Community and Unlikely Connections

Now Lord, it’s time to honor you with my last post reflecting on this year’s Uganda trip. I want to write about community.  How does community form? Does it take time? Yes, some time. Bet even a short amount of time is sufficient if there is a common purpose between and among persons. Our community, the community that developed in the boarding lounge of the Entebbe airport, was like that.imgresimgres-1

We arrived, all of us, with the purpose of leaving Uganda and flying home. We were intoduced to each other first at the 4 security checks and, before that, climbing a hill with heavy luggage carts. But those experiences, combined with the thoroughly inept and clumsy handling of our flight check-ins, were each just brief introductions. Smiles and rolled eyes, shaking heads, and arguments with officials, made us familiar us each with the other and perhaps were foreshadowings of the developments to come.

But how could we know that we would all soon be eating together, sharing electrical outlets, sleeping together, and ultimately watching out for each other? How could we know that soon we would be endeared to each other, sharing stories, and laughter, or playing together and holding hands? We were, after all, fleeting strangers.

But now, with the advent of a shared crisis, we were exchanging emails and cell numbers. Even the pilots and crew were invited into our circle. We applauded their arrival and cheered their long awaited boarding okay.

Michael once again showed me his wonderful people skills as he became our group spokesperson, emissary, and caregiver. His temper threatened to consume him, but instead he channeled that energy into making friends with families and individuals. He told his story and they told theirs. With a 24 hour flight delay, and longer for some, there was certainly enough time. But it was more than having enough time to share a story. It was even more than listening. It was the generosity and sensitivity that surfaced in the common crisis and shared purpose. We all just wanted to get home. We were a community.

Examples of Community – Passengers on BA 62

  • Single mothers and families with small children coping with the long hours of waiting and being offered helping hands from stranger caregivers.
  • Little girls from different parts of the world becoming fast friends.
  • Strangers, now friends, sleeping next to each other on hard airport floors.
  • Card games and “wadded up paper” soccer games in the jet bridges or boarding tunnels.
  • Group comaraderie and protection on packed tour buses.
  • Exceptions by airport staff as passengers advocated and intervened in behalf of one another.
  • Cooperative efforts, forfeited places in line.

No more “every man for himself.”

Let’s do this “all for one, and one for all” instead.

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Woke up from my day sleep at 1:30 pm. My big breakfast had settled well and quickly put me in dreamland after 24 hours of travel and airport waiting. It was the adjectives that woke me. As I lay in the luxurious penthouse room throne bed and gazed on the spectacular view of Lake Victoria there was no more sleep. My eyes wondered to the royal African window coverings, the dramatic African light fixtures and the intricate original watercolors, five of them. How would I describe this setting? What adjectives would I use?

Earlier, lying on the floor in the Entebbe Airport, I kept thinking – SERIOUSLY and asking, SERIOUSLY? You don’t really mean you are taking all 300+ of us to a hotel for the night and day? You don’t really mean we have to re-claim our luggage, board massive busses, and be taken to parts unknown. SERIOUSLY? And do you really mean that we have to go back through entry customs and then in 24 hours we have to go back with our 9 pieces of luggage and 6 carry-ons through 4 security points. SERIOUSLY?

So, shortly it will be time to have a real shower – and dress for lunch/dinner. I am planning to order from the menu something non-African and scrumptious. I may be dreaming but this is after all a luxury hotel. And perhaps I will find a “grand” gift shop. Of course it will not compare to the gift shop at the Chobe Safari Lodge in Murchison Falls National Forest And it will not compare to the friendly giraffes I visited along the way, or the monkeys, gazelle, Kob elk, water buffalo, and hippos I gazed at from afar. (Thank you sweet Millie).

My giraffes and saying hello to Hannah

My giraffes and saying hello to Hannah

This Entebbe side trip has been a serendipity experience. I am praying, with you, that the plane is repaired or that we will have a new one. I am praying we can make connections in Heathrow and that we can get to LAX before Kaycee’s birthday party. I am trusting that the backyard will have been hosed down and the flowery tablecloths will have been placed under the glass table tops on the patio. I am praying that the sandbox will have been emptied and that new sand will have been placed. I am hoping and praying for all of that – – – but I am trying to let go of my expectations, and I am searching for the best adjectives for whatever may follow.

