I had the pleasure to meet Else two years ago. Unfortunately my English wasn't good enough to have a long conversation. I enjoyed her special "chouxcroutte" with apples. I am grateful for all she has done for my husband, for the schools and many children during her long career. We will miss you and never forget you. I'll do my best to continu promoting your book.
With all my love.
My first encounter with Els was in the crypt of Chartres Cathedral, around Easter 1983. She became my mentor, since I started to teach in the Tiliander Waldorf School in Tilburg, Netherlands. My journey took me to Waldorf schools in England and Pennsylvania and Els remained my mentor. I will miss her smile, her wisdom, her joy for life and her trust in our young colleagues. Els, I will remember you! You will always be my mentor!
Else was a tremendous influence in my life as a teacher. She told it how it was; whether that called for being brutally honest or thoughtfully gentle, she was always full of warmth. I remember fondly our times by the ocean in Hawaii, speaking of children to the sound of the waves speaking of poetry in the soft breeze. She loved the turquoise in the wave as it was about to fall.
Thank you Else for your lifelong work in the Waldorf movement. Your words, your deeds and your joy will always inspire me. With love.
It's not an exaggeration to say that Else changed my life. Through her honesty, warmth and wisdom she was able to guide me and so many others in how to truly be present for the children. I feel so blessed that I was able to go to her home in Holland and travel with her to her get-a-way to Hawaii! She made me get up to see the Easter moon, and I am grateful for that! She had more energy than I. I will truly miss you Else for your guidance, love and your ability to see the truth. Love, Anne
Else visited our school several times. Her spirit and joy filled us with light, happiness, and inspiration. We wish you all the best on your next journey. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, love, and insight.
Thank you, Else, for the joy and wisdom and love that you brought to me and so many others. This will live on forever.
We had lunches together, and drives in Sonoma County, and long talks. Thank you for the time, rest well.
I had the honor of sitting with Else while she was in the hospital after a fall last summer, in Louisville, Kentucky. Though in pain, she was radiant, and so kind to all who tended to her care. No doubt she is embracing this new journey as she had all experiences in her long life ~ many blessings on your flight, Ms. Gottgens.
She spent her life as a very special child herself, ---and shared it!
Else, you were a model for any teacher. Practical, down to earth and with a love for life. Nourishing the senses with maple baked sweet potatoes, fire-weed honey, good coffee and Dr.Haushka's 'yummy' shampoo, reminds me of you. Thank you!
I too had the great opportunity to be "scolded" by Else. A welcome transformative experience. Thank you Else.
Thank you Else for that good long conversation in February-you at home and me in Washington State. As usual, you filled my mind with new ideas, my hands with deeds to do and my heart with your love for children and your deep respect for all teachers. The world will miss great souls such as you. Thank you for living so long and so gratefully. And for your book! so full of promise for the future.
God bless and God speed you on your way. With much love. Adieu.
In my first year of teaching some 20 years ago, Else was the first person to observe me with my first class. Our connection was immediate and deep for not only was she genuinely inspiring, supportive, and encouraging but through the years, she had a way of "showing up" at critical turning points in my biography. As a true mentor and dear friend, she never hesitated to directly and truthfully tackle the most complex of challenges but always with a calm and sincere warmth which honored and supported the freedom of the other. She most often displayed a kind, gentle, if not light hearted manner but in defense of the children or facing an injustice, she could be as fiercely determined and intense as a mother tiger. Her example and insights, which she so freely shared over the years are treasured blessings which continue to motivate and inspire me whether I am standing in front of the children or mentoring a colleague. I can only express my love and deep gratitude for this remarkable lady by following her example of service and to continue striving to be the best teacher I can be.
Thank you, Else, for your inspiration. I will never forget on my first year teaching Kindergarten I was wondering about being fair with all the children and in your own way (which always reminded me of my own grandma) you answered asking: And is it fair to treat them all the same? And from that moment on, I knew in my heart what to do! Praying for you to find the silver thread the moon wove and for a smooth journey on your way back through the rainbow bridge. Light and love.
Dear Else (or "Els" as we used to call you),
to me and many of my former classmates from de "Vrije School Brabant" in Eindhoven (The Netherlands) just hearing your name equals an instant trip down memory lane! You have managed to touch and educate many people in a way most of us can only dream of.
