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Africa 2003 Itinerary - Back to South Africa

Travel from Ulundi to Hluhluwe — Day 23

On the way we visited the battlefields of Isandlhwana and Rorke's Drift. Our guide was Pat Rundgren, a former Rhodesian bush fighter and local guides of the battlefields. He delivered a memorable on-site lecture about the ways in which Zulu and British memories of the battle differ and why.

Received a demonstration of traditional Zulu dancing by a local school dance troupe. 

Hluhluwe — Day 24

All-day game drive in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park.

Scott McPherson said:
It's Super Bowl Sunday and no one cares.

Travel from Hluhluwe to Pietermaritzburg — Day 25

Evening lecture by Dr. Lawrence Piper, Political Scientist at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg. He spoke on the historical and politics of Zulu Nationalism. 

Drakensburg Mountains — Day 26

Hike to three different sites of Khoisan rock paintings in the Giant's Castle area. We were led by Franz Prins, Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and internationally recognized scholar on Khoisan rock art.

Evening lecture/discussion by Dr. Ching on the book Return to Laughter.

Scott McPherson said:
Today we hiked up into the Drakensburgs to Giants' Castle to view ancient rock paintings. It was incredibly beautiful. A mountain trout stream runs in the valley separating these towering mountains. It is easily one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to in my life.

From my room in the 19th floor, I watch the Indian Ocean crashing relentlessly on the shore. A garden is in full bloom a few hundred feet below me. The sun is setting on the horizon, and the ocean stretches out as far as the eye can see.

Travel from Pietermaritzburg to Durban — Day 27

On the way we stopped in Ixopo, around which provided the setting for our book by Lauretta Ngcobo, And They Didn't Die. We scheduled to meet Ms. Ngcobo's sister, Gloria Mothibe, who took us on a tour of region and pointed out locations that inspired scenes in her sister's book. This included the site of their home when growing up and a variety a other specific places that appear in the book.

Scott McPherson said:
The emotional exhaustion I feel now is overwhelming. I feel guilty when I don't give a beggar money, or lie to him by saying I don't have any. It's been so intense for so long that it's beginning to lose its edge, and I wonder if I am feeling as many of the whites here feel now. It's so hard. I get disgusted with myself for not retaining complete compassion and sympathy for these people, who have so little when I have so much. The guilt I feel by touring these people's poverty whenever we go into a township disgusts me, but I take solace in the fact that I am doing this for the right reasons, so that I can share my experiences and try to raise awareness about the plight of these wonderful people.

Durban — Day 28

In the morning we sat down for over two hours at the University of Natal with Lauretta Ngcobo, author of And They Didn't Die, and Margaret Daymond, Senior Lecturer of Literature at the University of Natal, who authored the epilogue to Ngcobo's book. Professor Daymond provided a brief discussion of her interpretation of the book. Ms. Ngcobo commented briefly and then opened it up to questions and answers. In addition to fielding questions about the book, she also received questions about the IFP, as she is an elected member of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature for the IFP. A particularly rewarding aspect of this experience was Ngcobo and Daymond had never before sat down together to publicly talk about Ngcobo's book. We felt very lucky to have been present for this encounter. 

Ansley Loftin said:
I was truly excited about getting to meet with Lauretta Ngcobo, and I believe that my excitement was not let down. She was a very interesting woman and her words provided me with greater insight into my understanding of life under apartheid in rural areas like KwaZulu-Natal. I think she made several poignant statements, but one that really stuck with me was her answer to a question about how apartheid effected her life and political views. 

