Blog

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving

As my friend so kindly reminded me on Facebook the other day: “Happy Thanksgiving.  Don’t forget that you’re American!”  Well, I definitely haven’t forgotten that I’m American, but in truly un-American fashion, I have to admit that missing Thanksgiving doesn’t concern me all too much.  Sure, turkey is nice, and so is family, and being thankful, and I’m definitely disappointed about missing the pumpkin pie.  But as far as holidays go, Thanksgiving is not at the top of my list.

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About Complaining

Before you continue reading, I must state in advance that I am one of the most positive persons you would ever meet. For me, it’s all about looking at the bright side of things, but I have to apologize this time. It has been a long time since I have done this, but I need to complain about some things.

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The history of Maastricht through lights

On November 13th the lightshow Lichtspektakel Hoofdwacht Vrijthof premiered at the Hoofdwacht on Vrijthof square. If you happened to be in the area around 19:00 you just could stop there and wait for the magic to happen. Read more

Questions: are you living the life you want to live?

Are you really doing what you want to do? Do you do what you do because you like it? Because of the feeling it gives you? Or do you do it because you like that others like it? Do you do it because it makes you feel more accepted? Appreciated?

Do you like strong brands such as Prada, Lacoste and Ferrari, because you like their products or do you like it because everybody else wants it? Because of their good quality? Or because it makes you look more important? Do you dress up because you like to look nice? Do you dress up because society wants you to? Do you dress up because it makes you more confident? And what about that unavoidable moment where you have to unravel your true self?

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Trip to Dublin: personal battle with Karma

An advantage of living in Europe is the fact that you can travel to a lot of big cities within a few hours. Last week I had to go to Dublin for a conference for ESN. Eindhoven airport has direct flights to Dublin via Ryanair and having Eindhoven only at an hour away, makes a trip to Dublin easy peasy. One disadvantage: Karma doesn’t always like me that much.

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Locking yourself out of your own apartment.

Since I can remember I always thought to myself: “It’s going to be so fun when you turn 16, you are going to be so grown up and you will move out and deal with your own problems yourself instead of always depending on your family”. Of course, as you all guessed, I was completely wrong.

During my childhood I always wanted to be older, I always behaved in a way that was completely not in match with my age, and I always dreamed about moving out of my parents’ house. Oh god, how stupid was I? I am actually laughing while I am writing this, because today, especially today, I feel like I could use a hug from my mom (oh no, I am showing my weakness!).

Thinking that I was mature enough to handle all my problems was a big mistake, of course I wasn’t mature enough, but now that I live 11,000 Km away from my own country, I kind of have no choice than start to (wo)man-up and face all my problems myself, right? This may sound spoiled and childish, but I was used to having all my problems solved by someone else. I was used to thinking “oh, whatever, it will be ok somehow”.

Yesterday, in heat of carnival and excitement, I locked myself out of my room for the THIRD TIME this month, and guess what? After I locked myself out of my room, I realized I had no spare keys, I panicked again, and while I was looking for the keys in my bag, I fell down the staircase and rolled down to the first floor. What the hell is that? Just my luck!

I don’t know if this is very common for students to lock themselves out of their rooms (I don’t think it is, haha). The people from the Locksmith Agency know me very well already. So I decided to sleep at my friend’s place and wait until the morning. I called them; they greeted me like I was their best client “Oh Miss Nathalie! What happened this time?” and they came to my rescue.

Am I an adult yet? Or am I just a disoriented and distracted girl trapped in the body of an adult? I believe it’s the latter!

 

Lesson learned: DO NOT LOCK YOURSELF OUT. Because if you it during the weekends or any night after 8pm this stupid mistake will end up costing you €100, and if you are student, they may think you are drunk or high and that’s why you were stupid enough to lock yourself out, friendly people, ha?

 

Carnaval: the 11th of the 11th

At 11:11 on the 11th day of the 11th month in 2011 it all starts over again: Carnaval. Most people think that Carnaval only includes 3-5 days of madness around March. They couldn’t be more wrong. Carnaval revolves around the number 11, hence making the 11th of the 11th a special day for this very special celebration.

