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A glimpse of how God feels…

Thank You, two of the most powerful words in any language. Did you know that there are about 7000 languages spoken in the world today? (https://www.ted.com/talks/lera_boroditsky_how_language_shapes_the_way_we_think?). In all these languages a significant percentage has the dialect of thank you or some way of showing gratitude through speech.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, let me share where this came from. I recently assisted someone with something that they needed. In my conversations with this person, they seemed to talk about everything else, even offering their unsolicited advice about my life. But I noticed that this major thing I had done, was not acknowledged at all. Now, I am aware that some people may question why am even I raising this as an issue. I know we have been socialized to believe that when we do things for people, we are EXPECTED not to want any sort of acknowledgement in return. I have the words “EXPECTED” in capital letters because I want to zoom into this a bit more.

The reason I raise the person’s lack of acknowledgement is because I strongly felt the emotion of not being appreciated. To a point that as I drove after seeing them, I actually broke down in the car and cried. It was in that moment that it hit me, perhaps this is how God feels when we ask Him for things and we don’t go back to say, “Thank You”. In a book I was reading recently the author wrote the words, “God has emotions”. I can’t tell you how liberating it was for me to hear that. We often think feeling certain strong emotions is ungodly and that we should contain them. I realized that wanting a sense of acknowledgement was actually a very Godly thing.

When we desire to hear the words “Thank You”, It is not because we want someone to stroke our ego’s, but that we would like to a feel a sense that someone values the contributions we make in their lives, however big or minuscule. I think this is a very powerful thing that makes our human connections even more meaningful.

I was sharing with one of my friend’s that my default mode in life is peace and joy. Part of the reason why that is so, is that I have cultivated a habit of saying “Thank you”. Most mornings when I wake up, I write down three things I am grateful for and that really helps my positive outlook on life.

Back to the short story, the person eventually said the words “Thank You” and other encouraging words, and we are now living our best life 🙂

Image courtesy of: https://www.deviantart.com/ashpnx/art/7000-Views-THANK-YOU-195048412

It’s not just words, it’s your whole life…

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about relationships and I said to him, “You know, I really don’t like clingy friends”. But let me explain myself. My dislike of clingy friends is born from personal experience. A clingy friend will make it seem like it’s wrong to have other friends in your life.  I am blessed with the ability to connect with various people and have long lasting friendships and I struggle when I have a person in my life who wants me to give them my undivided attention.

When I explained to my friend my predicament with clingy friends, his response was, “Bongs, maybe you should rather say, I love secure friends”. I smiled and looked at him, admiring his use of words. What he said resonated with me because of its profoundness and the fact that I had not looked at it that way before.

I love friends who live their lives to the fullest and who understand that even when we don’t talk every day, we still love and care deeply for each other. When my friend said, “rather say, I love secure friends”, I reflected on that, and there was an incredible shift in my mental and belief system. I am learning that language is not just about the words we use but it is a cornerstone of our whole life! Though reshaping how I see and engage with the world is a life long journey, I am happy with the progress I am making. There are some days I get it wrong, and some, right. But I have made a conscious decision that I will be intentional about how I shape my words daily.

In another personal example, I remember growing up in an isiZulu speaking church and reading the isiZulu bible. The way I perceived God then and how I perceive Him now is completely different. In the isiZulu church, I experienced God as this no nonsense, ready to punish, quickly angered character. Whereas in the English church, God is presented as a loving father, still no nonsense but always ready to forgive and who wants us to love the world like he does. What a difference! My relationship with God in my isiZulu church was always filled with fear and feeling inadequate. Whereas in my English church, it was filled with an understanding of God’s unconditional love.

Obviously, I am not saying that English churches are better than isiZulu churches because there are many English churches that still preach the ‘law message’ rather than the ‘grace message’. There are also many isiZulu churches who preach more of the ‘grace message’.  I would advocate that it is perhaps a combination of different things, i.e. doctrine, revelation and language.

Scientifically there is also much to be said about this idea. I am reminded of a Ted Talk where the speaker beautifully detailed how language shapes our thinking-(https://www.ted.com/talks/lera_boroditsky_how_language_shapes_the_way_we_think). The speaker had conducted research on how language has deep effects on our cognitive and reasoning abilities.