According to Ngcobo, as a "rural" child living under apartheid, she was essentially unaware of apartheid and how it effected her life. Ngcobo explained that she really came to realize the onslaught of apartheid and how it negatively influenced her childhood once she got out of her rural surroundings. I took this to mean that it was only once she was exposed to "better," more financially well-off lifestyles that Ngcobo began to understand how much she had missed out on and did without because of apartheid. For instance, she spoke of how she did not realize that people could often buy sweets and candies and did not always wear torn, ragged clothes. For some reason, this response by Ngcobo actually surprised me. I think I expected her to sit there and ramble on and on about how apartheid ruined her entire life, but what she told us was so different than that. Essentially, she said apartheid restrictions did not profoundly effect her until she got into urban areas and experienced an easier life. Personally, I found Ngcobo's statements to be very relevant to my own life experience — of course in a much different way. For me, it was when I came to Furman that I began to get a sense of how some people actually live. Never had I been surrounded by so many conservative, upper class people in my entire life, and it really made me think about my own life differently. On the flip side, I feel this trip has added a whole new dimension to my life. Before I came to southern Africa and toured squatter camps like Soweto and Katatura, I was so unaware of the extreme poverty that so many people endure. Like Ngcobo, if I had not left my surroundings that were so familiar to me, I do not think I would have ever understood the different lives that some people are forced to live. At first, I was shocked by their innate joy despite their impoverished living conditions. However, Ngcobo's words helped me understand how these people, even though they lived in poorer areas, managed to be happy. When you are unaware and do not realize how easy other people have it in life or the luxuries they have, you often do not know what you are missing. I think this is true for numerous people in South Africa. 

David McGill said:
It is so surreal to sit before the author of one of the best books I've read for this program. Its even better to hear another person analyze her text, in addition to bringing new elements of critique and meaning to the text that Lauretta Ngcobo may not have thought about when she wrote the book. Lauretta Ngcobo and Margaret Daymond provided a first-hand account of the significance of And They Didn't Die as historical non-fiction. Daymond suggests the novel is primarily about rural resistance and the focus of courage, resilience, non-passivity, and the impact these ideas had on the lives of a family between the late 1950's and 1980's. And They Didn't Die was also an important look into the lives of women and all its complexities. The intent of apartheid, claimed Daymond, was the idea of reserves (Bantustans) and the fact that they did not preserve African culture. In other words, these areas became like dumping grounds for groups of women and children, while their husbands were away in the cities.

Durban — Day 29

  Toured Durban with local political and environmental activists. In the morning we went to an area called the Bayview Flats and met with Brandon Pillay, Chairperson of the Bayview Flats Association. Brandon is in his early twenties and has been political active on the behalf of the residents of Bayview Flats since his teens. Bayview Flats is a series of apartment buildings where the Apartheid government forcibly relocated Indians, although a number of Africans now live there as well. It is focal point for issues facing poor people brought on by the government's neo-liberal economic program.

In the afternoon we met with members of the South Durban Environmental Alliance. This is a non-governmental activist organization geared toward issues of environmental pollution and its impact on residents in Durban, primarily those in poor neighborhoods. They took us on a tour of the sites suffering from the heaviest pollution by local industries and demonstrated how they take air samples with a home built "bucket" devise to monitor emissions from the factories.

In the evening we received a lecture from Ashwin Desai, a research associate at the University of Durban and author of a widely known book dealing with issues of poverty and political activism in the post-Apartheid era, We Are the Poors. Professor Desai spoke on issues the ideology and practice of political activism in the post-cold war, post-Apartheid era.

After Professor Desai left, we heard a follow-up lecture and testimonial from Heinrich Bohmke, a human-rights lawyer. In the question-answer session it was also discovered that Bohmke had been part of the militant underground for the ANC and Communist Party in the early 1990s. He had been involved in a variety of missions, one of which resulted in him testifying before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One of the missions also resulted in his being arrested and tortured by the Apartheid government in the early 1990s. To put it simply, the drama and intensity of his roughly thirty-minute story left everyone of our group speechless. 

Ansley Loftin said:
Although we have read about the MK (The Spear of the Nation) in different works like Mandela's autobiography, our lecture from Heinrich was quite eye opening. I suppose when I read about the MK and its activities, I subconsciously associated the organization as being a courageous, rebellious group primarily comprised of African men. However, Heinrich was quite the opposite - a petite, wide-eyed young, white man, and he too was involved with the MK. According to Mandela, "Every man who joined MK knew that he might be called on to pay the ultimate sacrifice" (Mandela 284). Heinrich was no exception to this.

When Heinrich spoke of his relationship with his MK, African leader, I was reminded of Mandela's relationships with white citizens like Joe Slovo. Similar to Slovo, Heinrich also used his white skin color to help African MK members. Acting as a master or baas, he transported Africans across lines and other areas where they otherwise would not have access. As he told stories from his teenage years, my respect for Heinrich grew. A white man who felt guilty for the oppression of his fellow man, Heinrich channeled his anger and confusion in an assertive, active direction.