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The other side of Amsterdam

Exam week is finally over and so ist he first week of the new period.  So far I can´t really say that I care for the topic, so I don´t feel like writing about it.

But I can report with pride, that I fulfilled one of the things on my list. On this list I posted a couple of months back, I named a couple of things I really want to do before I finish with my bachelor. One of them was to go to Amsterdam to see the koncertgebouw orkest. Since my father had to be in Amsterdam on business I took the train up there and we had two lovely days in Amsterdam.
Since I study here I visited Amsterdam 3 times, well actually only 2 since the third time I just went to Schiphol to fly to Madrid. Those two times I went with fellow students. We slept in stinky gross Hostels above pubs and spend our time doing ´touristy` stuff in the old part of the city and the red light district. I always enjoyed that kind of Amsterdam – experience but this was pleasantly different. Sleeping in a Hotel were you get picked up from the train station and the bus driver takes youre luggage for you, don´t have to sleep fully dressed have as less contact as possible with the sheets, taking a stroll through Amsterdam and not snacking in the supermarket but sitting down in a nice café, drinking coffee and eating yummy appeltaart, and in the next morning: the breakfast buffet!!
Nothing tops a really good breakfast buffet, I could spend hours there.
But the topper of course was A) this was my first stay in Amsterdam were it didn´t rain – so beautiful weather, and B) my visit in the koncertgebouw.
My dad and I arrived early to pick up our tickets and then sat down in the café of the house to eat dinner, which was really good.
We arrived in the Hotel around half past one, I was exhausted, but it was worth it! The building itself is already worth buying a ticket (assuming you buy the cheapest tickets, as the more expensive ones are unaffordable) inside the names of famous composers are written on the wall in gold and on the all around the room you can see French horns painted on the ceiling – that’s right French horns. The instrument I play, because it is awesome, and apparently the decorator of the koncertgebouw thinks so too.
Our seats were, let´s say interesting. As we bought the cheapest tickets we sat in the very first row, wich ment we jad to look up to the orchestra, and we only had a limited view of the orchestra. This ment on the one hand that I had a pretty stiff neck by the end of the concert, but on the other hand that we practically sat next to the conductor and could see his every move and mimic.  It was fascinating, the whole experience and especially of course the music. This orchestra really can play !

I´m not gonna bore you with my attempts to describe their skill, I´ll just leave by that:

I can cross one point of my list with a big fat smile! Thanks dad!

World Press Photo Exhibition @ Centre Ceramique

I visited the World Press Photo Exhibition which opened at Centre Ceramique today. Luckily I joined the guided tour in English so I was granted the opportunity to know more about the background of many of the works on display. Read more

Allow Me to Introduce Myself: Hello Maastricht!

This is my first post for the Maastricht Students blog, and therefore I wanted to make it like some sort of introduction of myself, since I am new here.

My name is Nathalie Paulina Stroobants; I am a Venezuelan student doing a Bachelor in European Law here in Maastricht. I was born and raised on the north coast of Venezuela, on an island called Isla Margarita that is located in the Caribbean Sea (about 40min by plane from Curacao and Aruba).

My father is Belgian and my mother is Venezuelan, and I have to say, that unlike the rest of my siblings, I acquired most of the European physical traces of my father; this may be unnecessary information, but I point it out because since I moved to Europe last year, I have heard many comments from people who say (without knowing me in advance): “You are not Venezuelan, you are obviously European, your eyes are blue and your hair is blonde”, and yes, I have the genes, but not the culture nor the lifestyle of a European (What exactly defines a European person these days anyways?).