Embodied Dedication, that was Else for me.
What a gift Else was to Waldorf Education! I met her through her dear friend Audrey McAllen. She was a friend and a wonderful inspiration and mentor. She tirelessly traveled year after year to so many schools. Sending warm prayers of gratitude to you dear Else......
Prayers for your journey and gratitude for your gifts dear Else.
We knew her as 'Granny Else', bringing her warm, firm, words of wisdom, and of course her sense of humour, to our little school in the the Welsh hills ...
We had the honor of participating in a weekend study of Theosophy and Storytelling with Else almost two years ago. We will always remember her no-nonsense delivery of examples of Anthroposophy being "common sense, only more so!" with a twinkle in her eye. We are so glad we got to meet you, Else - blessings to you!
Else asked me a question once that still informs my watching over 20 years later: "Why do you keep asking them to be quiet? They are children. They won't be quiet. Get them to make the noise you want." Thank you, Else for your loving, firm guidance.
Else had the remarkable ability to question skillfully and examine my pedagogical practices. She cared about all children deeply, even the ones in my little classroom on the northwest coast of America. Else knew if she could help me become an effective teacher, the children would benefit.
I resonate with all that has been written before me on this page. How now, my dear colleagues, can we continue the visionary work of Else, for the sake of the children in our schools?
Else was a truly wonderful person and a dear friend although I only saw her a few times when she came to advise us at the Holywood Steiner School. Her stories were an inspiration and it was always a real treat when she came to us although she could be quite formidable as maybe anyone with her dedication, care of children and knowledge of education can be. All our love to her for her further journey and our thanks for the riches of wisdom and the merry conversations she gave.
She had much good and useful advice for the language teacher and was my mentor for several years. I had the pleasure of taking her out to dinner and helping her shop for lavender oil, which she was fond of. She was not impressed with me my first year of teaching. I applied her advice and the next year she found me much improved. When you got a complement from Else - you knew it was deserved. I will miss her very much and still apply her images and her instruction to always include a moment of laughter in every lesson.
Else came to my classroom during my toughest year of teaching, and was like a stairwell for me- offering solid steps toward clarity. Over the years we became friends, and now I most often reflect on the moments we shared together in the natural world. She and I took a camper along the California coast for a week, and she would savor the scenery just as delightedly as she savored her oft-held little cup of Earl Grey. She would have me stop the camper, so we could watch the waves, and when a particularly beautiful wave came in, she would breathe in, almost like she was drinking it up so she would always remember the deliciousness of this earth.
We also cooked quite a bit together. I often hear her enunciated voice as I cook, extolling the use of "B-U-T-T-E-Rrrr, and plenty of it!"
I send her warmth on her new journey, as I know she did for us for so long. Love to Else.
Thank you Else for your dedication and loving support throughout the years. Your presence continues to live on in every heart that has been touched by your guidance and friendship.
Else, dear friend of so many, you and I also spent happy hours in one of your favorite relaxation activities: car/walking. I thank you for all those simple shared joys!
We, like other friends of hers, would drive into the beneficent hills of the Northern California coastal region, slowly as possible, as if on a walk, so that she could notice and delight in all the beauties of nature, stopping for tea and snacks at the ocean's edge, to watch the waves in which she often saw the laughing elemental beings at play. Sometimes Else would stop us at a stream, to watch the "pulsing" in the water flow...or to gaze at the exquisite patterns of light raying through the elegant redwoods. "Let those cars hurry by, they have no idea what they are missing!" she would exclaim with righteous glee....And when she could not be in the expansiveness of such nature landscapes, she would enjoy her flow form-graced garden outside her home in Eindhoven, or her inside window-shelf garden with its tiny waterfall and crystals.
Else simply WAS the lavender lady, with her elegant and serviceable travel clothes. And what a traveler ! ...who else but Else would arrive for her multiple stays: yet another home at yet another school, with her own special china tea cup and saucer ? Graciousness and yet stunning bluntness when something really had to be said for the sake of what is RIGHT to do, were qualities that grew well in the garden of her soul.
Her little red "Else-mobile" was our way to dash along the bicycle paths when she took me to visit the canals, stopping here and there to enjoy this and that, setting up a picnic lunch under shade of a tree by the canal, conversing or even quietly watching the ducks, and then off to get some proper cheese at the farm on the way home.