“Routine” describing my preferred life experience would be another. I am all adventured out.  “Happy” would be back at home in the USA with a nice cup of dark-roast coffee, my favorite cereal and almond milk, and my Bible study and journal inviting me to personal prayer and reflection.

I am absolutely not a world traveler by preference. But then again, if a beautiful man was involved, I would probably travel the world over, and over, and over.  You cupids are encouraged to get right on that.

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A Three Chicken Day

I can always sleep here. Just now I have napped listening to the African rain. It’s quite

Jackie and Pam at Alpha

Jackie and Pam at Alpha

peaceful and inviting. An occasional rooster crows and somewhere in the distance I hear worship music. Michael and Noah have walked to town. I thought for a moment of going with them, but I would have cramped their style. They seem to find wonderful adventures. Who knows what today will bring.

Millie, Alfred, and Noah

Millie, Alfred, and Noah


Worship this morning was awesome. The main church, the sponsor of nearly 200 village churches, offers services in Lira at 6:00 am and 8:00 am. We chose the second service and we were blessed by Pastor Johnson’s message. This was the third in a series of ‘Christian’s in Business.” 800 or more young and middle aged couples listened attentively and took notes. Little ones dress in their Sunday finest entertained me as they stared at the “Mono” or “Mazunga.” I won some smiles but mostly my white skin was a puzzle to unfamiliar eyes.




Yesterday morning we headed early to Otwal. The long difficult ride pressed on me and I considered this might be my last visit with these precious people. I reasoned that the expense of my travel would prohibit future trips and I questioned the wisdom of continuing to come alone. Having Michael and Noah here with me this year has been such a blessing. Still I long to share this trip with my hubby and I find myself depressed – unable to leave that yearning behind.

Sometimes, however, God changes my thinking. He lifts me from melancholy to rejoicing. Yesterday he used the situation of a mother’s response to hearing her own story read aloud. We had come to Otwal to spend time with our research participants as they gathered from their villages. Our task was to have each of the 9 women confirm the accuracy of their transcribed stories. This is the research practice of “member checking” and we are happy to have successfully accomplished it.

The women gather.  Pastor Moses is highly regarded.

The women gather. Pastor Moses is highly regarded.

As we gave one mother her own copy of the transcript, she reported that she would keep it always, that she would hang it on the wall in her hut, and that someday her grandchildren would read it. I realized at that moment that we had given her a treasure. She also told us that she had believed, in her mid-30’s, that she was too old to learn anymore. But, she said, the experience of learning to write her name (offered at the women’s conference) had now encouraged her to start attending the Sunday afternoon classes for adult reading and writing. Was it possible we had changed the course of her life? I choked up and struggled to restrain my sobs. God is so good. Once again he has shown me that “my life is not all about me” and I know I must return.

It was truly a 3 chicken day. My depression was gone. My joy was overflowing and it seemed quite appropriate that we would travel back to Lira with 3 chickens packed in the rear of the vehicle. A gift of a chicken is a celebration of gratitude and here we were with 3. Noah amused himself with monitoring the chicken fights. We stopped at the Shangri-La that is Otiniwa and enjoyed ice cream. We ended our day with reflection and another wonderful long talk about these amazing people, our teachers for this time in our lives.

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Welcome Honored Guests

The ladies, children, and infants from Otwal left yesterday to return home. There were 30 of them in a cow truck or “Diana Lory” with side railing. They piled into the cab, and into the bed of the truck, seated and standing, and hanging onto the railing. The travel took them over rough roads and bush trails. They were, for certain, knocked and jostled, rocked and banged. When the rain came they were covered with a large tarp. Upon arrival they were welcomed back to the village with fan fare and celebration. They are the honored ones chosen to travel to a ladies conference at Alpha in Lira, our conference.

DSCN0462 DSCN0463 DSCN0464


My friend Alice gets an easier ride in the cab. Alice walks on her knees and hands (with flip flops) and smiles all the while. She and I met in the Internally Displaced Persons camp in 2006. She has given birth to 5 children and is everyone’s heroin.