My entire life was based in South America, my studies, my friends, my family, my lifestyle, etc. So some of you may already be wondering how I ended up in Europe, or how I ended up in Maastricht to be more specific. Venezuela, though a very beautiful country (like any other Latin American country), has become an unstable place to live these last 10 years, if there are any Venezuelans reading this, they would perfectly understand. Of course many people tend to stereotype and think that all South American countries are dangerous and politically unstable, which is (unfortunately) kind of true. But where I come from, it has become part of the normal daily life to hear terrible stories that happen everyday: 60 people got killed in one weekend, 120 people have been kidnapped in Caracas, 200 Kg of cocaine have been found buried in the woods, etc. Insecurity, corruption and instability become part of every Venezuelan’s life, the worst part of it? We get used to those things surrounding us. There have been numerous attempts to change things, to revoke Hugo Chavez’s government, to protest, to stop the abuses that government places upon the citizens, but this has only made it worse and nothing has changed since, instead, things keep getting worse and worse.

Having a European passport and a Belgian nationality gave me the chance to study abroad, so I had to make a decision: staying and hope things will change someday, or leaving the country and starting a new life from scratch. I took the second choice. Why Europe and not another country? Many of my friends immigrated to the US, but I’m just not fond of North America, at all. So I decided to go to the “fatherland”  and I spent one year in Belgium studying Dutch Language at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

The first six months of living in Belgium were the most difficult months of my life. Adapting to a developed country, to a first-world society and to an organized system is not that easy for someone who has not been raised in such an environment, of course, there may be some exceptions, but I was not one of them. At first I didn’t even understand why on earth would people sort out their own garbage, it seemed ridiculous to me, it was very funny to see 3 different bins next to each other in every public space (I still don’t know how to do it). I also didn’t know who I had to pay to get my residence papers done (see, in Venezuela if you want things to get done, you have to pay for them secretly), I could not believe that the buses and the trains were always on the EXACT time that were supposed to. I also could not understand how people were walking in the streets at 1am in the morning without any concerns (In Venezuela, chances are that if you walk on the streets at that hour of the night, they will rob you, or rape you, or even kill you for the sake of it, that is why everyone drives a car). And last but not least: depression came in when the temperature was less than 15 Degrees. Having to bear the first winter of my life was the most arduous, bizarre, and depressive thing for me. But after a while (and after I went back to Venezuela on vacation) I realized that this is it. This is where I need to be right now, so now I am doing better, with a positive mentality, with tolerance and patience I am managing to start loving the fact that I am here, and not there. I left a part of me in Venezuela and I am sure that one day I will go back, but certainly not now.

It’s a long time since I have said this, but I am happy, I am happy to be in Maastricht for a new course, I chose to come here because I liked this city and I liked the PBL system, I am happy for my new goals, I am happy to have met some wonderful people (and some not so wonderful) from all over Europe and the world, and I am very happy now that I know I can write about my student life here!

You will notice some of these non-European thoughts of mine in some of my posts, but I assure you, you will have some fun reading them, and who knows? Maybe I can be helpful for some students and some prospective students as well.

By the way, if you are (or you know) a Venezuelan person, or South American in general, don’t hesitate to contact me, because I have not met anyone from that side of the world here in Maastricht yet!

 

 

I am looking forward to continue writing for this blog, so stay tuned for more!

No Shave November (Movember)

The male gender; once the most mighty being at the planet. It conquered lands, killed giant beasts and it didn’t need lame pick-up lines to get women to want to have their babies. Nobody will deny that things have changed and not a lot has been left of this untouchable position of men. Where we used to get killed during a bloody war or while trying to fight gruesome creatures of the underworld in order to bring food back to your family, the way most of us die right now is less glorious.
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I don’t like Mondays…in fact I really hate them!

Not that I am a fan of his but good old Bob Geldof had seen it right when, back in the golden Seventies, he wrote the song I don’t like Mondays.  Although the lyrics of the song have nothing to do with my Sunday evening blues, as they actually involve a shooting and grim stuff like that, I cannot help but thinking of Geldof singing in my ear every time I think a new week is about to start.  Read more

The Essence of UCM

Now that I have survived an entire period of studying at the University College, plus a full “reflection” week, I think I am finally qualified to blog about the University College, and what exactly, I love about it.

