Emma Rogers: Miami as Text 2023

Greetings to all who may read this! A little about me, I am currently a Junior in the Honors College studying International Business hoping to graduate in the Spring of 2024. Within my major I greatly enjoy studying the psychology of human behavior and understanding what drives customers purchasing behavior on a global scale. However, I have always been passionate about the arts, and feel as though it’s an integral part of education that’s overlooked far too often. Participating in the class allows me to not only learn about some of the most important events in recent history, but it also allows me to learn more about art history; which has always been a love of mine. In my opinion, knowledge is power, and I intend to learn as much as I can throughout this course. If I only have one life, I plan to use it well, and I sense this course will be life changing.

Encounter as Text one

“I hope nobody snores in France” by Emma Rogers

Free Mont Saint Michel Normandy photo and picture

Image by Pixabay

Meeting new people and putting myself out there has been something I have deeply struggled with for as long as I can remember. I was that kid at summer camp that would sob when their parents dropped them off for even just the day. I’m a deeply emotional person, and I would always worry that I would miss my dog too much, or how she would be sad because I just up and left for a week and I would be sent into hysterics. My parents always said that I was a “worry wart” and that it always turned out fine, and I was happy that I went, which was true. Unfortunately, I no longer have my parents to force me to do things that will be good for me, so I had to force myself to take a leap of faith and commit to joining the class. This did not come easy might I add, and I’m still very anxious to be away from home and my cat for so long. I do not like change, so doing some thing as major as this is very nerve wracking to me. Thankfully though, I have already had the privilege of visiting Paris, so it doesn’t feel quite so unknown for me.

When I envision France there’s two images that come to mind; the first is gothic architecture and cobblestone street, along with the strong smell of cigarettes, and (don’t kill me) Ratatouille. The second would be my Pinterest board of the south of France: vineyards, crystal blue water surrounded by cliffs and colorful houses, and of course…wine. I know this is a very vague and not at all accurate mental depiction of France, but surely it will be funny to look back on at the end of our travels.

After meeting everyone and feeling the energy of the group, I can tell this is going to be such a transformative and amazing experience for everyone. To me, experiences like these are what life is all about, really taking life by the balls and loving every part of it. I am looking forward to learning more about the history that brought us to today, and getting to grow with one another through this journey. To be surrounded by a group of individuals like this is such a privilege, and I couldn’t have imagined better people to get to do this with. I haven’t really had the chance to travel much with friends, much less to Europe, so I am super thrilled to be surrounded by people who already make me feel happy to be around. See, I also grew up as an only child, so I feel like I missed out a lot on having fun on the trips we did take. Not that it wasn’t fun to be with my parents, but it’s a different dynamic completely than a friend or sibling. Thats also failing to mention that we could never escape each other on these trips because we’d only get one room, and with my Father snoring like an absolute freight train, by the end of every trip we’re collectively contemplating committing homicide. While that may sound ridiculous, I assure you it is not, and that you too would be contemplating homicide as well. Rest assured we always came out on the other side in one piece, but I am over the moon to escape the snores. I can now only pray that I am not speaking too soon in regards to the snoring, and pray I might. 

Encounter as Text two

“Miami from a new perspective” by Emma Rogers

Image by Florida International University

Growing up in Tampa I was constantly surrounded by white people, and only white people. While yes, I too am a very caucasian individual, it was at a very early age in my life when I realized that the place I called home did not reflect the world around me. Much of this I attribute to the privilege I had to do a lot of international traveling from a young age. My parents love to travel, and wanted me to be educated and immersed into the world outside of our little bubble in Tampa, which I’m so grateful for. Not only did my travels help educate me, but I attribute much of my learning to my parents who always encouraged me to learn as much about the world as I could, and to form my own opinions. Because of this, I feel as though I was ahead of the curve compared to my peers in terms of worldliness, and I knew I wanted to get the hell out of Tampa. Not only did I want to get out of Tampa, but I desperately wanted to escape the bigoted assholes from my high school, and since they all planned on attending FSU and UF, I knew those were off my list. Before coming to tour FIU, I had only been to Miami once for a cheer competition when I was young, so I didn’t have the best idea of what Miami was like; but after my tour I had this gut feeling that this was where I was going to be. For so long I had lived in a city that was so ignorant, where people thought living in one story houses meant you were poor, that I wanted to go somewhere that actually had a diversity of culture, and learn and grow as a person. Overall, I am in this class to learn, and I know I have so much to learn about Miami and its history. My goal is to become more and more worldly of a person, so that one day I may be able to move abroad somewhere and be best equipped to adapt to any place. Not only this, but I love learning about the customs and cultures of people. Personally, I did not grow up with basically any connection to my culture and heritage, and I feel like I missed out on a lot. When I hear my roommates and friends talk about their own rituals and fun things they do I do feel a little jealous that I do not have those same roots, but I love to hear about everything they do because it feels like such a wholesome and uniting act. Overall, when I think of Miami I think of a melting pot of culture, and a beautiful yet united display of difference that you don’t get to experience most places. I am so excited to learn more about the history of Miami, both good and bad, and more than anything hope that I grow as a person over the course of this class. 