She then posed three questions to the audience which I would love to also leave you with. Please ask yourself:

  • Why do I think the way I do?
  • Could I think differently?
  • What thoughts do I wish to create?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this article, please share them at Bongeka@penthevision.co.za

 

Image- http://www.ethann.com

Unemployment, a great teacher!

Three months ago, my employment contract came to an end and I have been unemployed since then. Between brokenness and ample free time, I learnt a few lessons I would like to share in this article.

Firstly, I realized that most of us identify ourselves by our job. Think about it, when the statement “tell us about yourself?” is posed, most people respond with their name and straight after that, their occupation. Perhaps it is inevitable that we would include our jobs when describing ourselves considering that we spend most of our time working, but this lead to me asking myself the following question, ‘When your job is taken away, what is left of you?’ Although it is important that we do something and do it to the best of our ability as Ecclesiastes 9:10 states,“Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom”.  I think what is more important is that we find our identity in Christ rather than in our occupation.

Secondly, every time I tell someone that I no longer work, the immediate response is always “Don’t worry, you will find a job soon”. I am yet to meet someone who will say “Maybe in this time you will come up with a great innovative idea or start a business”. It became evident to me how linear our education system is and how it has, as a result, crippled the potential of many. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate people’s responses because I know they mean well and before my unemployment phase I would have probably responded the same way. As I reflect deeply, I realize that the system has ingrained in us that our jobs define who we are. I am aware that it would be insensitive to assume that entrepreneurship is for everyone, but I think as a society we need to think differently about employment.

Lastly, we need to stop romanticizing the idea of self-employment and actively incorporate entrepreneurship as part of our education system. Our schools need to start harnessing the gifts and talents of students instead of only equipping them to be great employees.

So, where am I at right now? Well, for the past three months I have been exposed to various events where the reoccurring theme has been ‘Be real’. These words became as loud as a church bell and impossible to ignore. I looked closely at myself and realized that there are so many dreams I have incarcerated because I thought “well I am already here doing this, so I might as well”. But life is too precious of a gift to just live with the “might as well” kind of attitude.  I should also mention that unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, when you do a self-introspection, your weaknesses are laid bare. These weaknesses are uncomfortable to accept but you can only work on your weaknesses once you have identified them. In a powerful interview between Bishop TD Jakes and Pastor Steven Furtick (https://youtu.be/QVGk_jwyBXI), Bishop Jakes put it like this, “You are at your best when you are authentic to your core”.

This journey has by no means been all ‘hunky-dory’. Vodacom still sends those unpleasant “You have less than 5MB of data remaining” messages and I still have to fight thoughts that creep in and tell me I am useless. The lessons, however, have been worth it and deep down inside, there is a knowing that ‘All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.’

Image courtesy: https://shanegarrison.org/2016/08/30/new-lessons-in-transitional-ministry/

 

 

About Writer:

Lesedi Marumo is a fun loving, confident, opinionated, young women on a journey to self-discovery. At the center of her life is Christ and she hopes to live a purpose filled life that is pleasing to him.

Why I think culture is a choice, and heritage is not…

One of the benefits of democratic South Africa, is the recognition of the vast diversity in our nation. Every year on the 24thof September, since its first inception in 1995 we commemorate Heritage Day.

The officiating of Heritage Day was not just about adding an additional public holiday on the calendar, but it was strategically placed to cement the message around total inclusivity and appreciation for the diverse people of the land.

The official government definition for  “heritage” is “things people inherit, such as culture, history, wildlife, monuments, artwork, literature, music, folklore, languages, culinary traditions, and more” (https://publicholidays.net.za/heritage-day/)

Based on the above definition, the word ‘inherit’ stands out for me most. I think we need to look broadly at how we commemorate Heritage Day. Usually when we celebrate Heritage Day, we dress up in our various traditional attires, eat traditional/cultural food and listen to traditional/cultural music. In this “woke” generation where everyone wants to live their truth, I have witnessed that more and more people are “going back” to their roots and attempting to live out more cultural practices than western practices.

