April 28, 2008

Homs, Syria

My Brother likes to say that he will try anything once, and I agree in my own way claiming that I will sleep anywhere once. That was put to the test when I arrived in Homs, Syria without the name of a hotel or any idea what neighborhood they might be in. I managed the word “funduk”, which is Arabic for hotel, to my taxi driver who threw out a name rather quick making me think, “great, he knows where all the backpackers stay” - as many driver’s do. I was soon checking into a single room that evoked memories of the bathrooms at The Port Authority, but instead of being in the ladies room, I had somehow managed to find myself confined to the men’s room. I would have searched around but it was getting dark and I was tired from a full day of another “only woman on the bus – only person who speaks English” scenario and an extended re-entry procedure at the border where three guards, getting a kick out of my passport, decided to have a half hour closed door meeting about the situation. Perhaps they were discussing my age with no children in tow, my eye color, or the fact I was born in New Jersey, because they emerged in a jolly mood and kept bursting into laughter as my information was being typed into the computer.
My first impressions of Homs was surprise at how easy the Muslim and Christian populations mix; there seems to be limited segregation of neighborhoods as in other cities such as Damascus. You can see a group of girls walking with linked arms, some with veils and some without or women in the full hijab- Islamic dress- peering in the windows of shops selling mini skirts and tank tops. I found myself at a cafĂ© watching life go by and also watching the football game that was on the television, along with the other crowds of locals. Sometimes you find yourself in the right place at the right time and on this evening, when Syria beat Saudi Arabia, the streets erupted into a Carnival-like scene of celebration; people wrapped in flags nearly stopped moving, honking, music-blaring traffic as they marched and danced in the streets, parade-style, with shrieks of pride and joy. When the firecrackers turned into rocket launchers, it was time for this party-goer to head back to the Port Authority for a good night’s sleep.
I was in Homs on a mission to see the famous Crusader castle, Kraks des Chevaliers, which is about a 45 minute drive outside of the city through green hills and farmland. The journey provided authenticity as it turned into a personal Crusade just to get to the entrance. I set out early and hopped on the city bus that would take me to the main terminal where I would catch another bus to the castle. I usually try to figure out a process by observing the locals and mimicking what they do. Well, on this particular day I guess my coffee hadn’t sunk in yet because as everyone else put their ticket in a little machine attached to a pole and sat down, I decided to put my coin money in, hoping for a ticket to come out, but soon realized I jammed the ticket-stamping machine (oops). I don’t think they were too happy about that because shortly after there was a full crowd, without smiles on their faces, pointing to the exit door of which, even though not at the bus station yet, I obliged and jumped off. It wasn’t spoken in English, but I took that to mean, “Get off the bus you Moronic Vandal!” Now how many people can say they got kicked off a Syrian bus! I tried to hail a taxi but no one understood where I wanted to go but feeling un-deterred and with my Crusader spirit in full bloom I eventually managed my way.
It was worth risking near death-by-angry-mob because the Crusader castle is super cool. It takes a few hours to explore and it made me feel like a character in my Brother’s old Dungeon and Dragons game. Instead of selling t-shirts they should consider making a rent-a-son or rent-a-knight stand so that females can truly get the full perspective of this amazing, undefeated structure.
My Mom used to tell me to “get back up on the horse” when I would stumble or fall in life, and her words were with on my way out of town, but instead of the horse I got myself “back on the bus” with a ticket in hand and a pretty good idea of how to get it stamped.

Fun with Ruins Alone (Baalbeck, Lebanon)

People ask me if I ever get bored or lonely seeing all these great countries and sights by myself. The truth is that I have met so many wonderful friends along the way to pal around with that I am rarely alone. But for the times that I am, I have come up with some fun games I amusingly play all by myself. And you can too! This is how to have Fun at Ruins Alone.
The game is called “Beat the Camera Timer”. It requires only you and your camera equipped with a self-timer.
Step 1. Scout out a location that inspires a stupid picture idea, preferably something athletically-timer-challenged. (note really big base of column above)
Step 2. Position camera and give her a test run (idea was to fill in as the column – trouble was making it into position by the time it clicked).
Step 3. Feel really satisfied when you “Beat the Camera Timer” (notice look of joy as I made it into column position).