However, when Heinrich began to tell us of the time he was sent on a mission to assassinate someone, I caught myself thinking of him slightly different. I was also really caught off guard when he admitted his involvement in bombing the Conservative Party Offices. Instead of solely regarding him with respect and admiration, I started to view him as more of a violent criminal. It was not until after our lecture that I began to understand why my feelings toward Heinrich shifted. 

As Layla, Monica, Shea, Madeline, and I excitedly discussed his stories, it finally hit me. Heinrich, the brave, freedom fighter, was what we in America would often refer to as a terrorist. He disagreed with government authority and certain political organizations, and he acted on those feelings in a violent, aggressive manner. This is a mindset that is essentially incomprehensible for me. I cannot imagine going to such extremes as a young person and being willing to sacrifice my life for it all like Heinrich did.

Despite the stories he told us, I never felt threatened or unsafe around Heinrich, nor did I condemn him for his actions. Overall, I suppose my feelings could be explained by the fact that I place myself on the same side as Heinrich, and I agree that something had to be done in order to facilitate change. If not for men like Heinrich, whether or not you would label them terrorists, who knows if liberation would have ever been achieved in South Africa? 

Travel from Durban to Umtata — Day 30

Travel from Umtata to Grahamstown — Day 31

East London — Day 32

  Lecture by Dr. Leslie Bank, Lecturer in Anthropology at Rhodes University-East London, on his "Hidden Histories" project. He and a team of researchers are collecting oral histories of people in the region who were impacted by the forced relocations during the Apartheid era. The initial motivation of this project was to assist people in making retribution claims as allowed for by the ANC government. While this continues to be the primary motive of the project, it has evolved into a broader local history project that may eventually lead into a local history museum. Dr. Bank then took us on a tour of East London pointing out the areas affected by the relocations.

Port Alfred — Day 33

Hunter Michelsen said:
For months before my departure to Africa, friends and family members continually asked me what I was going to the continent for and what I was going to do. My answer was always a little shaky and usually consisted of going to learn about the history and politics of Africa. I know... I think that answer is about as bland and generalized as they come, but I really could not develop a concrete description to justify why I was paying so much to go to a place I nor any other person I talked to knew much about. Now that I have returned and have reflected the entire trip on that very question, I believe the answer is simple. I went to Africa to see Africa as it is, not how I imagine it or how the books tell it to be.

I wanted to put faces with names, events with visualization, and basically to see everything firsthand. I believe now that if I had never gone to Africa I would have never known what Africa is really like. Examples run rampant in our reading and discussion. One example involves Lauretta Ngcobo. We read the book which was interesting, but I only began to really visualize the struggles of her people as I looked around the countryside of her hometown and listened to her lecture. I learned that she is not some omniscient, faceless author, but a human being with her own opinions and faults. If I had not gone to Africa to listen to her talk, I never would have learned about her true political stance and I never would have grown to disagree with many of her views. Mostly, I learned that she was fallible just like any other human and could get worked up just the same. Like I have commented in other journals, I used to read books and fail to take into account the authors background, including where they were from and what biases they might bring to the book. I also neglected to search for other opinions on the same topics, and going to Africa taught me that while someone may be well learned in a subject, they are not always right. History can be argued in so many ways that it comes down to personal opinion based on the best regurgitation of correct facts possible. Two people may have completely different, yet believable accounts of the past as we learned from our speakers. The fact they believe with all their might that their stance and history is correct the more believable they seem.

Another extremely important aspect of the trip was seeing the poverty up close and in real life. We always read about the terrible conditions the people of Africa live in, and maybe we see a couple of pictures, but it cannot compare to interacting with the people and their environment. I couldn't believe how upbeat and nice the people were in the face of the tragedy that they live in. They don't have much, but they are proud of what they have, which is more than I can say for many Americans who have everything. 