But there is another layer to culture, which can get controversial and that feeds into things such as belief systems and spiritual/cultural practices.

The ongoing controversy can come from traditionalists who oppose the fusion of cultural practices with modernity. Spiritually, there can also be some controversy in that, while there are certain cultural elements we embrace in Christianity, there are others we don’t embrace. To some people being a believer means you have abandoned one’s culture.

I am a believer who happens to love her Zulu heritage and I think I am very ‘cultured’  just perhaps not in the way we have traditionally defined what it means to be  ‘cultured’.

A definition that wraps up the differences beautifully for me, reads as follows: “Heritage refers to the things that we inherit, while culture is about what we create.” (https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-difference-culture-heritage-393504).

Culturally people are always doing things differently, culture is not cast in stone and how we define our contributions to our culture will vary.

Heritage gets given to us without much of a choice, (example- heritage of being Zulu-I was born Zulu and I can’t change that). Being Zulu, I have also inherited my language, the incredible Zulu history and the land of course… 🙂

In a nutshell, what I am saying is Culture is a choice and Heritage is not. Don’t allow people to impose on you how you should show up “culturally” in the world.

On a much lighter note, let me just say-Happy Heritage Day!  🙂 Enjoy…

 

Image courtesy: https://www.portfoliocollection.com 

We need to dig deeper into the 99% germs…

I was in my friend’s bathroom yesterday and my eyes spotted a particular bar soap next to the sink. Now, there was nothing particularly extraordinary about this observation because this soap has been around since my childhood and I have seen it in almost all homes growing up in the township.

But for some reason, yesterday I was drawn anew to the words “Kills 99% of germs”. I have seen these words many times both written and splashed on TV commercials for disinfectants products, as part of their winning tag lines. Re-looking at the statement made me pose the following questions to myself:

  • Why are we okay with the 1% of germs not killed?
  • Is it impossible for a disinfectant to remove all germs?
  • Is it true that 1% of germs might actually be very good for us?
  • Why do we trust brands when they make the 99% claim?
  • How do we even measure to see if this claim is true in our households?

I looked at the ingredients on the bar soap and there were 18 ingredients in total that made that bar. Of all those, I only recognized 1 yet this is a brand we have trusted for years.

I can’t recall how many times I’ve caught the flu and cold virus and I know many people who have as well. Yet, in our homes we have two or more disinfectants with this 99% germ claim. I have heard that there are many types of germs and not all of them may be flu and cold causing. So, could it be that these disinfectants are not necessarily killing the germs that affect us severely?

I am by no means attacking the manufactures of these disinfectant products, but as an advocate for Human Rights, I want to challenge us to dig deeper into the 99% claims.

In digging deeper into the 99%, we need to…

  • Be a bit more educated about germs that cause flu and cold viruses and use our buying power to purchase products that best serve us as opposed to taking the marketing messages of some of these organizations at face value.

My final thoughts– brands need to be held with a bit more accountability. We can’t just consume things blindly, by placing our complete trust in profit making corporations. We are in a period where our voice as consumers is powerful.

I advocate that we dig deeper into claims brands make and recognize that our (brand and consumers) relationship is actually symbiotic.  We have needs, they have the services/products we need. The word “need” suggests a co-dependence, that fully serves both parties fairly.

 

Image courtesy: https://healevate.com/microbiome-explained-plain-english/

The back to you Revolution

I fondly remember growing up in the township and attending various social gatherings. In these gatherings, our greetings will go along the lines of “Sawubona mtanami/ sis wami, unjan kodwa? Kukuphi ekhaya? Or uZalwa kabani?” Loosely translated this means,“Greetings my child or sister (former used by the elderly and latter by peers) how are you? Where is home and to which family do you belong to?”

I used the word fondly in my opening statement because the greetings we exchange nowadays are not so fond. I loved the greetings we exchanged in our communities in my early years because they centered so much on who you are and your family roots.

I have noticed a trend in our current society and how the more “sophisticated” we become, the more we complicate life. Nowadays introductions are shallow and superficial assignments just to tick the ‘Yey, I greeted a human today box’ and thereby feeling good about ourselves.

