DREAM CHASER

As result of a fierce hailstorm and two days rain three weeks ago, our shelter is in need of immediate repair; so we set out to find a recommended, yet affordable repairman. We took all of our savings, and for the first few days, all was good.

Near the end of the contract, we had a rainstorm. A rainstorm with an ugly truth: all of the places we told him to fix were still leaking. Nothing had been done, just a few cheap tricks and shortcuts that will not withstand another day

By the way, we have a lot of rainstorms.

In exercising my right to an explanation and responsibility, I received the very common reply I received from Bandung men: That he has 15 years of experience, that he had build over twenty five houses on his own, aside of countless repairs, that he knows what he was doing, and whatever the heck he was about to do.

And that I am a woman, a younger, so I should shut my mouth and accept the end result.

Perhaps he lost his mind, if he had one in the first place, but for sure I lost my temper.

For the next few days since, we were on the roof every morning, for as long as we can before our duty calls or the rain comes.

Duty calls, as in caring for the cats. We have several that have lived past their prime. Just like humans, some age gracefully, some went through the road a little bit bumpy.

I lost Kinta, picked up from the dumpster dirty, hungry and sick as two months old, and grow up to be seven. In more sickness than health, he was a big brother to many kittens, some see their adulthood and look up to him until his passing.

I lost Freed about a week later. I went under a parking car to get him out of the engine compartment before he become minced meat. He fit the palm of my hand then, he outgrew my arms six years later. He got chronic respiratory problem, but he lived free and crossed the rainbow in his own term.

There were also several babies that we took from the street, and we kept them despite their incurable illnesses. If we cannot give them their entire lives, we can give them as long as they want. If we cannot give them prosperity, we can give them all we have, that instead of dying an orphan among the garbage of men, the rain that made their rainbow bridge were love, joy, acceptance, and security.

Drowning slowly in the quicksand of grief, I withdrew deliberately from the world to catch a breath or two. It’s a risky decision. I know that if I stop showing up for just one day the rest of the world except a handful will abandon our page; but I also know that if I just keep going without a mend, I will continue shedding a part of me until there is none, while there are still so many waiting for the touch of love they probably denied for life.

Or is there really any such thing called hope after all?

One cloudy afternoon a man walking down the street, oblivious of the four little feet trying to keep up behind him. That tiny kitten lost her liege, eventually, but there was another man with a basket full of tofu that he wants to sell for a living.

So there she went, chasing and chasing, until her two pairs of tiny legs lost all their power, and she stumbled on the road.

When she stood back up, there was none.

It took me a while to cross that dense road, because none of the passing vehicles gave me way; but when she saw me walking toward, her eyes set alight and blaze with the only one thing she remembers: hope.

Maybe, this time, if she tries hard enough, she will follow me home and hopefully find her mother, or at least someone to watch over her.

She tried to eat and she learns to drink. She sees others jump and found herself up high. She waited too long for someone to copy climbing down that she falls asleep on the kitchen counter, among dirty laundry, under a box, in a basket.

But this time, when she stands back up, she is never alone.

As I tucked her to sleep tonight, I remembered Moses. He was walking alone and he stumbled, but he stood back up and keep walking, so God opens the Red Sea just for him.

I remembered Jesus. Though He was the crown prince of the kingdom of heaven He walked alone and stumbled, but He stood back up and carried His cross, and God has given him the best of places where He rules alongside his Father.

I remember Miso. She is just six weeks old. She only has four tiny fangs; others have not grow. She didn’t know hunting, she did not know scavenging. She did not know where to get some drink, she does not know where to find her mother. She walked alone and stumbled, but she stood back up, and keep on trying, as much as she can, as long as she can. Now she lives among others, with food available as soon as she needs one, with fresh water all day long, with roof to protect her from rain and sun, with love showered upon her every day, every way.

I look to myself at the mirror. I came to this town with nothing but my person. I went to hell where people are ignorant and animals suffers through one end of life to the other. I cannot save everyone, but I can save one, then the next. I cannot make them live long and prosper, but I can give them the chance. I walked alone and stumbled, but if Moses stood back up, if Jesus stood back up, if Miso stand back up,

I should stand back up myself and keep fighting.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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SEEKING THROUGH THE EYE OF LOVE

Down by a corner of the gas station, he sat on his side, waiting.