Also, how else can you get an first hand account of someone like Heinrich who was in the ANC mix carrying out acts of terrorism. It is unbelievable that we got to sit down with this man and have him open up to us and talk about his experiences for what he said was the first time. There is no way you can get that kind of story and effect by reading a book. Seeing one of the ANC soldiers that we have been reading about, in the flesh and blood was a treat we could only get by going to his country and taking an active role in attempting to unravel the truth about what he has devoted his life to. It is incredible how much I learned and how well things were put together for me as we journeyed throughout Southern Africa, and I really do believe I would not have an inkling of the knowledge I have now if I had not traveled to Africa to dig deeper. Oh yeah, the baboons were cool too. What a beautiful area.

East London — Day 34

Lecture from Dr. Gary Minkley, Lecturer in History at Rhodes-East London and associate of Dr. Bank's in the Hidden Histories project. He spoke on the history of rural land tenure and Apartheid-era development schemes in rural areas around East London.

We then visited the village Mooiplaas, roughly fifteen miles outside of East London. Here we observed the conditions of rural land tenure that Dr. Minkley spoke about. We also heard from a local grassroots development organization that is trying to tap into the eco-tourism market by promoting Xhosa culture. One of the leaders of this organization was 82-year old Winifred Tofu, a remarkable and energetic person. The presentation and issues brought forth by this group coincided directly with the subject matter of one of our books, Heart of Redness by Zakes Mda. This book deals with issues of historical identity among the Xhosa, and contemporary debates about development schemes centered on notions of cultural identity.

Monica Bell said:
Life in the rural villages is also indicative of the sharp class differences that exist among black Africans. In East London, we visited Mooiplaas Village, which was in the old Ciskei. The people were of the Xhosa ethnic group. The "theme" of our visit was not about poverty; it was intended to be more about Xhosa culture. However, we could see the effects of poverty even though it was downplayed as an issue. Our tour guide, Zenzile's mother, showed us that they had only one pay phone, and not internal phone jacks, for the entire community. The high school was also dilapidated. Zenzile made sure we took pictures of it so that other people could see the poor condition of their school.

These examples teach us that the new South Africa is not economically much different from the old one. Apartheid created caste systems based on quite tenuous "racial" classifications. In the new South Africa, however, class is the new caste. Divisions that used to be based on race are now based on economic means. Unfortunately, this new caste system still leaves most black Africans in trouble. Overwhelmingly, the people who have money are white — with a few elite exceptions tossed into the mix. 

Travel from Grahamstown to Wilderness National Park — Day 35

  En route we stopped off on the eastern edge of Tsitikamma national park to sit down with representatives of a nearby Afrikaner school that has as its mission the preservation and promotion of Afrikaner identity. Most of the people we met were local farmers. The main coordinator was Chris Kolesky, uncle of one of Furman's students, Marinus Vandriel. We had lunch and walked on the beach and then Chris spoke to us about his views on current politics. While Chris was only speaking for himself, and was not representative of any one particular group or organization, it is safe to describe his views as being very conservative and pro Afrikaner nationalism. It is part of our educational mission to hear from all aspects of South Africa society, and Chris did an excellent job of providing insight into one of those perspectives.

Hank Southgate said:
With a jolt I awake to the bus (privately hired luxury couch) turning off the highway onto a dirt road. We had been driving through the homelands earlier that day, small patches of overgrazed land on which rondovals clustered together like bacteria in a petri dish. Wiping the sleep out of my eyes, it dawns on me that we had left those unfortunate places behind. Verdant, irrigated fields surround us; fat cows and sheep are grazing, and the homesteads rival these I've seen on huge American farms. The bus (coach!) keeps rolling down though and eventually skirting along one of the most beautiful, sublime coastlines I've ever seen: giant turquoise and white waves crash onto rocky outcroppings, cape gulls peck around on small, white patches of beach, and whitecaps sail over the tops of the ocean. Luxurious vacation homes overlook the coastline; Landrovers and Mercedes sit shining in their driveways. The coach turns sharply, rambles down the road another minute or so, and comes to a stop. 

I step out, see a lamb roasting on a spit, carefully tended to by a well-tanned man in his 30s, and watch as a heavy-set gentleman with an enormous gut lumbers up to grab some watermelon and juice. We have entered the laager. 