In my opinion, we have lost the ability to connect on a truly human level. I’m so exhausted by social and business gatherings because greetings go along the lines of “Hello, how are you?” Then there is this unwritten expectation to always say we are good or we are fine even if we not. I once said “I am not good” just to test the waters and the person asking me, didn’t know how to deal with that and changed the subject. That’s why I stand on the assumption that, this has become a tick box exercise.

But the most interesting and now bordering on annoying for me, is the obsessive question of “So, what do you do?”. There is nothing wrong with that question per se, the only challenge I have with it, is that depending on the response you give, people will begin to treat you based on that. I don’t like this because people begin to define us by WHAT we do as opposed to WHO we are.

I love how author Rick Warren in his New York times best-selling book (The Purpose Driven Life) wraps up the thought beautifully when he says, “we are human beings not human doings”.  

The back to you revolution I’m advocating for, sees life through the lens of God, it embraces people for who they are; not what they can do for you. It is a revolution that encourages people to simply be themselves and enjoy life to the fullest.

I’ve termed my revolution “Back to Bongeka” and I am in a period where I am rewriting some rules, bending some and even breaking some 🙂 . I live with the peaceful conviction that Almighty God, who is my Father, is far more interested in WHO I am than WHAT I do.

As I pen my final thoughts on this, I am reminded of Whitney’s Houston documentary “Can I be me?”. In the documentary they interviewed those who were close to her.  They shared that throughout her life she struggled with living out who she was versus what people wanted her to be. So, she would constantly be heard saying “Can I be me?”.This was a cry out for her to be herself. To me, she was the greatest voice we were blessed with, but society robbed her of her true life for many years. I always wonder what would have happened to her if she had “been herself” in the early years of her fame and whether that would have influenced her to make different decisions. We may never know, but we can always take a page from her life and recognize that the cry to be ‘ourselves’ cannot just end on the lips but as the word revolution holds, we have to forcibly overthrow things in our culture that undermine the very essence of who we are.

 

Image courtesy: http://sivinkit.net/2008/07/08/one-life-revolution-is-back/

 

Joie de vivre: Rediscovering and repositioning joy

I recently read an article that truly changed my life. The most mind and heart-blowing thing the author mentioned was:

“You are joy. You are joy itself. Causeless, reasonless, careless joy”.

 Three years ago, I would have struggled with this phenomenon – is this person saying that joy is a human state of being? What about the need to work hard, endure hardships, make tough decisions and sacrifices – all of which do not involve joy? Today, I can appreciate that joy is a choice I make (or not make) but it is something already in me and not something out there. I am learning that even through the most ‘unjoyful’ life episodes such as grief and loss, joy is always there, waiting patiently for one to live it out.  Let me share my story…

There was a time in my life when I felt that joy was lacking. The strangest thing was that I appeared to be doing fairly well in life. I was on a great career path and turning into a seasoned consultant, earning good money. I had a good romantic relationship, my family and I were healthy and strong. Why then, was I not content nor fulfilled by my life? Why did I feel a sense of dread on Sunday nights when I thought about going to work? Something was not adding up.

As a reflective person, I continued to think about this until it led me to a vision board I developed a few years back. My personal mission statement at the time, which surprisingly I still hold dear was: “to appreciate the nuances that make people great for participating in a productive, divine and joyful life”. Adjacent to that statement was  ‘Obtain PhD before 30, abroad somewhere’. Eureka! That was the missing link. It made complete sense that this was where my joy was! So I put all my trust in this concrete goal to pursue the loftiest task ever, an entire doctorate. Little did I know that it was the process of pursuing this goal that unlocked greater joy overtime rather than the achievement at the end. Fast forward to today, three years later, I have made a paradigm shift. Joy is not the outcome accomplished through achievement, but the approach to life amidst the highs and lows of your journey.

Do not be misled, this is not a linear process. Through this journey, I’ve had to deal with some unmet expectations of living abroad.  I’ve struggled financially, experienced a failed romantic relationship, fell ill at a critical time on the verge of completing my degree and I still deal with a lot of uncertainty. Moving towards joy took hitting myself on a brick wall a couple of times. When I started to see the light, I became grateful for what I had , allowed myself to indulge in simple pleasures and that resulted in creating joy for others which has become my priority.