Enlightenment as text

“In need of more Enlightenment” by Emma Rogers

A philosopher lecturing on the Orrery, Joseph Wright of Derby (1766)

What do I think of the Enlightenment? Well, this is kind of a difficult question to answer for me because there are so many layers to this question, and it’s not so black and white. Prior to reading Candide, I had a decent knowledge of the Enlightenment period, and I viewed it as a necessary and pivotal period for mankind. However, after reading Candide I had somewhat of a change of perspective; not that the Enlightenment was not important, but that we have found ourselves in the same place we once stood, arguing between God and science.

In my opinion, when reading Candide I found it to be kind of funny, and very ironic, despite the themes of brutality and murder, etc. I say this because as I was reading it was just one monstrosity after the other it seemed, that it almost became comedic that this poor guy never could seem to catch a break. I recognize that the horrible things that happened in the novel did in fact happen to real people throughout history, but given our current society, I feel a twinge desensitized from it all. And that’s my issue, after reading Candide and brushing up on my knowledge of the Enlightenment, I feel like its a metaphor for today, like a fucked up deja vu.

During the Enlightenment the whole point was that we as people no longer had to look to God, or any all powerful being, as an explanation for the events occurring in our day to day lives, because well, science. We talk and learn about the Enlightenment like those people were dummies for believing that the world was flat, or that God caused sickness, and that the Enlightenment was a progression from that. The way I see it currently, we have not progressed at all. Now, I am personally not religious, nor was I raised religious, but I do believe everyone is entitled to believing whatever they want to believe so long as it doesn’t affect my life, or hurt anyone. All that being said, how really have we changed as a society since the Enlightenment?

The hierarchy of society, the crimes committed against men, women, and children, people being hateful, and evil, that all still exists today. And while yes, we have made progress in some ways, I am not entirely convinced we only see progress because the horrors are better hidden, spoken less of, or just turned a blind eye towards. The evils committed that we read about in Candide, that seem so far away, are really at our doorstep. As a woman, I see it every day, feel it every day. So, my opinion of the Enlightenment would be, to put it lightly: bullshit. Still today are these crimes against people committed, still do people turn to God to answer their prayers, or to seek guidance, and ignore the science in front of them. We still wage wars regarding whose God is the real God, who is better, so on and so forth, yet live in the opposite of what they believe God’s image to be. So, do I think faith and reason can be reconciled? No, I do not. Faith does not adhere to reason, that is the whole jist of it, that’s what makes it faith and not fact. Personally, I don’t believe you can participate in most religions without contradicting yourself, and that critical thinking runs you for a loop the deeper you get, especially in Christianity. Alas, because of all this, in addition to the wealth gap here in the U.S. being worse than the French Revolution, I would say we have made minute progress, if any, on our journey to Enlightenment. Perhaps we are still in our own Enlightenment, and I have no doubt we still have much to learn. But, how much do we need to learn in order for people to leave behind the God and religions that cause so many of the world’s heartaches?

Historic Miami as Text

The Burial of History by Emma Rogers

Photo by Emma Rogers

The walking tour of downtown Miami offered a plentiful amount of knowledge and perspective which I had previously lacked. Much of this I believe is due to the lack of education on this topic as a whole, with many refusing to acknowledge the horrors of the past here. It is no surprise of course that those individuals and groups who committed these atrocious acts desire to cover them up, but it’s the way in which it has been covered, and continues to be covered that particularly struck me.