More of Else: Drinking in the remarkable azure/turquoise, all manner of colors of the ocean and rainbows around Hawaii, happily taking a little child in her lap for a moment of being a grandmother, telling stories that could spin a spell even on adults, laughing at and with life, brilliantly winning at cards, which she had a set to travel with that could fit into a very small matchbox, laying out rows absolutely tidily for solitaire, and listening.
Listening to what was said and what was not said, listening into the heart of a matter, listening with those twinkly eyes seemingly shut, and then the aha of intuitive insight, wisdom gems that she scattered wherever she went. One would walk miles to find one of her gems! But then the admonishment, "Don't believe it just because I said so, find out for yourself!"
Who but Else would use a walker to get around, lean on your arm and yet also think it wonderful to go up in a plane, or imagine having a travel trailer to ride the length of the California coast, camping along the way? Who but Else could use the simple act of wondering," Hm, what DO I want on my toast today? Honey or cheese and jam?" as a significant lesson on the spiritual path of becoming an individuality who can begin to step in freedom, with the complementary question: "And what would YOU like? " as a lesson in selflessness within community.
Goodnight Else, into your final sleep, and good morning into the starry cosmos, where we are now sending you our loving thoughts, our songs, our poems and our utter gratitude... love
Thank you for being an inspiration and concerned voice on behalf of the world's children. The fact that you and other Anthroposophical elders were still vitally engaged in your life's work into your eighties and beyond made a powerful impression on me as a young person. I had the pleasure of being Else's chauffeur, on I believe, her 80th birthday, when she visited Olympia Waldorf School. Blessings on your journey!
For many years, during each spring and fall, my husband Bill, our son Lincoln and I hosted Else at our home as she mentored faculty at the Housatonic Valley Waldorf School in Newtown, CT. So many others have had this wonderful experience; perhaps some might find similarities.
While Else mostly bunked at our house while visiting HVWS, it took a village to keep up with her. Leslie Lew would arrange her schedule and make rendezvous plans with each prior and subsequent host on her itinerary. Leslie initiated a volunteer sign-up sheet for pre-prepared lunches, dinners and snacks, along with drivers to take her to and from school. Often, one of our best culinary talents, Carrie Reilly, would take over the dinners, and it was with great gusto that Else consumed her rich entrees and frothy, creamy confections. “Oooh, how delightful!” Else would exclaim when the plate was placed before her. When Carrie would ultimately prepare Else’s favorite duck with raspberry sauce, Else would dramatically smack her lips, utter a “yum-YUM!” with good humor and declare it “veddy, veddy good.” Then we’d watch her be at one with the duck, now an honored sacrifice.
This is not to say that the meal preparation was always successful or easy. We inherited and further developed a long list of prohibited foods that included garlic, onions, ham, nitrates, many nuts and hard-to-chew or digest foods. It was a challenge to modify ingredients or separate out the occasional offending ingredient from a donated meal. She loved Thai and Indonesian food and too much cream for us was never enough for her. Yet Else was not adverse to junk food either. On road trips she’d sometimes ask for some abomination from the Quick Stop. A favorite item was Cheese Puffs, which took sometimes several people and several trips to hunt down her favorite brand.
Else had a strong habit life and would rise each morning at 6 or 6:30, make tea with her portable kettle and her ubiquitous bullet thermos, stir in the orange blossom honey and prepare extra for her busy morning. Though she had her own sturdy teacup, we provided her with a china teacup and saucer that was never far from her elbow. At exactly 7:30, her bedroom door would open, and the clunk of the Rollator advancing towards the breakfast table, and the sound of her rattling china teacup could be heard. She would always greet us with a beaming smile and a cheery “Good MORRNing!” and have time for a friendly exchange and with us and with our dog. We tried our best to cook her egg over-easy without a crispy edge but often in haste, failed. As with her lessons with teachers, there was never failure, only room for improvement and we would try again the next morning, with more presence of mind. In all her lessons it was indeed presence of mind that she was advocating. Her ride would hopefully arrive punctually at 8am for the 12-minute ride to school. We had long since learned how to manage dispatching her and the Rollator, her constant companion. We would bid her a good morning then return to the house where the lingering scent of lavender wafted from her room.