Wilderness National Park — Day 36

Travel from Wilderness to Cape Town — Day 37

Cape Town — Day 38

  Sunrise hike of Signal Hill

Tour of Kirstenbosch National Gardens

Visit to King Williams' Town

Tour of Cape Point

Sunset boat trip to Cape Town

Cape Town — Day 39

  Tour of Khayeletsha township with Megan Anderson, including a visit to the view tower overlooking Capeflats region.

Visit to Vicky's B & B, a successful township entrepreneurial operation.

Visit to Philani Employment Project. Trains destitute women in craft skills, simultaneously running a craft store and nutrition program for them and their children.

Lunch at Gugu le Afrika, a successful township restaurant that is involved in training new African chefs.

Meeting with Treatment/Action Campaign, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS awareness.

Lecture by Wade Pendleton, author of Katatura: A Place Where We Stay, another one of our books that we read. Dr. Pendleton spoke on issues of contemporary migration patterns in Namibia. 

Cape Town — Day 40

Hike of Table Mountain

Tour of Robben Island, site of Mandela's imprisonment

Bryan Long said:
My trip to Southern Africa has allowed me to learn so much more in depth about a society, which not many people get a chance to encounter. From the beginning to end, I was challenged with new ideas and interpretations of what I had expected of the area. South Africa in particular is very rich in history from the cave paintings to the post-apartheid government; there have been many changes throughout the country. My experience was one where I was finally able to see outside of my blinders which I have residing inside America. In the time I left the country, I was able to understand so much more about another place, while also gaining a better understanding of where I came from.

My most important realization after this trip is that the way things are remembered may not always be the actual way they occurred. From our trips to the battlefields of Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana I was able to see the importance of analyzing what is recorded against whom told the story. The author is going to come with a bias no matter how subtle, but they will always put a spin on things that will alter the truth. To fully understand history one must be able to comprehend how people lived, and to see that firsthand like the rural homes in Botswana will let you see truly, what life is like. Traditions mean a lot to people, but who started the traditions and why? If the so-called traditions began because of, a government's force what is the true value of those traditions.

In leaving Southern Africa I finally understood the importance of leaving the country I had spent my entire life in, I was actually able to understand what it was like being an American. To go into a country I have never seen before is a bit frightening but the significance of recreating the same kind of blind exploration that my forefathers did when coming to America allows me to have a better understanding. I see that history is a constant struggle between good and bad, rich and poor. South Africa displays all the characteristics of a growing society, which really needs to iron out its inconsistencies. America went through similar growing pains in its youth and I do not think that South Africa will accomplish any sort of political stability as quickly as everyone wishes it to happen. The struggle for power has put people who were not ready to rule in ruling positions. The ANC had to alter from a revolutionary force to a governing institution almost overnight, and in order to do that successfully is extremely difficult. The National Party even had to deal with issues of governance, how do you think they were able to establish Apartheid, it was because of their insecurities as leaders which led them to oppress their main threat, the masses of non-whites. History is very important to the people of Southern Africa, and when I am able to learn about those people, I am also able to learn a bit about my own history. The better understanding of my own history comes from the similarities of the two societies, where people have overcome parallel obstacles in order to progress to their current status. The ability I had to speak to people about their history and reflect on my own was priceless, but the realization that we are both very similar despite our different societies is in itself amazing. Someday I hope to return to Southern Africa to learn more about the changes over there, but most importantly to reflect on the changes that have occurred here also.

Cape Town — Day 41

Service learning project at Tsoga Environmental Center in Langa township. We mostly sorted trash and did some gardening.

Lunch with members of the Student Representative Council from the University of Cape Town.

Meeting with Triangle Project, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to raising awareness about gay and lesbian rights.

Lecture by Melissa Steyn, of the Centre for Intercultural Communication and Diversity Studies at the University of Cape Town. Professor Steyn spoke about the construction of white identity. She is from an Afrikaner family and did a fascinating job of relating her own personal experience of growing up in an Afrikaner family to broader issues of how the construction of white identity is dependent upon a notion of the non-white "other."

