coupled to the Papiamentu phenomenon, but this doesn't hold water. Some feel you have to be black to be a yu'i Korsou, which is insane racism. The term is just bandied about freely when somebody feels it's appropriate - or not.
Because of Our Leaders' xenophobia, this has now been changed. When you're born here of foreign parents, tough if they die on you: The country does not have the obligation to take care of you, after all nothing but a mere bloody foreigner.

Next Round
While supermarket shopping I heard this unctuous voice, could only be a preacherman or a politician, over the PA system. It declared with all the professional sincerity the guy could muster that Papiamentu needed protection and that they would by golly protect it. My first question to myself was, naturally 'Does Papiamentu need protection?'
But the reason why became clear soon enough, when the opposition introduced a motion to stop Education minister Leeflang from re-introducing a bi-lingual system: A choice can be made between schools in Papiamentu, Dutch or both by the parents themselves. Oh horror! No wonder our democratic politicians were repulsed by the idea. It was followed by a spate of letters to editors and radio discourses.
Leeflang finally wrote a letter to Amigoe newspaper, where she pointed out that Unesco had come to a different conclusion since 1953, and as a matter of fact in 2003 had published a new document on which she based her system. As in their clamor for independence, many of our opportunistic politicians have not outgrown that primitively anti-colonial, anti-imperialistic era. For the time being, the re-introduced bi-lingual school system finally seems to be settled safely, to (almost) everybody's relief.

A Bit of History
Back in the 18th century, Scotland was a totally backward country, mainly inhabited by always-fighting clans of croftsmen- and fisherpersons, sheep shepherds and swineherds living in sod houses. Then philosopher David Hume came along with the bright idea that they should learn English besides that Celtic Scottish only they themselves understood.
The Scots took the hint, and not a century later they were highly developed, with their engineering and medicine famous all over the world. So much so that when Japan wanted to free itself from its backwardness, they asked the Scots to help them out.
Anybody see a parallel here?
We all know how that worked out for Nippon: they got on so well that around 1940 they felt they could take on the world.
Mistake! but after that, they wised up even further.



Curassow island in live 3D
Curaçao Island live in real time

spelling examples
they may make you cry, or they make you smile - but they will surprise you
most of these are from English, but the same happens to other languages

click on them to get the original words


aispek bitbènt djes
djès djus Dios
Èles kètsh PVS
djès Sedni shap
tep wèpsait zwèmpul


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