And they have been blessed. They will tell their stories for years to come. They will share their workbooks and gifts. They will show off their pieces of watercolor art, probably their first experience with this medium.


DSCN0465 They will tell their children that they are smart. Some learned to write their names at the conference. Some traced their names for the first time. They will practice and perfect that skill. They now have their own pencil and ink pen.

In Lira Town, they were safe from snakes and Karamojong raiders. In Lira Town they had food and a bed to sleep in. But home is always the best place. Last night they slept better in their huts and on their mats. The familiar is less exciting but wonderfully comforting. Ask any weary African traveler.

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Field Research Well Done?

Knowing that you have heard from us so little, you may have rightly assumed we have been especially busy. With 5:00 am or earlier mornings not uncommon, bedtime at 8 pm has been welcome. But still, there have been few hours for the Internet. We are, of course, are experiencing Africa in its communities and with its people. The Internet can distract us and steal precious moments of our experience. But, here this Sunday evening after a short nap, I am stealing a moment to share our praises and prayers.

The research interviews were during all the conference breaks. We used a guest room (with the furniture removed) for private filming. Michael set up his cameras and lighting using everything the African heat, humidity, and friendly insects would allow. I will let him tell the story of the wear and tear on him and his equipment. We were praying all the while that the footage and sound would be of good quality. Michael is encouraged.

The villagers had come to us. They came “from afar” in cow trucks and vans (as many as 13 bodies stuffed in a van) mommies excited to have a town adventure, carrying their small belongings for a 3-day stay. There were 13 babies, and 2 very young “babysitters” beyond the 50 conferees.

Sister Mercy holds baby brother Nino

Sister Mercy holds baby brother Nino

Mothers with their babies (13) attended the conference I led.  Such a blessing.

Mothers with their babies (13) attended the conference I led. Such a blessing.

The plan was that conducting the interviews in town during the conference breaks would afford a measure of privacy impossible to achieve in the villages. We were successful. We were not interrupted during the interviews. What we did not anticipate was the cacophony of village sounds that would intrude. Town sounds included roosters crowing and birds singing, children crying and their parents scolding, conversations, and even motorcycle/boda bodas. Millie, our interpreter and research assistant, would lock the gates to prevent intrusions and she would “chase away” those who added their unwelcome voices, but alas, worship prayers, singing, and preaching would necessarily preempt our research agenda.

We sweated in the African heat and could not use a fan because of the sensitivity of the microphones. We sat in straight back wooden chairs and I was sure my aching body would not survive. But, after three days, we are finished with this stage of the research and we are so very relieved. Tomorrow begins the transcription process anticipated to be four hours for each one hour of interview time. Millie and I will spend our days transcribing and checking as Michael and Noah set about to explore Lira Town.

Tomorrow is also Day of the African Child and we understand that President Museveni will be visiting. Parades and ceremonies will be the order of the day. Although the President is very unpopular in the North, with the elections nearing he is promoting himself here. The military presence will be heavy. There is the prospect of demonstrations or even riots but we will pray for a joyous celebration instead.


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Resting on Mary’s Birthday

Happy Birthday Mary Moo.  I hope your day is special and full of surprises. I had such a wonderful night – long and restful. I suppose 10 hours of sleep should follow such a rigorous day. Mary, you remember Otwal.  It was where you and Aunt Dyanne were almost suffocated by the throngs of children gathered around you.

The road to Otwal was hard and treacherous. Many times we slowed and even stopped anticipating deep holes and gullies, even small “lakes” – wondering if we could make it across. Pastor Johnson prayed aloud and we each prayed silently. All of us knew the risk – such relief when we “made it” safely.

IMG_1933Otwal is the setting for the largest (10,000 plus) of hundreds of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps* now closed, now partially destroyed and burned – only remnants of much pain. The survivors are more than that. They are courageous groups of people rebuilding and thriving, restoring their homes and their lives. They have built new huts and brick structures. They have established churches to which they come from the field regularly to worship and pray.