As we’ve discussed in previous lectures, people are willing to do many things on the journey for power. Some, like the revolutionaries in France, only desire power to have control over their own lives, and to live adequately. However, some people, like Louis XVI and other European monarchs, desire power to control anything and everything they can. One example of this would be Henry Flagler’s opening of the Royal Palm. Located at the mouth of the Miami River, a crucial waterway for both wildlife and trade/travel, Flagler decided it would be best to discharge the sewage from his hotel into the river. Now, I will give it to him that at the time in  which he decided to do this, people were not nearly as aware or knowledgeable of the damage it would cause to the ecosystem, but I am nearly certain he wouldn’t have cared either way. 

This however, is not what impacted me the most during our lecture. Rather, what struck me the hardest was learning that there is currently a Whole Foods located on top of what was a Tequesta burial ground. The icing on the cake though: learning that the Whole Foods knew the history of the land, and instead of leaving the land to serve as a historical landmark and let those buried rest in peace they decided to continue building and paint a Tequesta memorial mural inside the Whole Foods. Unfortunately, this was not entirely surprising to learn, as this behavior is pretty on brand for European colonists; but I was sickened to learn that this lack of care for respecting such a sacred site still continues today. 

As we discussed in our lecture, Miami is such a melting pot of people and cultures, and it always has been. People come to Miami to experience diversity and inclusion in a way that you really can’t anywhere else in the U.S. Many people come to Miami seeking asylum from their own countries, or from other states in order to pursue richer, happier lives. As such, many people in Miami know what it is like to face true hardships in life, racism, food insecurity, sickness, even death. Alas, I am surprised that despite so many of the people here in Miami understanding the evil and hardships the Tequesta faced, that we do not do more to protect and acknowledge their history. And while I know it is not that simple, and that due to the lack of education on the matter many Miamians may not even know of the history held here, just as I was unaware prior to this lecture. It is just ironic that given Miami is such a place for refuge and unity, that we bury the history of the people who faced such similar trials during their lifetime.

Vizcaya as Text

“Rose colored glasses” by Emma Rogers

Photo by Emma Rogers

Upon arriving in Vizcaya, one cannot help but feel like they have been teleported out of Miami and been dropped somewhere in Tuscany. You could expect no less from James Deering, who spared no expense when constructing his winter estate. Statues, marble floors, hidden rooms, beautiful art, and even an arc to commemorate a victory that never took place. Around every corner the halls of Vizcaya paint a picture of wealth that is so incomprehensible that you’re left speechless. 

Initially, Vizcaya was located on a 100 acre plot of land, and with a property of that size it’s no surprise that Vizcaya had an immense impact on the architectural style of Coconut Grove. Built between 1914-1916, Vizcaya was truly a spectacle to whoever entered the property. That being said, the people who should be recognized for the beauty of this property are the people who built it. Of course, James Deering had not lifted one pretty finger of his during construction; rather, Deering opted to hire largely Black Bahmians. 

As we walk from room to room we discuss the treatment of the workers Deering hired in order to construct Vizcaya, and I am confronted with a paradox. We are surrounded by such beautiful things, but simultaneously surrounded by ugly. Yet, if you cannot see the ugly, even if it’s all around you, it’s almost like it doesn’t exist. But the reality of Vizcaya is just that: ugly. Working for little to no money, horrible living conditions, and being taken advantage of day in and day out. Believed to be good enough to make beautiful things, but never to experience those beautiful things themselves. 

The way in which the workers at the Vizcaya estate were treated was not exclusive to the property, but rather the “norm” for this period in history. Unfortunately, most points in history reflect a “norm” that involves the mistreatment of indigenous people and people of color, purely based on the color of their skin. Vizcaya was not the first, nor the only thing built by people of color in the United States. Although not often acknowledged in history or the present day, people of color built this country from the ground up. 

It is, however, promising that we have progressed to the point where we are having these discussions and learning history honestly. As we have spent much time discussing in each class, things don’t necessarily need to be black and white, and more than one thing can be true at once. James Deering was a bad guy, he was wildly out of touch and really accomplished nothing for himself. He was a bigoted, spoiled, snob. Yet, we can still acknowledge the historical significance of Vizcaya and the role James Deering played, while also acknowledging the sacrifices that were made and suffering that was endured by those he exploited. History should not be looked at through rose colored glasses, which is what we have been doing for so long. I hold onto hope that one day children will have a history to look back on that does not require rose colored glasses, and that starts by not wearing them today.