Waiting for the mother whose face he would never recognize, waiting for the touch of love he had never come to feel.

George Braille, second in his name, is six weeks old and is blind. We would never know whether he was born that way, or whether a bacterial infection, which so commonly attacks street cats in this town, damaged them beyond repair, or whether the darkness that befell him was a misfortune out of foul play.

What we knew is that he would never have survived too long out in the open, at the leg of that gas pump.

What he knew is that he had the touch of a foreign cat; though it must be not the smell he knows.

What he knew is that he had the bosom of a loving mother, though it was not the warmth he knows.

But if a kitten had a wish, he would want to wish his own mother. If a kitten had a way, he would cry day and night, calling and calling, waiting and waiting. He would stop and eat, he would fall asleep, he would try his best to follow too many different steps going all directions at the same time; and if one stops right before him, he would ask for the life he should have.

He would learn, eventually, that he will never have the life he should have. He would accept that his world is totally different, and it’s not just because it’s all dark. He would grow along many that have similar smell and one day, brave enough to mingle.

He would learn, eventually, that instead of a pinch on his neck, he has cradle and kisses.

He already learned that if he sit by our foot long enough, we’d give him a lift and carry him. He learned that although he loves fish, chicken can be nice at times. He learned that a fresh water is always ready, just a few steps to the north east.

He already learned which arms gives him a lift and carry him on her shoulder, and which other hands who hold him, carried him to a place called “studio” and let him draped over her thigh as the constant clacking sound would drift him to sleep.

He will learn, eventually, that love can come in many different vibes; and as long as he wants to see through it, his life will never feel dark.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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MANY WAYS TO ROAM [3]: LEGEND

On Tuesday, 16:34 pm, after a brief geriatric illness, Ainu passed away in her sleep.

She was only ten, but those ten are exceptional.

If there wasn’t Ainu, there will never be Whiskers’ Syndicate.

She was born from a stray mother, who roamed around my boarding house, very shortly after I moved to Bandung.

Her mother was skin, bone, sick, and pregnant, lured into the boarding house by feeble rice and broth and trapped inside the house to be the plaything of the toddler of the boarding care taker.

Though he was three years toddler, he kicked her, beat her up with his hand, and when his tiny hand got hurt, pick his dad’s flip flop and chased her around the house slapping her wherever it might land. He hung her up side down by her hind legs, he picked her by the ear, lift her as high as he could, and throw her to crash on the coffee table.

There is no animal welfare law in Indonesia; animals are things, not ones. I can only look, and the dad would let his son have anything as long as it kept him from crying out loud and throwing tantrums.

I can only creep down the stairs at midnight, and lead her to my rented room, feed her, gave ointment to her sores, and cried for her.

I told her many, many times, all the time, that no one will ever touch her in harm’s way if she stayed in my room.
I was the customer; I pay for the biggest room in that dilapidated boarding house; I was king.

The young mother, whom I called Amazing Grace, stayed.

Ainu was born in a cold, rainy night, just like the day she went away. She was born on my arm, on the bed, because her mother refused to stay alone in the box by my side.

Ainu was the last of five, the smallest, the weakest.

She was the sickliest.

And she was born in the time when I was not financially adequate myself. There was only steamed fish and little rice, once a day, for the cats, and a pack of instant noodle, once a day, for myself.

She has no hope, but she always held her head high.

When I got myself into the first outbreak that wiped out 30 out of 35 cats under my care, she held her head high.

When I had to move from boarding to boarding, and live day to day, hand to mouth, she held her head high.

As I climbed my way through the corporate ladder, working from daybreak to the next just so I can afford better treatment for the cats, she held her head high.

Years passed by and Whiskers’ Syndicate grew from boarding room to a rented house, she held her head high.

When I carry her in her basket, and showed her to one hundred square meters grassland backyard, she held her head high.

“Ainu, this is your permanent home”

She held her head high.

When, two years later, our shelter was obliterated by a typhoon, and we lost everything but ourselves, I hold her and said, “I am sorry, Ainu. I am back to zero”

She held her head high.

As many more seasons come, and many more cats go, she held her head high.