IMG_1948The Langi women greeted us with singing, drums, shakers and “durus.” We were grandly welcomed and honored with introductions. The visit was rich and full of authentic sharing. The women were charmed and delighted with the attention given to them. Their response to the using the research instruments was whole-hearted and eager. We are truly blessed and the work ahead seems less difficult and smaller somehow.

*The 22 years of continuous and brutal attacks and child abductions perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony in Northern Uganda consumed the lives and villages of hundreds of thousands of Acholi and Langi. Most were forced to live in IDP camps where close quarters and disparity combined to create epidemics of disease including HIV-Aids. Many have died. Many are dying. Kony and his soldiers have left Uganda (perhaps temporarily) and have been attacking in the Congo. They may be moving now to the Sudan. But the threat and memories remain.

An African bird just pooped on me. (They sing for some people.) Time to stop writing and start setting up for the conference. Michael will be staging the interview room for filming. Noah is nursing a touch of African stomach but feeling much better today. The two will probably go exploring in Lira Town. I will relish this day of rest and do as little as possible. Tomorrow the harder work will begin.

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It feels like coming home

“We are here!” We are in Lira, Uganda. Upon arriving yesterday late afternoon, it felt like returning home. The Alpha Guest House staff greeted us as they crowded around the van to say welcome and welcome back. Veterans and newcomers to the growing team each greeted us with warm smiles and embraces. Some reminded me of my endearing title “Queen Pam (Pom)” and as always they are treating me like a queen.

Immediately they sent for the local Internet provider to come and set up my Orange service. Imagine having your Internet service hand delivered and personalized within 10 minutes of your arrival. Who says Uganda is 50 years behind.

We, the Pryfogles, are settled into our rooms. Michael and Noah chose the room without hot water. I was smarter. We had the staff take the televisions out of both rooms. Very smart. Noah has been counting and measuring our assorted insect guests. I will probably start naming mine shortly. The name George works well. It just seems to fit. If the frog family visits again they can be named Georgette and Georgie.

The Alpha staff has been preparing wonderful meals for us. Trying to remember the variety – Dinner – Tilapia, fries (fish and chips), slaw, tomatoes, pineapple and watermelon; Breakfast – Chapatti bread rolls and eggs served with honey and pineapple and Passion Fruit juice; Lunch – Stewed chicken, rice, sweet potato, and beans. They asked us if we had preferences. I chose to let them prepare their favorites – it’s more interesting that way.

Modernized hotel kitchen

Modernized hotel kitchen


The reunion at church this morning was delightful. So many of my friends were there to greet me with arms raised in celebration. I spoke briefly and introduced Michael and Noah. They were both good sports and endured the embarrassment of standing before the multitudes. After service, Michael gained some attention with his photography but it was Noah who was the big hit. The children loved his “lessons” and his hair. They swarmed over him and caressed his head. He was quite the good sport and was ear-to-ear smiles. I would like to say clearly that if you are looking for a travel companion, Noah is your man. His attitude is wonderful and his gratitude is apparent.

Tonight we had our first planning meeting with Pastor Johnson. Tomorrow we will head to the first of the villages. Bonnie will be our driver and Millie will interpret. With our travel, the goal is to be back in the compound before dark. It is not advisable to travel after dark. In the villages Millie and I will administer the consent form, a short questionnaire, and the Comprehensive Trauma Survey. Michael will film with no particular agenda. Noah will present a new soccer ball in each village and work his charming ways with the children. We will take lunch and tea with the villagers.

Please pray that the 2 pieces of luggage lost by British Airways will be retrieved and delivered from Entebbe tomorrow. Please pray that many village women will be able to make the trip and travel to the women’s conference on the weekend. Please pray that the beautiful cool weather we are experiencing will continue and that I will have sufficient stamina for the long days. Praise God for such a pleasant and peaceful day. Truly stress free. Thank you Jesus.


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I feel like singing. I feel like dancing.