Following a busy morning at school she would either have lunch there with teachers or return for lunch at home, then a nap until 3, when the first teacher would arrive for a review session. We would guide him or her into the living room, the faithful arriving for an audience with the master teacher. We’d set out tea and cookies, and then disappear until her last appointment was done. Dinner and often beyond was filled with wonderful, far-ranging conversation. She spoke little of her day at school, but ever the teacher, she eagerly offered explanations and opinion, history lessons and biography that we fully consumed. When it was our turn to speak she listened intently and sometimes offered a favorite rejoinder and broad smile, “Oh, I seeee!” We’d often chat until bedtime, or until the diminutive playing cards would appear and she would either play alone or invite us into one of her challenging games, like “Knock-Knock.” These games, and the Dutch word games books she would carry, honed her exceptionally sharp mind in her spare time. There were many nights that I would beg off the cards, partly because I had chores to do but admittedly because I didn’t like getting whipped so often!
I loved Else’s command of the language and ability to call forth the perfect or humorous word for the subject. Once, following breakfast, I was attempting to return some pecans to an overly full basket on a high shelf in the cupboard, and several bags tumbled down. Hearing my exasperated exclamations from the other side of the table, she looked up from her reading and inquired, “What is your misery?”
We loved taking her on tours through our New England countryside, pointing out local landmarks and crawling along dirt roads so she could take in th
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..We loved taking her on tours through our New England countryside, pointing out local landmarks and crawling along dirt roads so she could take in the landscape properly, always looking for the light. Her favorite destination was a waterfall—the illustration on the cover of her book. With a combination of awe and glee she would intently observe the falling water, and for long moments we would watch it “pulse” and “dance” as it sparkled and cascaded down. I have known waterfalls for a lifetime, but never until I met Else had I really seen them.
During her last days, we were vacationing in the more remote part of Québec, where I occasionally monitored news from home. It seemed during that time that we encountered an abundance of waterfalls, some modest, some raging. I witnessed the ever flowing, pulsing, dancing water that was a large part of Else’s energy and legacy. It seemed to me then that her spirit flowed as the water did, eternally mingling with others, and always refracting the light.
We loved hosting Else. It was an honor and a pleasure. While it is hard to think that she will not visit us again on this earth, I am most comforted by her admonishment, “Let’s not say ‘Goodbye;’ let’s say, ‘Until next time.’”
Thank you for the pictures, Laura. They have been added to the Gallery of reader-submitted photos (see link above).
The Housatonic Valley Waldorf School in Connecticut began a long and warm friendship with Else many years ago. It was through Kimberly Dorn, who told me that we must get Else to come to our school. How right she was! Else was a gift to our teachers, our school and most importantly, to our students.
Many of us took Else to Kent Falls, where she loved to gaze at the rushing water. We took her on long drives and I remember driving slowly one autumn afternoon after a visit to the falls. I thought she was napping, but when I looked over she was smiling and nodding her head, as she looked at the river beside us. How she loved the autumn colors in the northeast!
During another drive ("slowly, please!"), Else and I discussed cooking and swapped ideas. It was such a surprise to me that we could discuss something so simple and mundane after long, in-depth conversations about Waldorf Education and children.
We had the pleasure of hosting Else's during Michaelmas. It was her last visit to our school. She looked intent throughout our festival. She told me later that she could see that the imagery of Saint Michael working through the children and it made her very happy. (Whew!)
I am so very blessed to have known Else. I received profound feedback on my teaching from her, and I know that she made a lasting impression on our school.
Else, may all that you have given so freely over the years be reflected back to you in loving warmth, as you move through this journey.
We will miss her very much.
I will miss you, Else,
I remember you making your own teabags, telling me faith was the light that carries one through the darkness and your vividly conjuring an image of a baby without using the words 'baby' or 'beautiful'. You were a fierce force for the good and I will remember you x
Carol Fegte and I experienced Else in the 90's at MWS, for several years. I owe Else guidance with respect to several students. But...., the way I liked Else best was in Cazadero and up the hills into nomand's land, down to Salt Point, where she liked to watch the waves break, for hours. Then to Sea Ranch to admire Jennifer Bundy's paintings. Another time she stayed in Michael Heintz's RV in Bodega Bay, always grateful and happy, but she needed her tea in the morning with just a bit of sugar. Well, imagine, Else, at age 88 or even later flew with Michael in his small plane over the shore-line of the Pacific and Northern California's hinterland. She never got tired to learn more and to observe. Thank you Else, I will miss you here, but will join you soon, Lotte
It has been seven years since I last saw Els, and not a month goes by without me wondering, "what would Els do?". Wondering is the word: Els was the embodiment of wonder, so curious, so light, so present in the moment, so open to discover.