Especially when she sniffed from afar, I was holding bread, her favorite, she held her head high.

When she was down and sick, she held her head high.

When the vet told me there was no hope for her, again, she held her head high; and hold her life in her own terms.

She walked by herself, like brand new, the next week I took her for check up, and everyone called her: miracle.

She held her head high.

When she lost her teeth one by one, when she grow thin age by age, she held her head high.

She climbed the cattery, she climbed her cat tree. She jumped platform by platform, up to the ceiling and back again, she screamed like a banshee and fight younger cats like a wildfire.

She held her head high.

Though I know, and she knows, we cannot turn back time, she held her head high.

There was a time when I abandoned Facebook for a while, because every story, even when I wrote about a cat’s passing, people will comment: Oh, my cat who and who lived to twenty and she is still as young as three!

I looked at her. She was weakening much earlier than twenty two, but she held her head high.

I held my head high, and cut every single one in my friend list but two, and start Whiskers’ Syndicate all over again.

Then, one after another, we have you. We have two thousand other followers who probably never come, but click then thumb, but those who won’t bother, don’t matter.

Every time I fell down on my knee, she climbed on my window and held her head high.

I hold my head high, and start again, walk again, run again. If I fall again, and many times again, like Ainu, I hold my head high, and start again.

The day she knew she would never eat solid food again, she went into the house. She never climb again, she never jump again; but she held her head high, and take her life in her own term.

The eve of her passing, she can no longer move, she can no longer blink.

I told my house mate: She held her head high, and take her life in her own term. I cannot believe that after a decade, I will be seeing her hold her head high no more.

When my house mate woke up at dawn, she told me: Ainu crawled on her diminishing tummy like a snake to the door of my bedroom, and she is still alive.

She held her head high.

She held her head high and waited for me to regain my footing, to remember all the decade that we go through thick and thin together, and to remember all with pride.

And then, she took her life in her own term.

~ Josie

Though Whiskers’ Syndicate has been around for a decade, it’s only ten years. We have not yet arrive to Canaan. The challenge is surmounting, the sorrow is drowning, the pain is overwhelming; but this is Ainu’s legacy: We held our head high, and keep walking.

We are not here to change the world. We are not here to save lives.

We are here to give chance and hope to as much of those who otherwise has none, and let them hold their head high, and take their lives in their own term.

This week to the beginning of February, we are trying to raise more than our weekly need in Ainu’s memory; so there will be better chance and hope for strays like her, and the mother before her, to all the cats after her.

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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1001 NIGHTS (3)

Let me introduce you to Brigitta”, that whatsapp text read; “She is young and energetic, and have a heart as big as you are”

I wonder.

“And she also lives in Bandung, I think you will be great friends”

I haven’t really started to reply, because I was standing under bus shelter with the whole bags of minced meat for the cats.

Anyway, the contact number was sent in the next few seconds.

I left it as it was. I have guest coming in the next two weeks and my house looks more like a hoarder’s den than a house. It’s not arrogance, it’s urgency.

The same evening, that SJ dropout I came to know while helping our suffering tribes wrote again “She will have her back surgery tomorrow. I am sure she will appreciate if someone send well wishes”

We don’t know each other at all. Maybe he will be happy about it, but everyone is different. I, for one, won’t be all so happy if any stranger pop their smiley face on mine even though it’s just for well wishing. They will have my gratitude, but further step needs time.

The next day, another whatsapp message “Josie. please be sure to message Brigitta. She needs a lift”

Oh jeez, I am a blogger, not socialite, but if it will really make someone’s day, fine.

I sent a message to the supplied number, tell Brigitta who I am, and how I come to get her number, wish her well, and go on flushing cat craps down the drain.

The minute I myself got flushed down by the storm and ran to the next available lodging, I got a phone call from unknown number.

Not quite; it’s Brigitta.

She said she was having an issue with her private nurse, and that the nurse ran away, and that she will have surgery the next day and she has no one. She lives alone and her family members are all far away.

She was embarrassed to call just anyone she knows asking for help, but she desperately need to have a new nurse by the time she is strolled out of the surgery room.

That’s why I was up the whole night trying to help this stranger, otherwise I won’t hear the mama cat crying for shelter in the middle of the storm, nor would I had that chance to climb the roof and blew my adrenaline off to the moon to help a little kitten whose both eyes glued shut by pus.