I feel like singing. I feel like dancing. So many situations have been resolved. I expect to have the full go-ahead from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) tomorrow or Friday. My research plans are tight and ready to fly. All systems are go. It’s all in God’s hands and he lets me help hold the particulars from time to time. I feel more confident and the excitement is mounting. I expect the fears will rear their ugly heads again, but I know that my Lord is faithful. He has an awesome history in my life. He is always present and I can count on him. Many of you have prayed. Thank you. Don’t stop – low stress travel would be ideal. I expect I will laugh loud and shout praises from time to time – The 22 hour travel time is guaranteed to destroy my inhibitions (no, actually, almost anything does that to me). It will be so much fun seeing Michael’s and Noah’s reactions to the sights and sounds of Uganda. Here we go!!!

This is the beginning of my 2014 blog – expect to see my posts pretty regularly as often as time, stamina, and power (electric) is sufficient. Please follow me (us), subscribe, and yes, please keep praying. I will share specific prayer concerns regularly. But right now, today, this moment, I feel like we will only be praising and rejoicing. I feel like singing. I feel like dancing.

Note:  My blog archive holds the back story of the Pryfogle Uganda experience.  Enjoy.

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Catch Up or Ketch-up

I’m at the London Airport with Dyanne.  Not quite as long a wait as I was anticipating having.  Knowing I was so behind on my blogging and “Booking,” I intended to do some serious catching up.  But, alas, I may only be able to write some snip-it accounts of the last days in Uganda and the few days in Kenya.

Writing is truly my favorite thing of all.  I was just telling Dyanne that I don’t like to travel, not really.  I am not looking for an adventure.  I don’t long to walk endlessly through museums nor take pictures of monuments.  It’s people that interest me, people that I can connect with, people with whom I can exchange stories.  And there are people right in my own Riverside, people whom I want to know better, people with whom I want more time, and precious moments waiting to happen.  I don’t have to travel to find those people.  They are nearby and many are as eager for conversation as I am.

Conversation was certainly primary on my agenda with this trip.  As my son, Daniel, would put it, I wanted to be “very present” with my friends in the villages.  I wanted to commune with them and embrace them.  I wanted to laugh with them and cry with them.  I wanted to hold their new child, or see their new church hut, or dance with them in worship.  I went to see people, not places.  I am not a traveler.

But, I have been on a safari, a journey, and I have traveled extensively over difficult and treacherous roads and I am near the end of that journey.  I prayed for more visits to the villages – there had not been as many trips to the villages as I had wanted.  So, my last two days in Northern Uganda were filled with visits to villages in the Dokulo District.  I enjoyed wonderful moments with Pastor Stephen and his church leaders and with his wife and the village women.  I was so blessed by the congregation at Pastor Tom’s village.  In each setting the church hut was the highlight as the villagers presented this temporary building as one would show off their just completed dream home.  Their love for worship translated into a love for the place they would gather to worship. I was directed to a plastic chair placed at an elevated level of the clay floor.  I was their guest of honor ushered in with a parade and the traditional “duru” and “agira.”  The worshippers responded to the translation of the Bible teaching I brought with applause, laughter and lots of CONVERSATION.

Leaving Uganda was not the ordeal I had dreaded. I was not sad to be leaving as I had expected to be. The various goodbye gatherings were sweet and affirming.  The Alpha staff and I had a “make-up party” thanks to a generous gift my grief counselor, Zoraida White.  Squeals of delight and laughter were heard all over the compound and then I took their pictures.  Patrick the Alpha driver was part of the group and provided the music for dancing with his newly received “wind-up radio.”   The mother church leadership team met with me to say goodbye and to share their wisdom regarding my up-coming research.  Their council was rich and I am now more confident that my research plan is in good order.  Best of all, Bonny and Millie with baby Bradley surprised me and accompanied me to Kampala along with Pastor Robson. They had kept their travel plans a secret and giggled when I was taken off guard.  We enjoyed the many hours on the road, recalled our good times and planned for next year.  And then we all ate together at the Chinese restaurant in Kampala seeking to do again what Pastor Marion enjoyed.  It was perfect.

Bonny, my driver, is not feeling so well here. But, he still drove the long way to take me to the airport. What a guy.

So this was the beginning of my catch-up.  Still to come stories about word choices and phrases that I found unique and charming.  For example, asking for tomato Ketch-up with French Fries would not suffice.  Instead, we Americans have to ask for tomato sauce, not chili sauce, with our “chips.” The British influence, you know. So more catch up on the Ketchup and other novelties as my boarding is “almost.”