From the first scolding I received for being late for her class when I was still a student teacher, to the picnics in Holland and California, to the scrabble games with ever new rules (and always with a twinkle in the eye), to the long red stockings 'knit' in the back of the classroom, to shopping for artichokes and hulling strawberries, Else was constantly new. Those almost closed eyes that saw everything, those ears that asked for truth, that pause and slow nod of the head or the sudden head tilt up, grasping of the chair arms and wide eyes when she was making a point - pure Els and deliciously so.
Her relationship with the elementals - and there were times I really wondered if she was actually an elemental herself - and her relationship with nature were inspirational and magical to share. Looking with Els' eyes through her incredible ability with the spoken word was always transformational. Retaining that quality of childhood into full conscious adulthood, beautiful.
Her ability to see the children, to ask teachers the simplest of questions with the deepest of unspoken answers, such a gift for all those who were blessed enough to have her visit.
Lovely Els, dear Els, wonderful Els, thank you.
'I saw the lovely arch
Of rainbow span the sky,
The gold sun burning
As the rain swept by.
In bright-ringed solitude
The showery foliage shone
One lovely moment
And the arch was gone.
That poem is perfect for Else!
Else was a great inspiration. She had a wonderful way of saying little that meant lots. She was also a little scary! I first met Else in my first week of teaching Class One - a real baptism of fire! But she was full of encouragement and insight. I was lucky enough to spend time with Else on several other occasions through the years and came to know her wit and humour as well as her liking for buns and dreadful driving! Onward and upward Else!
Else was an incredible woman...a shining beacon. She inspired me to keep striving, and gave me practical advice. I am saddened by her passing and send her off with love and admiration and gratitude. She was an immense influence on our school and will be sorely missed.
Who else but Else could taste the color of the flowers and so carefully observe a classroom with eyes closed? Who else could feel the ocean's waves from the shore? Careful, full bodied observations were always so true, with each child and teacher, and year to year she would remember each child's gesture and growth. What a blessed inspiration she was and is to us all. Always you will be in our hearts and our teaching, beloved one, as you journey on.Mahalo nui loa and much love, Karen Rose
In Honor of Else
I had the pleasure of working with Else Gottgens while teaching at three different schools and through my continued instruction at Rudolf Steiner College. Over the years Else was my mentor, good friend and confidant.
I was able to impersonate her quite well, and I did it out of a healthy reverence for her wit and charm. One thing Else related me that was helpful in my thoughts on education and being a teacher:
"I used to be skinny, like you!" she said to me. "I was nervous and quick. It took me a long time and a lot of mistakes to become a good teacher."
Those who knew Else later in her life remember she was not skinny, but had a firm grip on this earth and on what it takes to teach children. Else was stylish in her lavender coat and she moved gracefully for someone who had contraptions for her to get around. She was honest and to the point.
In my first grade as the children scurried and chattered I looked at her and watched as she performed magic. She walked to the middle of the room and raised her hand. She pretended to unfurl a ball of yarn and lace it through the trees. The children looked on, mesmerized, as she demonstrated the story I was teaching with just a few movements and no comments. Else showed me the power of imagination and the limitation of verbalization.
Else knew her limitations and could spot them with teachers as well. We chatted about these things over dinner one night at my friend Rachelle' s house in Carmel, CA. Rachelle and I were classmates, and we taught with very different styles. Else had a way of talking about life and teaching so that both of us could learn and laugh at ourselves. Else was a character!
I have many more stories of Else. I will keep them to myself as treasures. Ask me when you see me.
I will miss you Else, and I will carry you with me along my own road of education.
Peace and light Else.