Through the night she just called me over and over, apparently because no one else responded to her mayday. Throughout the night she tried to give me a crash course on how to be her nurse, although I told her over and over to just leave it to me, concentrate on getting herself some rest and be fit enough for surgery. I don’t feel like bragging about who I am, but I did send her in one of our chats that I am a psychologist and a paramedic (hence please know that I know what I am doing)

Instead of just going on with my heaps of things and bad weather and cats getting sick and need to be fed, I took some time to come to the hospital and meet her. I thought it will be a small gesture to make her feel better.

She asked me to do this and that, each one with an apology because we just knew each other and she already treat me like her nurse.

I told her it’s OK.

Then somewhere around afternoon she told me I can go home for about 3 hours, and then come back to the hospital to help her.

Eh?

I told her I have work to do and that I will do my best.

I went home, which took about 2 hours drive (traffic), get myself something to eat, and take care of the cats. I went to the colony, and straight back home because the little kitten is getting worse and I want to be by his side.

The next day she whatsapp me, but I was scrubbing litter boxes and left my cellphone on the table.

I found gazillion of miss calls when I picked it up.

I called Brigitta and asked her what she needs.

She asked about the nurse and I told her I already made an appointment with several providers to meet at the hospital in the afternoon when I can spend a little time there but she can choose one that suit her needs herself.

She asked if I am going to go there in the morning and I told her I have jobs and chores and if she needs anything, she can just call for hospital nurse.

She insisted that I would stay by her side because she cannot move so much and it hurts et cetera and that she needs someone to help her.

I said I would when I am done and hung up.

I need to go to the other side of town to pick up medicine and supplies before the rain fall so I did just that.

I showed up in designated time for her nurse interview and she was not so happy about it.

I know that back surgery (lumbar) not suppose to move that much but that doesn’t mean she has to stay still like a mannequin. That’s OK though, I understand. It must be excruciating to be all of a sudden tied to the bed, with pain, and no one around and all the people you can call is just teen nurses who are more busy with their own cellphone than attending to the patients who pays their salary.

She interviewed a bit and rejected everyone.

And then with a soft warning tone, “Josie, all the nurses you call were professional with experience. That’s good, but I don’t want too professional nurse because professional nurse means they will be boss. No, I hire them, the algorithm is with me and what I want them to do or not do is up to me”

I start to have a feeling that she really needs a maid, not nurse. I shrugged.

She told me to do this and that for a bit, then I noticed it’s 5 pm, so I’d better go home and prepare dinner for the cats.

She told me not to because she wants me to call several more people, but I smiled, apologized, and walked out.

She sent me messages about this provider and that provider while I was on my way home, with motorcycle, under the rain.

When I unlocked my front door she called. I picked up.

“Can’t you hear my message? Can’t you reply? Answer me when I call!”

Oye…

“I don’t have car, lady. I took motorcycle, it’s raining, and I will reply to your message when I am free to do so. What do you want?”

“There are these providers I sent you messages, and I already called, but I want you to call them again and re-confirm because I want them to come tomorrow and they all said they will work on it but most likely Monday. I want them to come tomorrow”

Of course not.

“Tomorrow is Sunday, Brigitta”

But I just keep stretching my patience and run two rescues at one time. One at home, the others are at hospital.

Every single time she is stressing about “The algorithm is with me”

Why don’t she go and ask Facebook already then? Or Google? They are expert in algorithm.

The next Wednesday I stood by her bed, watching her rejecting all other dozen of candidates, and when she looked at me I said “You need a maid, not nurse. You don’t talk to nurses like that, they have degrees like you and I, they have education, they have profession, and they have oath to stand by”

Her face changed. She opened her mouth, but mine was faster.