Beirut, Lebanon

The most dangerous situation in Beirut was that I might have never left as it was a welcome oasis after traveling for a month through more conservative Arab countries where drinking an afternoon glass of red wine at a see-and-be-seen restaurant, wearing a tank dress and gossiping Old Hollywood with a former publicist while commenting on the quality of botox injections of the fellow patrons just doesn’t happen. You can take the girl out of New York or L.A, but it’s hard to reverse, especially when fed one too many falafel sandwiches while suffering estrogen-comrade-deprivation; my arrival in Beirut felt like a familiar homecoming.
Lebanon is a fascinating and beautiful country made up of a rich and diverse blend of contrasting elements; Valentino and Armani Casa stores line the streets of a heavily-secured, once-bustling, now nearly-deserted Downtown whose landscape consists of newly constructed skyscrapers mixed with the bombed out shells of buildings affected by 14 years of war. It is as easy to find a Mosque and Church on the same block as it is to hear the Lebanese people seamlessly pass from Arabic to English to French in the same sentence. And much like the West coast in America, one could reasonably travel from the bright blue waters of the Mediterranean to the snow-capped mountains outside Beirut in the same day.
Walking the streets of the city can be harrowing at first sight. There are reminders of the many years of civil and regional war on every corner, but like the Lebanese have done, after some time you grow resilient to the images of rubble, bullet holes, soldiers and security checkpoints and focus on all the beauty that remains. As a foreigner whose only introduction to home turf invasion were the attacks of September 11th, it took some time to process what this country has been through and how they have survived with kindness, style and grace. It could explain why there is a national affection for a good party and dancing and drinking into the early hours of morning is commonplace. The night I went to the dance club I felt 22 years old until dawn assaulted that fabricated reality and I awoke later in the day to accurately feel every bit of my 33 years, give and don’t take 10.
I happened to be in Beirut at a very unique time in their political history – there is no president in office; that means none, nada, zilch – gone fishing – be back in spring – better luck next time. The standstill can be felt among the residents who are, understandably, cautious to make new business endeavors before this “minor” issue gets resolved. While walking to Downtown on one of my first days there, before I knew any of the current events, I happened to see a billboard advertising a Lebanese art fair and below the sign was a parking lot full of tents. I was excited to see some local crafts but as I approached all I saw were men and lots of hanging laundry. “Hmmm,” I thought, “Why are these artisans selling their laundry?” It wasn’t until later that I learned I walked right through Hezbollah protest territory in search of some local culture; I guess I got it just not in the form of art!
I met Tania at the Port View Hotel, a family-run business in the happening neighborhood of Gemmayze, and we hit it off right away. It wasn’t because she was the only woman I had a conversation with in more than a month, it was because we were kindred explorers sharing a passion for the unknown. It was way more refreshing to have female companionship than it was to drink the local Almaza beer, but then again, it was nice to have both. Tania would take me to great sights outside of the city (Lady of Lebanon, Byblos) and then we would end our evening at a seaside restaurant, sipping beer or local Lebanese wine, while she told me wild stories of her days as a flight attendant for Middle East Air or taking a job as an Arabic-English translator in war torn Fellujah. I stayed longer than planned, a trend I seem to be starting with myself, to get my maximum dose of the female companionship - cold beer combo before heading back to Syria where the only excitement at 4 a.m is the wake–up call to pray.