I am extremely grateful for having had this amazing, light-filled human being as my professional mentor for four years. Twice a year, in the fall and spring Else would come to my school, the Housatonic Valley Waldorf School in Connecticut, and observe me teach and then we would have our follow-up meetings. I truly felt like I was in the presence of a sage or saint because Else had such an amazing presence, offered deep wisdom and she could see right through me! But she looked with love, so I never felt judged; I knew that she always had my students' and my best interests at heart and that her goal was to serve and guide. I felt like she was leading me to find my true Self, my higher Self. She always asked the right questions, ones which led me to think more deeply, have revelations and discover my own barriers - rather than merely pointing out my shortcomings. She was extremely sharp and intuitive, and noticed many intricate aspects of my students, and she gave me excellent advice on how to help them. I loved implementing her suggestions and watching her joyfully observe the positive effects of her mentoring.
I remember one time, during one of our meetings, looking over my shoulder - I just couldn't believe I had her all to myself! I am so glad that I had the opportunity to tell her on June 12th, how much I appreciated her and that she had a profound effect on me as a person and teacher, and a profound effect on my students.
I also loved Else's cheerful attitude, her love of nature, her playful youthful spirit, her sense of humor, and her ability to be truthful without being hurtful. Else, I know you can hear me... Thank you and I love you!
Your inspiration will live on in the children for generations to come.
This late afternoon I had an overwhelming urge to visit the sea with my with my 'Else eyes'. Living close to the (of late, uncannily sunny) south coast in Cornwall U.K, this urge was easily managed. In honorary tradition I filled my flask with tea and took along something nice and sweet! I sat and watched with pure delight as the waves rolled in and in while the low sun turned the water to silver and gold shimmers. Would I have sat and 'drank in the sea greedily' through my seeing without having met Else? Probably not. This set me thinking of how many of the things I do and think during each day in the classroom, in the kitchen at home or in the beauty of nature are Else inspired. A mentor with impact!
Reading these memories and odes to Else assures me that I am not the only one whose life has been touched for the better by this tremendous lady. 'What more could I add to what has been said? I would just write the same again as all the other good people who have written', I have been thought on several occasions when I have considered writing my own memories.
But by the sea, this evening an image came, one which she herself gifted to me when I wondered why my life had apparently become so dull and difficult in my mid thirties. 'But my dear, she said, with that twinkle in her eye, 'you are in your desert years', 'Oh thanks Else, and how long does that last?' I bemoaned. 'Until sometime in your early to mid 40's ...' she heard my sigh .. 'but don't worry you will come across many oases' Yes that brightened up the outlook!
I like to think that Else herself has been a nourishing oasis for so many both in professional life and as a friend to many across the globe. And to think how many children have benefited from her wisdom. It is clear you are so respected and adored my so many. We love you Else and quite simply Thank you.
I had the honor of having Else visit my class for four days of observations, followed by amazing conversation just a few years ago. I had never met her before and I never had an opportunity to see her again after that time. What an incredible person, one who can have such an impact in only four days. I think of her often and have relied on her wise words on so many occasions in the classroom. Her wisdom, love and inspiration lives on through us all, and through each child we touch. I hope my teaching will always honor her. Thank you, Else, for four days and a lifetime of wisdom!
In this time when the veil between the worlds is so thin, I am thinking and thinking of you, Els. Your generous gifts of knowledge--of a certain kind of spiritual tolerance as you taught so many of us to be better teachers and better mentors will live brightly in me as long as I live (brightly). I hope all is clear to you now, and that there are oceans and skies aplenty to spray and shine on your soul.
In 2001, when I was a brand new Waldorf teacher, Else Gottgens visited our school and sat in my first grade classroom. I have never forgotten that visit. Her warmth, her honesty and humility, her sense of humor informed all of her observations and suggestions as we met after the Main Lesson. Those first graders are now adults and I teach in another school - a school for children with learning differences. But, I carry the inspiration that Else brought to me in those daunting early years of my career. Blessings on her life!
Thank you Randy for enlivening our memory and appreciation of our dear friend and mentor. Else lived in the folds and fields of Anthroposophy and I see her strongly at this time of renewal: Easter. How did she become renewed in her lifelong career?
I remember taking her to the ocean and seeing her whole being immersed in our surroundings. I love the picture of her smelling the purple flowers. Her sense of smell was acute; she could "smell" the energy of a classroom, someone's intention and warmth. Her Ego was always present.
Blessings on our Renewal.
Thank you Else.
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