“I have spent half week with you and nothing is done. It is apparent to me that you just want to run people around despite me telling you that I have schedules, jobs, chores, and businesses that I want to attend. I allow you to intrude to the middle of it all, and cause me stress, and I have been stretching my patience with you because I am trying to be kind”

“We are strangers, technically and practically, and despite your thank yous and apologizes you just come right back again two minutes later with your orders and I have been kind enough to be your maid free of charge just because I happen to understand perfectly what you want and what you need and give it to you before you ask for it. I want to end it before I gained confidence that you are actually trying to just keep me by your side because you can command me around without pay”

“I am not saying this because I want money, I say this so you understand that it is inappropriate and impudent to abuse the kindness and generosity of others”

“I have life to keep running, Brigitta; MY life.The “algorithm” of that life is not and will never be yours under any circumstances”

If she does not have that pride she’d cry. I know it from the look on her face.

“I have time for one more interview, and then I will hands off”

She interviewed three more and pick one.

She still messaged me wanting to change my transport and my food and whatever bread and diapers and vitamins she asked me to buy, but I never replied. She called me but I never picked it up. I have sick kittens, the weather is getting worse, my house needs to be done, and I only have literally 5 days 17 hours to do so.

For a moment I was a celebrity. Everyone was fighting to have Josie including Josie.

I know it then why celebrities, despite the fame, and all the money, and the glitter, and all, still hang themselves out of depression.

And I haven’t been posting for days because I just keep running and trying to get everything done before that plane landed Monday afternoon and my life would probably never be the same.

Nellie slipped into the bathroom when I was doing a little business and sat beside me.

She used to have my shoulder. She used to have my hi-s and pats. She used to tap my arms and get a lift. For a few days she has been trying to do just that but I just run past her with apologies with food, or whiskas, or garbage, or mop, or working bag, or talking on the phone.

When she followed me out of that bathroom she has my shoulder and I was never happier. When I scooped that litter box Sam keeps bumping on me and I was never more glad.

When I lift those little snorting and coughing babies and when they peed or diarrhea at me I have never felt more at home.

I fit in that hospital, by the bed, understanding, listening, helping.

But here is where I belong: around the litter boxes, hauling smelly poos, and runny noses, and hungry meows.

We don’t need algorithm.

We have each other.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

 

I CAN’T SAVE THEM ALL

In the middle of smoldering heat, amidst down pouring rain, hidden by nasty wind; the human race had gone heckin go, high and low.

By the rivers and under the sidewalk, hidden in bushes, or down the parks; the kitty season had silently crept in. New mothers, seasoned, feral, dumped, stray, lost.

And all the innocent lives brought into the ignorant, merciless world to experience pain, hunger, fear; life that sent them whips after whips until they fell and break into pieces.

Most before they had the chance, some while they fight, leaving only little of them winning the hunger game that will deliver another blow, and another, and another, until the end of their long, miserable lives.

For those, death comes earlier; deep in the inside; when they look up to the eyes of man, but the beholder does not return the love, or the seemingly realistic, yet murderous mumbles.

We can’t save them all.

I have heard that gazillion of times. It becomes easier to say if one said it more to many; though I am sure they have never have to look in the eye of those little eyes.

Try it. Look at those cats in their eyes and say “I can’t save you all”
Or do it better way. “I can’t save you all, I need my coffee”; “I can’t save you all, I have iPhone”, “I can’t save you all, I have this dinner in this restaurant by the weekend”

“I can’t save you all, life is hard so I deserve to have some fun in that bar, drinking to drunk with friends”

I don’t have friends. I don’t have cars. Alcohol is expensive and strictly regulated, I don’t like people banging music and damaged my ears, I don’t like to be packed like sardines with crazy smelling others or those who waved their hairy, sweaty armpits like it’s sexy while swinging their head off and swipe their hair on my face. People in Bandung still have hair mite.

So I turned back.

I turned back and get the first one. A 7 weeks old calico who curl by the road under the rain and wind with green snot dangling from her nostril because it doesn’t have enough liquidity to drip down to the ground. She gave me a glimpse, but she knew it’s going to be “I can’t save you all, I have life”, so she closed her eyes and sigh.

She was mistaken.

I put her in my bag, and walk home.

A few feet away, another kitten squatted on the ground, under the car, crying. It must be painful to have tummy so empty one side stuck to the other with only his spine in the middle.

I pick him up too, and he cry to me.

My bag is full and he was dripping diarrhea so I can’t cram him into the bag. I wrapped him in my jacket and we can both brace the wind. I brace the wind with old cotton T shirt.