What is unique about UCM to most European student is the fact that it is a Liberal Arts college.  At UCM we choose one of three concentrations: social sciences, humanities, or sciences (or in some cases two of the three concentrations) and then build our major from courses within our chosen concentration, plus a few outside of the concentration.  Most people build a more specific focus within their concentration such as psychology or international relations.  As an American, the concept of Liberal Arts has never been foreign to me as many American colleges offer majors in Liberal Arts.  It’s impossible for me to compare UCM’s Liberal Arts program to American Liberal Arts programs, as I’ve never attended college in the U.S., but there is something about UCM that makes me sure no school- American or not- could be the same. Read more

A pre-Winter depression

Fall had suddenly arrived to Vienna and together with the sun my good mood disappeared. A minor winter depression was already resulting in an inability to produce writings and in an unhealthy drinking habit.

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Maastricht’s ferocious predators: close encounters

Tuesday night; He wakes up because of a rattling noise. Still only semi-conscious he dismisses it to an artifact of a dream or another type of brain-fart. After about a minute he dozes off again into a deep sleep, due to the sleep deprivation of the previous night.
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Phenomenology of the weather

I will not talk about the weather through stereotipical images: we all know Dutch weather sucks, although I was told that Maastricht is the sunniest city in the Netherlands. Read more

Best Websites for Procrastination

#1.  Facebook I know, I know.  But it is what it is, right?

#2. PostSecret The sad, the beautiful, the disturbed, comcom
hopeful… they all have secrets.  And we can read them!

#3. Stumble Upon Just create an account.  You know you want to.

#4. YouTube  Duh.  Who HASN’T spent a good amount of time browsing youtube.  But have you seen this one yet?

\”Sophia Grace meets Nicki Minaj\”

Only in America…

#5.  Food Gawker For when you have no food and no money to buy any food, and want to torture yourself.

#6.  The Huffington Post Because then we can pretend that we have an intellectual reason for not studying.

#7.  RyanAir Oh the places we’ll go..

#8. Wereldwerk.eu Who else is so NOT spending the summer waitressing?

#9. FML If you get to page 100, you have a problem.  But then, so do most of the people posting on this website.

#10.  Occupy Wall St. One of few events in the U.S. that I regret not being there for.

#11. BodyRock Yes, it looks trashy.  But the workouts are hard… for those days when you just can’t make yourself leave the house.

#12.  The Big Picture When you’re too tired to read the news.

 

Okay, that’s enough.  I don’t want to be responsible for anyone failing their exams.

Good luck everyone!

 

 

Reply to: ‘Antisocial network: my growing concern with Facebook’

Normally I would merely comment on pieces where my opinion does differs or strongly agrees with the underlying message. However, there’s so much more to say to the article posted by Claudia, http://maastricht-students.com/claudia/2011/10/12/antisocial-network-my-growing-concern-with-facebook/, that I feel a reply is in order. The paradoxal effect Facebook has on people exactly describes the feeling I have towards this article. I dislike the fact that we use social media on our phones, Ipads and netbooks more to communicate, than actually talk to other people.
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Antisocial network: my growing concern with Facebook

It might sound paradoxical but being enrolled in a Media Culture master course is not helping me reconsider my (negative) view of Facebook. Read more

Dutch Student Associations and INKOM

INKOM vs. ‘Fresher’s Week’

A lot has happened since INKOM. I have heard a lot of feedback about INKOM – which is generally an amazing party to start off student life here in Maastricht.

However, INKOM has been mistaken by many as being an equivalent to ‘FreshersWeek’ in the UK (the first week of universities with introduction activities, but best known for the parties). INKOM began as a way for one of the biggest Student Associations in Maastricht to gain members. This was later adopted by the university but still has the overtone of ‘student association’.

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All aboard: Train ride from Hell

Goodmorning you are seated in the Intercity from the NS. First stop: ‘village nobody ever heard of’, final destination: HELL.