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How will healing show itself?  Will I recognize it? I believe I am experiencing healing.  But, I am not sure.  I don’t know what healing from grief looks like.  I don’t know what to watch for.  Below is some of what I have written in the BOOK about my own healing.

When young widow, Nancy Howell, writes about her grief in, she describes herself as “bent, not broken.”  I, on the other hand am broken beyond repair.  I am broken and I don’t expect to be whole until the Lord’s return.  I take my husband’s death as a horrible assault on my person.  I cannot be whole when half of me is gone away.  I am only a portion of myself.  The years that were ours have been made bitter-sweet memories.  I cannot anticipate growing old with him. We cannot hold each other.  I cannot hear his voice.  Soon I won’t remember his voice.  This aloneness is very ugly.  This brokenness is very painful.  The aching abides.  It will not leave.

But, I know the Lord is healing me.  Still in ways the treatment is more severe than the disease.  The waiting is the hardest.  Like my sister Dyanne, I have addressed my grief and it’s agonizing pain with continual business and activity.  At home, immersed in my doctoral studies and additionally focused on course development and instruction for CBU, I have found myself sufficiently distracted by those activities and then consoled by friendships, grief support and my abiding companion, Mr. Television.  With these distractions and this companion I have felt less alone.  But here in Uganda there has been so much waiting, so much idle time, so much alone time.  My village trips have been entirely too infrequent.

Lord, have you ordained this time for my healing, for a convalescing of sorts?  Oswald Chambers calls it “inspired waiting,” as he speaks to the passage Habakkuk 2:1-2.  I am instructed to get upon this tower with the Lord and watch and wait.  “Waiting means standing under, in active strength, enduring until the answer comes.”  So meanwhile here, waiting on the Lord, I will seek the answers and learn the lessons he is teaching me: scheduling lessons; program lessons; research lessons; and communication lessons.  In Jesus I will actively wait and understand his direction clearly.

Thinking of my life with my husband, I must thank the Lord for sweet memories all the way through.  Thank you Lord for little regret.  Thank you for so many years.  But the years were too short and I feel like there was not enough time.  I am so very drawn to the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn.  The passages from the scripture are thoroughly explored there and expounded upon.  In that text I find a promise of more time, a promise full of hope.  I believe I will hold my husband again and this time I will not be forced to let go.

Yes, I know the Lord is healing me.  There’s healing when I worship; there’s healing when I pray; there’s healing when I write; there’s healing when I talk; there’s healing when I see a child; and when I embrace a joyful soul or console a broken soul; there’s healing in a touch; and there’s healing in a dream.  In all of these I find healing, but still the pain abides.  Why do I find myself so “me” focused?  Why can’t I leave myself in your arms, Lord, and then move toward others?  Although the pain will continue, it will not consume me.  Even though the waves of grief may come and leave me breathless, I have not drowned, I do not drown, and I will not drown.  I will breath again and I will frolic again defiantly in the rising waves.

Just now my friend Betty came again.  She wanted to sing with me once more.  She wanted to sing “Learning to Lean,” and to remember the tune well.  As she left to take the “boda-boda*” to her shop I knew not to talk to her further.  I knew she was trying to hold the tune in her mind.  I knew she would be singing it again on the road and throughout her day.  Betty has chosen joy.  She chooses joy each day.  I see her make that conscious choice.  I see her consider the pain for a moment and then I see her instead choose joy.  Is this my lesson for today, Lord?  Can I choose joy even today while I wait in my loneliness?  Yes I can.  Will I indeed make this choice? Please fix the tune in my mind sweet Jesus.

*boda-boda – originally named for the means of crossing the “border” into Uganda, these bicycles carry riders quickly to and fro and are an essential means of transportation all over Uganda.  Owning a vehicle usually also means that you can afford a driver.  Few individuals drive their own vehicles.  The boda-boda today can be a skilled driver of either a bicycle or motorbike.  

Boda-Boda – Leonard, Mary and Lisa rode this daring ride in 2007. Pastor, Dyanne and I skipped it.

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