April 17, 2008

Damascus, Syria

Coming from the desert and then Amman, at first, Damascus seemed a little overwhelming. Or perhaps it was just overwhelming to get there; traveling by service taxi on a Friday, which is the weekly Muslim gathering day much like the Christian Sunday, I had to wait for the five car seats to fill before leaving and the journey proved to be a test of patience (or an opportunity to catch up on my book – my glass is half full). So even though Damascus is only about three hours from Amman (depends on border procedure, which in my case went smooth), it took me eight. On the way passed a road sign that had written on it “Damascus” with an arrow pointing straight and “Iraq” with an arrow pointing to the right. Although it would have been nice to say hi to some Americans, as I have met only one on on my travels so far, I am glad we followed the arrow straight (and I am not one to usually say that); straight into Damascus which was brimming with lots of people, lights and activity.
After spending the first part of the next day catching up on errands (washing my clothes, posting photos and bringing the broken camera into the shop) I set out toward Old Damascus in the rich, late afternoon light with nothing but a few bucks and my camera in hand. It took me a while to work through the psychology of military presence and picture taking after hearing too many urban legends of how other traveler’s had gotten their camera’s confiscated, but as my comfort grew stronger, I became a snapoholic; trying in vain to capture the vibrancy of an ancient marketplace that sells everything from, well, everything to things you never even knew existed. I was approached at the Umayyad Mosque (where John the Baptist’s head is buried) by a really sweet university student, Mohammed, trying to practice his English. We became immediate friends and bartered the relationship into teacher for tour guide for the next three days. In fact, the official English teachers tell students to find tourists to converse with and after spending some time with Mohammed I can support this advice – his language skills improved tenfold. We wandered around for hours on the pedestrian-only streets of which were narrow, colorful and packed with vendors and shoppers. There is a small passageway that connects the Muslim and Christian section of Old Damascus and one can go from predominately veiled women and tea shops to unveiled, western-styled women and bars in under five minutes.
Damascus is a great city that is surrounded by lush green farmland and desert alike. Palm trees line some streets and with Qasioun mountain towering above it feels as though the only thing missing is the Hollywood sign. Other than the super friendly staff at the Al-Rabie hotel who would sometimes join me on my day travels, my social life in Damascus was cemented with a visit to Qasioun mountain, which is about a ten minute drive uphill and overlooks the entire landscape of the city, which when visited at sunset or at night is really spectacular. I had arranged to meet Mohammed, but our plans were thwarted by a slight language barrier and my location unfamiliarity, so I ended up seeing the splendor of Quasioun with my taxi driver, who is now my friend Majed. His energy was so pure that even though he barely spoke English and I barely spoke Arabic, after cracking open some beer while watching the nighttime panorama, we were engaged in conversation that ranged from politics to religion to philosophy – conducted simply with enthusiastic hand movements, a love of life, and piecemeal language. We eventually descended and went to La Roche restaurant which is a Syrian version of what was once my favorite jazz bar in Manhattan where I scored the coveted Middle Eastern prize of an invite to Majed's home to share a traditional Syrian lunch with him and his wife and children. Unfortunately my social schedule was full.
In three days I went from being let out of a taxi at night, alone with my backpack on to juggling social engagements with various groups of newfound friends, proving that the American idea that Syria is dangerous place is just plain wrong. Traveling, you come to understand that people, most of the time, don’t reflect their government. We are all human beings that when approached with an open heart can respond in kind.

April 12, 2008

Amman, Jordan

I think I pre-judged Amman by the number of sights to see (two – maybe three) rather than the things to do (infinite when in good company). Turns out this little capital city of Jordan is just the perfect pace for travelers weening off all the rugged beauty the country has to offer. I arrived a few hours before sunset after a three hour “I’m the only woman on the bus” ride from Wadi Mousa. I am actually getting quite used to this scenario, and while it has never felt threatening, in fact, quite the opposite with everyone offering help, it still takes a minute to get used to the glaring segregation. Since I arrived in the Middle East, women have been largely out of view, even in metropolis areas. For instance, in Egypt, it is the men who run the entire hotel, from reception to cooking to room cleaning. It has taken me some time to balance what is accepted from western tourists and what is out of the boundary culturally. I am not offering an opinion on this, just an observation.
As traveling goes, I happened to run into two friends from earlier, Jeff (from Korea) and Ash, an rather intrepid English bloke who is riding from Kathmandu back home by motorbike (backwards). After trying to celebrate our reunion by unsuccessfully bar hopping in a Muslim majority city with a woman in tow, we ended up, after quite a bit of sign language with the taxi driver, at a Christian liquor store (praise the Lord) where we proceeded to throw a salsa party on the rooftop of my hotel (with the manager pictured above) drinking local Jordanian red wine.
Nursing our hangovers, Ash and I spent a great day in Amman, soaking up the culture (and some extra needed vitamins) and walking the streets shopping in the colorful markets, buying fabrics and oils - until the idea was hatched to take a motorbike ride through the city and shoot pictures from the back. We set out with no other plan than to find the Star Wars-like Abdoun Bridge, which we had rode over the night before and which I fell instantly in love. And so while the other tourists were catching up on another Citadel, Ash and I drank beers at the base of this architectural pleasure at sunset, waiting for the saber lightshow that first drew me in to appear. Riding over this bridge at night on the back of a bike – well, all I can say is -what an experience! 