Last weekend I had the first national meeting of ESN for the upcoming year. It was situated in Groningen and after a workshop, dinner, pubquiz and party, the actual meeting started Saturday Morning at 10 o’clock. All the fresh looking (uh not exactly) ESN local boards sat through an important meeting (at least for my own  national board).They would determine whether our policy plan and budget would be accepted. Not accepting this would mean that I could go back to the writing table. Luckily everything went fine and the meeting came to an end way earlier than we expected. This was good news for everybody from Maastricht, cause this meant that we would be back early. If life only was that good.
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What do mambo, a magnetic dance-floor and a panda doing a pole dancing- show have in common?

Have you been wondering what the hell are those videos shown on the windows of many shops in Grote Gracht and Brusselsestraat these days? Did you walk through Vrijthof and heard some techno music coming out of the Hoofdwacht building and where wondering what it was all about? And above all, did you think that there was something basically wrong in witnessing a giant panda performing a pole dancing session? Well, you are not alone and actually are about to find a question to all your answers.

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Learning how to manipulate people

Recently social psychology received a lot of negative attention. People (in the Netherlands) started questioning the value of it , mainly due to the Dutch researcher Diederik Stapel; he did some naughty things with his data (read: he delibrately messed it up in order to get the results he wished to see). Because he was very into spending time at labs, this affects a ton of research. Whenever negative stuff like this happens it is always good to switch your own interest from your initial ones (Biological Psych) towards the recently affected ones (Health and Social Psych). And that is exactly what I did; I’m world champion in good timing.
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Reality Check

To write this post about the stressful week I had last week, I have to jog my memory. Now, sitting in the public library with two friends from UCM, surrounded by people over the age of sixty, eating chocolate as I study (or blog), and breathing in the smell of books, it already seems like a long time ago.

Last week was chaos.  I had a 2,500 word draft due for my class Modeling Nature, where I had to model and describe a relationship, plus a final 1,500 word midterm paper for the Making of Crucial Differences.  These were the first two real projects I had to turn in, and to make things worse, I started the first paper on Monday, and the second one on Wednesday.  It was on Monday that it had really hit me how much I had to do, and from Monday morning until Friday, I spent what felt like every waking moment (plus many moments where I otherwise wouldn’t have been awake), researching and writing, and neglecting to do any of the readings for my tutorial groups.  By Wednesday, my brain was full and I was sick of doing nothing but studying, which resulted in me turning to chocolate and coffee for comfort, running on empty when it came to real food.  Somehow I managed to get everything done and turned in (fingers crossed that it was good quality, as my judgement may not have been the best by the end of the week), but got no rest as I had to spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday working at my waitressing job.  One of the nicest things about Maastricht is how everyone flocks to the terraces in beautiful weather, and as a waitress I suppose this is good for extra tips, but this weekend it didn’t feel like a good thing.  The weekend was spent running around on aching feet, carrying plates on my burnt arms, and setting down cappuccinos with shaking hands (my high caffeine intake may have somewhat contributed to this).  Between work shifts, I frantically tried to get through all of the readings I had skipped during the week.  Needless to say, by Sunday night I was incredibly exhausted and wondering how I would ever be able to get through three years of studying.  Not to mention working, feeding myself, exercising, trying to have a social life, and getting enough sleep.

Yesterday, was magically better.  Class in the morning, studying in the afternoon.  A power-kick class at UM sport, and dinner with a friend.  Then ice cream from one of those Italian ice cream places with the red lights, and an episode of Gossip Girl before I went home to bed.  That, is how I have always imagined college life.  Some studying and some laziness, but with the right balance.  Days like today and yesterday, I feel smart and fulfilled from the hours I spend studying, and have enough time to do other things that I still look forward to studying again the next day.

I don’t doubt there are more crazy weeks coming, probably even worse than the one I had last week.  But, I also don’t doubt that there will be many more days of studying with chocolate, watching dumb T.V. shows, and exercising at the U.M.

Greetings from a naïve freshman!

The nicest laid back song: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkyrIRyrRdY[/youtube]

Just another random crazy experience

Alone in München Hauptbahnhof, fifteen minutes after my train back to Vienna had left, I was on the verge of crying.

Earlier that day I had already been on the verge of crying in this building. When we arrived in München at 8.30, I realized ten minutes later that I left my bag in the partytrain with which we had just arrived and I hurried back in to find out that some people had already emptied the train. Nobody seemed to know where my luggage was.