Monica Bell said:
When we met with the worker from the Triangle Project in Cape Town, the conversation turned briefly to religion's role in creating and perpetuating prejudice against gay and lesbian people. I believe that most people in our group expected a fairly harsh critique of Christian religious institutions from the speaker. Southern Africa is overwhelmingly Protestant Christian, which would lead us to believe that religion-based discrimination is an everyday occurrence for him. Yet, to our amazement, he did not proceed in this way. He acknowledged that in America, much of the anti-gay movement is conservative Christina. However, he pointed out that Christianity is not as great a culprit in South Africa as it is in the United States - fundamentalist Muslim groups and some secular people are equally as prejudiced as the conservative Christians - some even more so. Second, he informed us that a substantial number of South African Protestant denominations are in favor of equal rights for homosexuals. Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of the Anglican Church, is one of the religious leaders that supports gay rights. The popular universal Church has also been supportive of homosexuals. Liz Frank, an activist for Sister Namibia, cites the support of several churches with respect to the organizations stance on both domestic violence and gay rights. If this is true, is Christianity the pivotal force of gay bashing in southern Africa, as it is in the US? If not, who or what is responsible for the poor treatment of the GLBTQ communities in the region? 

Hank Southgate said:
Melissa Steyn's speech summed up many of the issues about sameness and otherness that have been running around in my head since my summer project in August. With far greater articulation than I could hope to achieve, she carefully deconstructed "whiteness" as a global category and as it has taken shaped in the South African experience. This deconstruction proceeds along the lines of power-knowledge concepts and shows the extent to which privilege has made it possible for white South Africans to "buy [their] ignorance." 

White identity also persists to the extent that apartheid economic disparities prevail. When you're in Sandton, shopping at the marble-floored Michelangelo, you can effectively forget about Soweto; when you're in Durban, running along the beach lined with hotels and casinos, and water parks, why think about the pollution in South Durban; when you're sitting at Mitchell's in Cape Town, enjoying a pint for R12, why think about what's on the other side of Table Mountain? This all goes to show, if you're white, you can continue to reap the benefits afforded by your skin color without having to concern yourself with understanding the hardships faced by millions of non-whites that make your posh lifestyle possible. Steyn is right on target about white identity. She is in touch with current literary, historical, and philosophical thinking on identity and race construction. She just so happens to share my views on the subject (not that it matters!), and delivered her points with clarity and depth. A wonderful way to end the trip's academic component. 

Ansley Loftin said:
Melissa Steyn's lecture on Afrikaner identity and "whiteness" was an appropriate, interesting discussion to end on. As she attempted to explain how she came to understand her own identity and how she came to better know the Africans around her, she made a very fitting statement for all of us to hear during our final lecture in Africa. Recalling the scholarship she was awarded and her own study abroad, she wisely commented that you cannot leave your country for an extended period of time without changing somehow and learning more about yourself. For Steyn, this change she encountered dealt with her perception of herself, her privileged Afrikaner status, and her recognition that she needed to learn more about the cultures surrounding her, both white and black.

As she presented her explanation and made her statement about change, I automatically thought of my experience in Africa. I feel that this study abroad, especially being my first international traveling adventure, has opened me up, providing me with a much wider scope of life outside of America. Not only has this experience altered my value and gratefulness for the many luxuries in my life, but it has also broken my extremely high, arrogant view of America. Just as the September 11th trauma did, this trip also exposed me to people who do not necessarily agree with our lifestyles or admire us as much as I assumed. Most of these people were content with their own lives, despite the hardships they endured and the poverty in which many of them lived. I began to understand first hand that not everyone lives as I do, and more importantly, not everyone wants to live like me either. 

In relation to Steyn, I feel like my experience during this study abroad has been similar to hers. Instead of letting my "privileged" American birth and life hinder me from trying to better understand "the other," I was able to interact with Africans of all races and try to understand them. Not only was I able to experience their daily lives first hand, but I was also exposed to how they viewed my own culture. Their perceptions of America and American life were not often very accurate or even as positive as I originally thought. Essentially, I discovered that through "nature and nurture" we all view life differently and value different aspects of it. Thus, the way I live my life may not be anything that other people around the world desire to have or vice versa. 

Overall, I think this was the first time I fully realized that there is no "better" way to live one's life or govern a nation. There is no right or wrong when it comes to all of that. Rather, we each have our own unique ways and beliefs, and we should not expect everyone else in the world to be like or think like us. This is a very powerful lesson that I am glad to have learned and one that I will carry with me in the future. 

Travel from Cape Town to Atlanta — Day 42

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