April 9, 2008

Dead Sea, Jordan

My extra day in Petra was filled with a car ride to the Dead Sea with my new friend, Hamsa, from the hotel Saab’ha. We jetted off in a 1981 mustard Mercedes through a spectacular valley called Wadi Ariba (Wadi meaning valley). *I’m either going to have to pick up a thesaurus or someone is going to have to start inventing new adjectives for me to describe all the beauty that I am seeing; spectacular, amazing, magnificent, etc. *
The road winded down the mountains into a flat desert plain with Israel to the left and Saudi Arabia to the right. This is where you can really see the Bedouin way of living in tents scattered throughout the land, existing on simplicity and determination in a rugged terrain.
All of a sudden the desert ceases and on one side there are mountains and on the other the Dead Sea; the road resembling a Middle Eastern Pacific Coast Highway. We arrived at the swimming point for locals and I waded in the clear water, with a one piece bathing suit on, itching, literally from the salt, to get my “look, I’m floating in the Dead Sea” picture taken among Jordanian Muslim school girls getting wet, fully clothed in jeans, robes and veils. Luckily there were a few Germans in Speedos around to take away some of the awkwardness.

Wadi Mousa - Petra

Making my way from the Wadi Rum desert to Wadi Mousa was a simple car ride on the King’s Highway, which scenically connects northern and southern Jordan through it’s many mountain ranges and flat desert plains. As I tried to relax in the backseat with my ipod, my excited driver Mohammed wanted to share his love of Arabic military songs (yes, he had been a Jordanian soldier for over twenty years back in the day) and prove to me an “optical illusion” by the roadside he knew so well. As the music blared, he stopped the car on what appeared to be an obvious downhill stretch and put the car in neutral – of which it did not budge. Then he put a round water bottle to the ground and it did not roll. Then I put a round water bottle to the ground and it did not roll. Then he got back in the driver’s seat with complete satisfaction and proceeded to ask me if I knew what an optical illusion was.
Arriving in Wadi Mousa at sunset I ended up at a restaurant where I serendipitously bumped into two of my fellow mates from the ferry journey, Paul from England and Eduardo from Brazil, and we added on a new and perfectly matched traveler from New York, Thomas, who ended up being my long lost brother (no pun intended Thomas!). We decided to see the ruins of Petra the next day together, heeding the advice from Paul and Eduardo who had already completed it that day to get there first thing in the morning. And so at 6:30 a.m the next morning Laurel and Hardy set out without a packed lunch, a forgotten camera, and a camera that would soon break, being the first two at the ruins walking the trail of the Siq –which is a natural path through the tetonic rift of two huge mountains – in complete solitude – except for our rowdy New York, disturbing the ancient peace attitudes. Once through this long alley of striped rock, you hit the famous Treasury building of Petra. Being one of five people there – even the vendors were still sleeping- we had a unique opportunity to catch it’s splendor minus the hoards of tourists that would show up later in the day.
Traveling around the ruins of Petra can take one, two or three days depending on how much you want to see. It is a huge valley that has domestic dwellings, temples and sacrificial areas all carved into the mountains. Unlucky for me, Thomas and I met up with another member of the ferry crew, Jeff from Korea, and now I was among two boys who thought they were in some sick and twisted Jane Fonda workout video and decided, to my objection but on my behalf, that it would be best to pack in a full three days of Petra sightseeing in one. Lucky for them they knew my weakness already and kept coaxing me straight up huge mountain on ancient stairs in the blazing sun with the promise of beer after we were finished. But I am happy I had two drill sergeants because the sights were amazing and my butt got mysteriously smaller – of which in our hunger induced delirium halfway to the heavens we discovered and renamed this famous city Buttra (inside joke, you kind of had to be there).
I was persuaded to stay an extra day in Wadi Mousa while my camera was being fixed – which never happened – but it was still better to try and wait out my time there, visiting the Dead Sea, then in Amman, where seeing all the sights takes about twenty minutes. It also gave me a nicely timed opportunity to see Petra by Night – a new program in which, on certain nights of the week, they illuminate the Siq to the Treasury building with votive candles. You start as big group and getting the full effect is difficult, but you are allowed to leave the tour whenever you like, so as everyone sat and listened to the live music being offered, I was one of the first to walk back alone – just me, a huge mountainous pathway lit by candles, the stars and a more authentic feeling of what walking that path must have felt like a few thousand years ago.