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The List

There’s not much to tell about last week except for me learning a whole bunch about how cancer arises on a molecular basis. Our blok coordinator started his lecture with the sentence: “Look around, every second one of you will get cancer sometime during his life. “ – After that I had to read a whole chapter on what environmental factors can lead to cancer and how. Kind of makes you paranoid.

Since this is going to be my last year in Maastricht and also the Netherlands I decided to start a list on what I simply have to do in my last year. Here is my first draft – it will certainly be continued. So if anyone notices something really missing please notice me.

What I want to do before I leave Maastricht :

–          Go to all clubs ( well actually Maastricht doesn´t have any establishment I would define as a “club” , but bars and other places one goes at night )

–          Throw a huge house party – preferable with the police showing up ( I don´t know, but that just seems fun to me)

–          Go to every place I ever had to write an exam and kick against it – okay that seems a little passive aggressive, but exams suck

–          Share a McKroket from McDonalds with my friends; I worked in the McDonalds the first year of my study. I always asked myself who would possibly eat one of those, but I kind of have to give it a try

–          Spend the whole week of carnival in Maastricht and have a blast ( in my first year I went home for carnival and in my second year I had to work, so I never really had the Dutch carnival experience)

–          Go see the queen on Koniginnendag

–          Go to Amsterdam and see the Koninklijk concertgebouworkest – As a girl from Berlin I just have to check them out and see if they’re really better….

–          Climbing the highest “mountain” of the Netherlands ; the Vaalsberg is 322,7 m high ( sounds like a real challenge)

Looking forward to an awesome year, haltet die ohren steif !

A journey through India…@ Grote Gracht.

As if I had not enough university-related things to think about, I decided to have a look at the new lecture-series about India which started last Friday at FASOS. Read more

The Maastricht’s Italian students community

After one month well into my master I thought it strange not to have met any Italian students yet. Italians are usually everywhere in the world, so I was a bit puzzled by being the only one in my course. Read more

Back to business

My first week of my last year in Maastricht is over. Yeah, I´ve started my third year of my Bachelor in biomedical sciences and I´m really looking forward to it.
Wednesday we had a little party in our apartment since it was my roommate’s birthday in the summer vacation. I love seeing everyone again after summer vacation so that was a lot of fun.

I came back to Maastricht two weeks before classes would be starting for me. This was because I was working on the faculty introduction day were the first year students get a tour of the faculty and LOTS of information. So I got up pretty early in the morning and got on my bike loaded with my purse, a sleeping bag and a suitcase. Why? At the end of the faculty introduction day my study association Helix goes on a camp for 3 days with the first year students of biomedical science, to do all kinds of fun stuff. And same as last year, I came as one of the older students who organize this camp.
We put the students into groups and each one of them had two group leaders. Over the three days the groups could earn points in all kinds of games and an evening were each group had to preform something. At the end of the camp the group with the least points had to clean the toilettes and with more points, the chores become less gross. My team came in third (YAY – we were awesome!!!!!!!) because we kicked ass : )
We all had a great time partying, but because we ´older guys ` had to sleep in tents I was relieved to come home. I spent the next two days in bed eating popcorn and noodles ( I was NOT planning on going out of the house for grocery shopping any soon) before I went back to Berlin for my last week of vacation.

So now I´m back and the studying has begun again. I´m also in my faculty´s student council and the education committee of my study this year. So next to studying I´m going to spend a lot more time in the university. We already had two meetings now and I really have the feeling of participating in the decision making at our faculty.

You’re going to be hearing more about that soon,

Haltet die Ohren steif!

Greece: the ongoing financial mystery

Last year people in the Netherlands associated Greece with sun, partying and a bunch of idiotic people from the Hague. Everyone wanted to go to Greece and party hard, just like our new ‘heroes’ did. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I will provide you with a sneak peak of what we had to sit through on national television. And yes that means that I have to admit I watched it as well. Not one of the proudest moments of my life I can say.
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