Joy remains a childlike part of me that wants to live itself out fully. Unfortunately, as we grow older, we do not consciously choose joy. I’ve heard these statements way too often:

“I need to just get to Friday, then I’ll be happy”- could we not approach the week with a more joyful state?

“I need to grind hard for 10 years and then I’ll enjoy life” – could we not allow for some moments of enjoying life in between that?

“I’ll put up with this unsatisfactory relationship because it’s the best I’ve had so far” – could we not live a full life as a single person?

I am in no way, making small the comprehensiveness of life’s experiences. However, as the author Claire Dimond puts it: “ We are joy itself. And when we know this we can grieve, weep and suffer knowing that all of it is there to be experienced. When we don’t have this wisdom, the slightest sadness becomes magnified and intolerable”. This is an approach to life I hope to always remember. I’ll leave you with this final thought:

Do you know that you are pure love, wealth, intelligence, security, joy and freedom? That there is nothing, you can do not to be? Or do you believe you are what you think you are? An isolated, separate being, here on earth to find love, wealth, intelligence, security, joy and freedom?”

 

About the writer:

Dr Siphokazi is a Durban-bred global psychologist and educator who is passionate about building the future of Africa and her people. She is a scholar-practitioner and life-long learner in the field of leadership on matters that intersect transforming education, African renaissance, organizational behaviour and culture.

My thoughts – “The People vs Patriarchy…”

I finally watched the documentary film titled The People vs Patriarchy’ courtesy of Brownsense. A friend of mine told me about this film and I was convinced I needed to watch it.

It has to be one of the best documentaries in my 2018 radar as it beautifully captures dialogues around patriarchy.

 

Patriarchy is defined as:

ˈpeɪtrɪɑːki/

noun

“A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.”  (www.dictionary.com).

 

I would like to share a few snippets about the documentary without divulging too much because I want to encourage you to go and watch it.

The film is divided into various “frames” or “chapters” seeking to address the following questions/statements:

  • What is patriarchy?
  • Solutions to address patriarchy?
  • The call out movement
  • The mixed feelings around #Menaretrash campaign

The above questions and statements are posed in various focus groups and one on one interviews.

These are my three main reflections post watching the film:

It was hilarious : There were a lot of funny moments, and my friend and I kept nudging each other. There was one particular scene that stood out for me. A guy appeared in the film and was asked the question “what is patriarchy?” and his response, “It’s good to be patriotic” , lol, that was hilarious. Although I understand that it’s not fair to ask someone to share their thoughts on something they don’t know, but it was funny nonetheless J.

I felt Angry: I started having recollections of my own life and remembered the unkind subjection to the patriarchal system from an early age. It sought to control me at home and in social institutions such as school and the church. Even today, I have an on-going struggle and I realise that women themselves, perpetuate this patriarchal system. Example, in the documentary, an elderly woman made a comment that, “…it’s okay for women to stay in abusive relationships because that’s God’s will and He would give them the strength to endure.”

I was challenged: I asked myself a question- what role, small or big, am I playing to challenge the patriarchal system?  I don’t want my activism to live on social media, or in boardroom screenings and panel discussions. How can my activism be real and tangible? In the film, there was a gentleman who shared an example of a man beating a woman and an onlooker watched the abuse unfold, not knowing what to do. He then decided to walk up to the man who was beating the woman and ask for a  lighter. In that moment the man stopped beating the woman. The act of asking for a lighter succeeded in  disrupting the abuse. The gentlemen sharing the story concluded by saying,  ‘there are small disruptive actions we can take to oppose patriarchal manifestations.’

We still in August, women’s month and I am saddened that millions of women in South Africa and across the globe suffer at the hands of men who profess to love them. Patriarchy takes various forms, some subtle and some deadly.

My final reflective thoughts on this topic are as follows:

We need to recognize that there is a big difference between solving a problem and managing a tension. Addressing the patriarchal system is not a problem we can solve in the short term, no matter how many campaigns and dialogues we engage in. Why? Because its biggest contributors are culture and religion and those are part and parcel of society.