Mom's One Year Anniversary

I awoke to the sounds of the birds on a mat, wrapped in blankets under a rock cliff, next to a burned out campfire in the desert of Wadi Rum on April 5th, 2008, exactly one year after my Mother’s passing from Breast Cancer; a ten year battle that was fought on the borderline of expanding education, research money and medical breakthroughs, some of which she had the benefit, some of which she did not. My thoughts on this chilly morning did not stray far from how I had awoke on the same day in 2007, curled in fetal position on the sofa next to the hospital bed that had been brought into the living room of her home, listening to the oxygen machine pump as she rattled her last earthly breaths. Her chest was still rising and falling with extreme difficulty, but, as I was holding her hand and stroking her sweet bald head, I knew she was already someplace else and even though the moment was assaulting all my senses, it was this one thought that gave me a shard of peace.
That day was a passage for us both; for her to the non-earthly destination for which she was intended and for me a powerful thrust onto a path in which I would have to reconcile life without her physical form. This is proving to be a tremendous task where some days my cup is so empty I can see to the core of the earth through the bottom of my glass and other days it’s as if it is filled with exotic, sweet juices I never knew existed. On the last of days, when Mom was still semi-coherent, I told her that it was not a goodbye; that there would always be ways for us to communicate and I have learned the truth in that statement this past year. There was a time she came to me in a dream and enveloped me in extreme peace and oneness with this world and I have actively sought out methods to contact her with clairvoyance and meditation. What I am starting to realize though is that all the communication and work has already been done, now it’s my job to slowly open my eyes to see how her lessons of love, guidance, encouragement and patience live on through my actions and decisions. I am truly channeling her when I am heeding her good advice or taking on a challenge only she knew I could handle, even in her absence.
This very thing happened to me in the Wadi Rum desert on the day before the anniversary of her death. I had been driven in a jeep all day looking at amazing rocky mountains that I thought only experienced climbers were able to handle. The day had ended and our group had gone back to camp but it was still a few hours until sundown and I wanted to explore these formations closer. As I started climbing one of the smaller ones I realized that it was easier than it first seemed and quickly got to the top. Seeing the beautiful view and feeling full of energy I wanted to get even higher, so I climbed the mountain next to the one I just completed which was a little bit taller. That’s when I noticed a really, really big one across a desert plain, and having the unfortunate characteristic of never lacking in want but always guiding myself by stupidity and deprived of self confidence, I set off across the sand in slip-on sneakers purchased from Payless with complete determination to reach the summit. I reached the mid-way point fast and then the terrain got considerably more difficult, to a point where I normally might have given up and started back down. But I heard Mom saying “Honey, you can do anything if you try hard enough- I wish you could see your own potential – throw enough things at the wall and one will stick”, and so at this moment I threw patience against the mountain and scanned for any foothold that would get me up to the next level without ropes until I finally found one, hidden and a perfect fit for my size ten feet. I used it, got to the summit and was rewarded not only with the feeling of her lifelong encouragement but with a stunning view and a short break in the clouds which let the sun stream through in majestic patterns my camera could not quite pick up through the lens. At the top of this summit I placed and prayed over a balanced rock sculpture people create for their families and ancestors in places of beauty. This is when I am truly channeling my Mother; when I think that I might just be beginning to step on the road she had been cobbling for me her entire motherhood. And it is this road in which I have never stepped before but one that feels as though I know the myriad stone gradients by night.
Where I was from April 5th 2007 to the same day in 2008 has felt like a lifetime apart. Without the choice of having her back, I have chosen to live with her beside me. This year I honored her in a way I hope to make a tradition; positively and creatively commemorating her and my passage together through this life. That morning I awoke and let everyone get on thier way until I was left completely alone at the camp. I quietly and in tears climbed one of the smaller mountains with my notepad and, when I reached the top, I wrote her a letter thanking her for this amazing life she had worked so hard to give me. Then I sat for a while and thought of some of the many things we managed to pack into our 32 years together and when I had come to a point of complete harmony, I climbed back down, buried the letter in one of the few green plants in the desert sand and walked back to camp with a spirit that probably felt as light and clear as hers.