Revolution as Text

“The Bigger Picture” by Emma Rogers

David, Jacques-Louis. The Death of Marat. 1793, Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Belgium

War has for ages plagued mankind, causing people to commit acts they were convinced they were incapable of. Desperation forces people to behave in ways that reflect the darkest parts of their souls, but it is not without reason that they act in such a manner. The French Revolution was one of the most transformative events in history, and events of this magnitude in history simply do not occur without bloodshed and immense suffering. You cannot have one without the other. 

As we discussed in class, this topic is not black and white. I consider myself to be a pacifist; I don’t like war and at its root I find it to be unnecessary. However, war would be unnecessary in a black and white world, where people would be reasonable and deal with their issues in rational ways. We, of course, do not exist in a black and white world, and that is what makes this issue so complex. As a whole, I believe the Revolution was necessary and I approve of it as a whole because of the impact it had on history and the way Government works. Sure, it was horrendous what took place in France during this time, and I wish that it did not have to happen that way, but I consider it an unavoidable evil for the sake of progress. 

Lost King of France was supposed to evoke a feeling of empathy from us readers, and it definitely did for me. I see both sides of the story, both peasant and aristocrat, and understand why both parties did what they did. On one side, it was cruel and disgusting what happened to Louis XVII. He was only a boy, seemingly innocent in the matter other than being born into the royal family at this time. The things that happened to him are unimaginable, but I understand why it did. To some extent I feel for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette as well because they were so young when they were forced into ruling an already tumultuous France. They too did not decide what family they were born into, yet they had no choice but to take on the great responsibility of ruling a country. Despite the glitz and glamor of French court, this without a doubt was a massive burden on Louis XVI as he grew up. With so many expectations placed upon you from birth, as well as everyone around you telling you that the sun rises and sets with you, it is no surprise Louis XVI was unfit and unprepared to rule. More than Louis XVI though I empathize with Marie. After all, she was only a 14 year old girl (or younger) when she was taken from her family and all she had known, to marry Louis XVI. Still a child herself, she was forced to play a part for Louis XVI of the doting, young, seen but not heard, wife of Louis. However, while Marie was seen as a part of Louis XVI, she herself did not have any say in how Louis chose to rule. Thus, Marie had no choice but to do as she was told because she was merely a pawn for politics. I feel deep compassion for Marie as a woman. History has written her as an evil villain, when in fact she faced brutality from the hands of the French nobility day in and day out. Likely, Marie did not even want to be in French court, and too thought they were cruel. Yet, Marie has become the face of the French Revolution; “let them eat cake” I’m sure everyone has heard at one point or another, portraying Marie as the brains behind the operation, intentionally starving the French people and mocking them for it. History though, tells us that Marie was timid and shy, put in the wrong place at the wrong time. Alas, people still find a way to pin the blame on the Queen, making her out to be an evil woman when likely she didn’t have rights at all. 

On the other hand, the normal class of French citizens suffered far more than Marie or Louis XVI. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children suffered the most inhumane forms of suffering; families were torn apart, and mothers and fathers watched their children die, never once knowing what a good life was like. Because of this, it seems only fair that there was suffering met in return. Putting myself into their shoes, if I had to live everyday with the memory of losing one or more of my children because my government refused to help me, I am afraid I may have done much worse. Not only did children die, but the elderly, your friends, people you care about deeply. These people witnessed so much loss in such a short time that I find it impossible to place any judgment upon them for their actions; I cannot fathom the pain and anger they must have felt, how hopeless, how desperate. 

While looking at the bigger picture and gaining perspective through our discussions I have discovered within myself that I have no definitive answer as to my endorsement or lack thereof of the actions of the French Revolution. For me, endorsement is the wrong word. Endorsement in my eyes means that I give the thumbs up, like I am giving my own personal stamp of approval on the events that took place. When, in fact, I find the events on both sides absolutely nauseating and horrid. Rather, I comprehend why the events took place and accept that people in pain are bound to act upon that pain. Love is one of the things that makes us human, and even the worst of people have a weak spot, many times within the people they hold dear. The reality is, when every outlet has been exhausted, and every attempt to make change peacefully and with grace has been cast aside, there was no other choice. The French citizens were given no other way, even if they did not want to inflict pain or cause bloodshed, if they wanted to live they needed to fight. Personally, I will never sit and say that I condone violence. Even if I were to commit acts of violence myself for the sake of human rights and progression, it is not something to be proud of, loss of life is still loss of life. Violence should always be the last resort, but sometimes it needs to be done, but it should never be a cause for celebration.