I went home; but along the way I saw a wisp of white and gray in the pile of garbage by small river.

I can’t save them all, I have hands full.

A little bit further another 7 weeks old white and ginger curl up in the middle of the swirling wind on the parking lot.

I can’t save them all, I have full house.

I can’t save them all there are ninety three in my house waiting for this tuna I am hauling seven kilometers long.

I can’t save them all, but I lock the tuna in the box, ignore the calling of all these cats in my backyard, and run back to the street, hitch a ride and come back to the parking lot.

That seven months old kitty woke up from a milk seller riding close by. He tidied up his dirty and filthy fur and sat the most graceful way, and he looked up.

But the eye of the beholder did not return his love.

I stood by the milk drum left by the merchant who was busy marketing his produce to the store owner, and look at him in the eye as he returned to his motorcycle.

“I want to buy five packets of your milk”

He packed his milk, I show him my money, and then I pick the kitten up and put him in my bag.

Milkman had some idea that his milk will pour down the ground for filthy kitten, but he wants money. He has life, he don’t save at all.

I kept walking.

I kept walking to the end. For the first time since the new year begin I finally reach the fundraising goal. I have enough for everyone, and then there are three.

I am an idiot. I can’t save them all.

But then I got to the place where I saw the white and gray wisp, blown by the wind.

It was no longer on the broken couch, thrown to the river. It was by the slanted curb trying to get some drink, but his tongue are so full of sore, he can only stare.

He can only stare to the blackened river from pollution and the mud of the rain the night before.

I held on the bars of the fence and jumped in. What am I thinking?

I jumped in, and I picked him up.

I jumped back out and wrap him in my jacket, and then I walked home because no one gave a ride to a girl with old T shirt half dipped in the smelly mud of polluted sewer. People shit in there!

I can’t save them all.

One of them who cried about his flattened tummy died even after I tried the whole night. He has panleukopenia and he was already covered in his own blood smelling diarrhea.

I walked with my body limp out of tiredness and regret, but three others look at me in the eye, just as the sun rise above our roof.

I didn’t say anything.

I can’t save them all, and life is hard; but I don’t have friends. I don’t have cars, I don’t do my nails. I don’t drink coffee and alcohol is expensive.

I don’t like to be with people who spent hours and hours in beauty salon for perfect curl, only to dunk their heads and messied their hair and sweep them on my face. I don’t like people with hairy and sweaty armpits had their hands up swerving and twerking.

So I turned back. I look at them in the eye, and say

I’d die trying.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

The Year in Review, with Thanks

Although we are USD 120 short from raising the necessary funds, let me hold all the paws and hands of all of us at The Whiskers’ Syndicate to send my utmost gratitude for all the support you rendered throughout 2017.

For many, 2017 is not a good year, politically, financially, everything. We at the Whiskers’ Syndicate have lost quite some battles too. We lost lives, and some of our senior members crossed over the rainbow bridge. We survived at least five outbreaks of deadly virus and persistent bacteria. We have proven that climate change is real because for the first time in our lives, we have Christmas and New Year underneath smoldering heat while it’s supposed to be cold, windy and rainy down here.

At one point, we are even close to lose everything. Mortgage were missed, electricity shut down, and food dwindled, so much so we ration everything to only one third of what the cats eat, and they eat only that portion once a day.

Still, looking back at our left side, won’t be fair without looking at the right side. We saved many. Cats with sickness, abandoned, neglected, abused. We rescued babies, and healed the sick. We finally held on to our homes, and restored utilities. We bounced back to live. We are The Whiskers’ Syndicate.

All of those, each single one, we owe it to each and everyone of you. Big or small, whatever the shape, whenever, however, you have to believe me that together, we have formed the best, biggest, strongest, toughest village to ever care for these creatures that the whole world always forgets.

So, when I stepped out of my house this afternoon, earlier than ever so they can hide when the first fireworks boom, I will put down every plate and stroke every hunched back and soothe burnt paws with gratitude for all the blessings that you have showered us with in abundance and never ending.

With every bowl of fresh water I will send my prayers, chanted high across the mountains and down in the meadows, that each of your kindness and every single count of your generosity be returned to you in abundance and never ending.

Happy New Year.

~ Josie And The Whiskers’ Syndicate

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