Wadi Rum, Jordan

I have taken a break from the campfire group to create a marriage between modern technology used in an ancient landscape. This marriage, typing on my laptop sitting on a cliff under the stars in a desert valley millions of years old, seemed a little more appealing than the one camel I was offered as a dowry to a local Bedouin. Although, if the stakes were a little higher, let’s say 10 camels and a jeep (I’m worth that, right?), I might have considered it being as Wadi Rum is a stunning location in Jordan that takes a day or two to fully seep into your senses. I arrived here late at night after making an all day ferry journey from Egypt to Jordan on the “fast boat” that, I think, had two guys rowing us across the Red Sea into the port that is way to close on a map for the time that elapsed. Good thing I had a motley crew of fellow independent travelers to turn every mishap and delay into a joke.
My international cell phone is proving to be an invaluable resource on this trip as I am able to call ahead a day or so in advance and book some things that make traveling a bit easier, like this tour through the desert with a well known guide in the area named Atiaq.
I arrived in Wadi Village at 11:00 p.m and was immediately whisked away in a jeep that drove about half a mile on a paved road and then hit nothing but wide open sand, sky, stars and dark rock formations. Because the group was already asleep at the camp, Atiaq and I found a tiny cave at the base of a mountain in the desert valley, built a fire, threw down a mattress and some blankets on the sand, had tea and biscuits, some pleasant conversation and then drifted off watching and listening to the complete silence of the night. Um, Welcome to Jordan!
As Atiaq drove off at sunrise to meet the group at camp, I was left to get my bearings, so when I realized I was surrounded by nothing but long stretches of sand and textured, rocky mountains spackled about, I decided to leave the Moses at Mt. Sinai moment behind and climb one, feeling more like a monk searching for a lifelong meditation spot. There was not one tourist to be seen from the top and the view was absolutely phenomenal – I was just hoping that someone was going to remember where I was because at that moment, it seemed like I was in the middle of nowhere. Atiaq collected me soon enough and I met up with three lovely and adventurous English women on the trip, 2 daughters with their mother, and we drove by jeep through sand dunes and a vast landscape that was so intriguing; even more so later, when I found out that the entire area had been under water millions of years ago and that was why the rocks had more of a coral reef than mountain effect. Which , at most times, made them a dream to climb, there were grips and foot holes almost everywhere, so what seemed to be a really difficult rock formation didn’t take that long to reach the top which gave more time to take in the view. And it was on the top of one of these mountains close to sunset that the beauty in this sparse and rugged landscape had finally made sense of itself.
Now I have found another little “cave” on the plateau of a small mountain by camp where I will lay out my mattress and sleep in the open air, dreaming perhaps of Lawrence of Arabia while praying I don’t decide to pick this night to sleepwalk and fall off the ledge into a big pile of sand.

April 2, 2008

The Egypt Flikr Account Photos


Climbing Mt. Sinai

One must just make the journey to truly understand how this experience reaches the depths of the spirit as pictures and words do not have the power to describe it’s hard earned beauty. There is a bus that leaves Dahab at 11 p.m and makes a two hour drive to the base of the mountain. While I packed all summer clothes, my friend Mohammed was kind enough to lend me a warm jacket for the two hour rocky climb in the dark, guided by the moon, stars and a flashlight if you choose, to the summit which, after a few rest stops, is reached at around five in the morning. The climb is done at night to avoid the scorching heat of the day and as you stand there waiting for the sun to rise feeling like Moses, the light starts to illuminate the endless mountain ranges which present themselves in shades of chiaroscuro. Working through the cold, you grab a spot on a cliff and when the orange sliver slowly appears over the eastern mountain and shines it’s golden light even the most atheist at heart will have an indecribable biblical moment. Once the communal silence of awe and camera clicks is broken, people break out into hyms, hold religious services in the open air or just sit and marvel before coming to the realization that after not sleeping all night you still have a two hour hike back down the mountain. Taking the back route of three thousand rocky “steps” provides ever changing views of beauty until you either pass out or reach St. Katherine’s monastery at the base where the burning bush told Moses to take his people out of Egypt. First, I don’t know how a bush can talk and, second, I have no idea why the talking bush would give such bad advice – I love Egypt. And although I’m no talking bush, I say keep yourself in Egypt, just get to a beach chair on the Red Sea in Dahab and take a nap.

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