World War II as Text

“To be a Veteran” by Emma Rogers

Family Documents- Compliments to my Momma

The content of which we have studied in regard to World War II has left me meddling with a variety of different feelings. It is difficult to truly face the history that you have been taught. Yet, I grapple with the fact that no book, or movie, or show, can ever truly display and emulate the horrors that took place. So, I know that for me to still feel so disturbed and upset by the films we are watching goes to show how truly devastating this war was for all parties involved.

While I know that each generation suffers their own trials and tribulations, sometimes I believe we are due for a slap in the face by reality. It is in human nature to lose sight of the world around you, and focus more so on oneself, as we are somewhat the center of our own universe. That being said, as a society we have become more and more engrossed with focusing on all the negative aspects of the world, refusing to acknowledge all of the blessings of our lives, seemingly determined to force suffering upon ourselves. 

This unit halted this cycle of self pity in myself. Through our class discussions, and private contemplation in my own solitude I was able to shift my perspective of my own outlook on life. It is easy to fall into the habit of thinking about all of the things that have gone wrong, dwelling on the negative, yet never dwelling on the positive. Previously I found that I would crumble at things going wrong, just go into a full mental breakdown. Yet, when really great things would happen, I would move on like it held no value and meant nothing to me. Given this outlook on life I would have never allowed myself to be happy, but chosen to feel comfort in my sadness. 

This unit has reminded me of my own privilege, and the sacrifices that were made to secure this privilege I so mindlessly forget. It is so easy to get lost within ourselves, to lose sight of the bigger picture, but this unit has given me a much needed reminder to not take my life for granted. 

I spoke to my Dad one day after watching Saving Private Ryan and unloaded about how difficult it was to watch, and how I had to keep covering my eyes like a child. Coming from a Military family, with my Dad having served himself in the coast guard from 17-21, I felt like I had a better understanding of the reality of service and war. My Dad won’t dare to speak about some of the things he saw during his time serving; I think it’s easier for him to bury this prior life of his. It wasn’t even until the last few years that I learned that he had been awarded several life saving medals, and that’s when it hit me. I have been given the privilege to look at my Dad as a hero who saved several peoples lives, whereas my Dad witnessed true horror along with saving lives. He does not have the privilege of ignorance, but I do. 

All of my Great Grandparents served in WWII, most of them younger than I am today. They were children thrown into a bloodbath to lie their lives on the line to ensure that future generations would have the opportunity to feel freedom. This is the ultimate act of selflessness; to be willing to die for a stranger, someone who has no idea of your existence. And while there were survivors of this war, everyone still died. Whether it was death of the body, or death of the soul, nobody came home intact. 

Alas, this has been my wake up call to focus on my own gratitude. This is something I have been working on for the past few months, but I always enjoy being reminded of how blessed I truly am in this life, as it can be easy to lose sight of.

Deering Estate as Text

“The devil in disguise” By: Emma Rogers

Although I was unable to attend the trip to the Deering Estate due to the horror that was my wisdom teeth surgery, I still have much to say about the Deering Estate and more specifically, Charles Deering. However, given my absence on the trip and the amount of time since I last read the notes on it, I thought it best to refresh my memory of the topic. Upon researching the Deering Estate, and Charles Deering himself, I repeatedly came across a term that completely perplexed me in its usage towards Deering: Philanthropist. In fact, I was so perplexed by the usage of the word that I looked up the definition on google to ensure I had not made some error in my understanding of the word Philanthropist. This got me thinking: how do we go about defining what words do or don’t describe a person based on their actions? Where is the line drawn between good and evil? How much good can a person do to outweigh the evil, and vice versa? 

Charles Deering was most certainly not a model citizen during his lifetime. Deering took advantage of the racism in the country at the time to primarily hire Afro-Bahamian workers to build his luxurious estate because they had no choice but to accept the wages and opportunities for work they were given. For Deering, we know that it wasn’t a lack of money on his behalf that inhibited him from paying a reasonable wage to his workers, but rather his own greed. And while yes, you can say “it was a sign of the times”, and you wouldn’t be wrong; does that make his actions excusable? Can he still be defined as a Philanthropist in good faith?  

A philanthropist is defined as “a person who seeks to promote the welfare of others, especially by the generous donation of money to good causes”. Deering did this, sure. He utilized his money which he had not paid the Afro-Bhamians to fund his various philanthropic endeavors, all of which seemed to only help more white people such as himself. He also helped perpetuate racism in this country by using the hatred in people’s hearts to bolster his own desires. What bothers me more than anything is not that he is defined as a philanthropist, but it’s that he’s defined as a philanthropist with zero acknowledgement that he’s also a racist. It seems to me that on every website I view there is no mention of Deerings behavior towards the people of color who built the very estate that’s being praised. 

Undoubtedly the way we choose to define people is not an unbiased matter. How exactly is it that Charles Deering could essentially use slave labor to build his mansion, yet be defined as a man of philanthropy? Perhaps race and gender have something to do with it? (this is facetious) You can call Deering a Philanthropist, but in reality Deering was only a Philanthropist for the people he thought worthy of his Philanthropy: white people. In my opinion, this isn’t philanthropy at all, nor should he be defined as a philanthropist. Deering was just a rich white man with an affinity for art…there’s nothing holy about that. It’s not like he was out healing the world out of the kindness in his heart, he had more money than he knew what to do with; of course he threw it around at some philanthropic endeavors. The point is, whatever philanthropic acts he did lacked any substance or true value, and he deserves no praise. At his core he was a greedy man, only concerned with the betterment of himself and his family’s name; therefore he should be acknowledged as no more or no less than he was: a racist rich white man.

Departure as Text

“The night before Paris” by Emma Rogers

Image by John Bailly (2023)

When reflecting on my first encounter as text, I still resonate with much of what I initially said. I’m still my anxious self, but I’m growing more comfortable in my uncomfortability. Now the emotion that has taken over the place of my anxiety is excitement, as I find myself counting down the days until we are in Paris. 

Much of my anxiety stems from the unknowns that come along with life. I enjoy having control over the events that occur in my life, I like to acknowledge every possible scenario, to always know what lies ahead. This makes it very hard for me to put myself in situations where I cannot ensure that there is a positive outcome; I would much rather never take a chance, than to take a chance, and lose. Many people would deem this a good trait mindset to have; I will certainly never have a gambling problem, that’s for sure. My anxiety is both my greatest strength, and greatest weakness, but it’s something I have allowed to rule my life for far too long. I have been working, and continue to work on it every day of my life. 

All that said, being a part of this group of individuals has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for me this semester. I came in worried, not knowing anyone. I wondered if maybe people already had friends, and I would be the odd man out, or maybe that I would take too much, or too little. I pondered if maybe I wouldn’t fit in with anyone, and that there was a chance I would feel isolated during this experience. Truly, I could not have been more wrong, and I see now that all of my time spent worrying was in vain. 

Although I am still over the moon about all of the places we’re going, and things that we’ll see, my elevated sense of excitement stems from the people I will get to experience it all with. While life itself is a cultivation of experiences, I personally find that what makes the experiences themselves so memorable is the people that accompany you through them. Sure, you can go through life alone, but isn’t life that much sweeter surrounded by the people you love?  Where I was once uncertain about the people, I am no longer. Rather, I am more enthusiastic than ever to experience Paris alongside my new friends, and to form memories that transcend the bounds of time. 

It almost seems cruel that we must wait two whole months before our journey will begin. I know that patience is a virtue, but patience is one of those things I have never had much of. I feel like a kid on Christmas, struggling to fall asleep before Santa arrives. I haven’t felt this giddy level of excitement perhaps since I was a child, and it’s a feeling I hope I will have again many times in my life. Given it is Bailly’s last time teaching this class, I have no doubt that this trip will be anything short of life changing for me. Alas, I now have no choice but to dream of all the wine, art, and Pain au Chocolat that lies in my future. Paris, I will see ya real soon!

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