In the ongoing anti-patriarchy dialogues and social movements, we need wisdom to guide us on appropriate strategies in managing this as a tension.

Please see link for the documentary trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7G_vbW3mXs

What are your thoughts on this anti patriarchy movement? Please comment below.

 

Image courtesy: http://kdaniellesmedia.com/

 

 

See things as they are, not as you are…

In the spirit of women’s month, a few days ago, the women of South Africa took to the streets, partaking in a shutdown march. The march sent a strong message to the nation, that ‘no more violence, enough was enough’. We witnessed various social media tags saying “#MyBodyIsNotYourCrimeScene”

Women rights movements have heightened in recent years, and we applaud the massive progress made, both on a global and national scale. However, I found myself asking the question, ‘if so much awareness and hype is being created around women’s rights, why do we still witness a rise in the violation of these rights?’ As I was reflecting on this question, I saw something in the book I’m currently reading (The purpose driven life – Rick Warren). The author quotes, We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” – Anais Nin

I realise that on an individual level, the work of shifting how women are perceived, is insurmountable and may not be a war we can fully conquer. My conviction on the last statement, was sparked by a discussion I had with a gentleman recently. This gentleman is educated, successful, wealthy and you would think these things would equal open mindedness.  Our discussion got heated because I found his perception of what a woman is and should be to be primitive and oppressive. Post my discussion with him, I engaged different women around challenging primitive and oppressive opinions about us, but I was shocked by the responses.

I thought all my ‘sisters’ will embrace a more ‘liberated’ view. I am no feminist, but I do not believe that a woman’s role is to cook and clean. I feel both genders can actively partake in those tasks for the home to function optimally. I was rebuked by some women, who insisted that is how things should be. They even went on to say that, ‘we’ (‘we’ – are the women who question things) are the problem in our society. Apparently, it is ‘us’ who drive men to abuse and cheat. Wow! Such statements from my fellow sisters made me realise that indeed, “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”. If you embrace the ideals of kindness, fairness and open-mindedness, you will approach people and life that way. If you embrace the ideals of tradition, patriarchy and maintaining status quo, you will approach people and life that way also.

All along I have been thinking I am pro women’s rights and empowerment, but I have realized that, I must be careful of not wrapping an individual truth as a collective idea. The only collective truth that we should all uphold, is one that does NOT tolerate abuse in all forms imposed on women.

 Yes, women’s roles are shifting and maybe it’s okay for some people to still hold on to what some of us may deem as ‘primitive’. As long as women are not abused and murdered, we need to allow people to live life according to the ideals they uphold without forcing our own on them.

I realised that the gentleman I was having a discussion with, may have valid points and I took my opinion as the gospel truth, but really our opinions can never be used as the ultimate ‘be all and end all’  because they are shaped by how we individually view the world.

We all struggle to see things as they are, it’s a constant battle for those thriving towards progress. However, the more self-aware we become, the more we able to make these small but significant changes.

 

Image courtesy:https://waitbutwhy.com

Hold my hand sister…

My two friends and I often echo the expression “hold my hand sister”.This is like a code only the three of us get. We use it when life surprises us with profound experiences. We use it when we engage in stimulating conversations and one of us drops a nugget of wisdom. We even use it, when one of our crushes (lol yes, at our age we still have crushes 🙂 ) does something out of the ordinary. It has become a fun expression that connects us deeply.

 Though this is ‘our’ thing, I just thought, maybe we ‘can make the circle bigger’ by encouraging other sisters to find like-minded women, who they can connect with.

 August has been deemed women’s month and tomorrow in South Africa, we commemorate this very important public holiday. I can attest that I love the woman I am and becoming. I owe a lot of my progress to the incredible female friendships in my life. Genuine love amongst women is a true master piece to marvel at. If we invest in holding each other’s hands, we can witness great things in our generation.

I’ve always wondered why in certain social gatherings, we encouraged to hold hands. I realise that hand holding is a symbol of unity, oneness, interdependence, connectedness,  safety and love. The human touch is so powerful. To me, hand holding is one of the greatest forms of intimacy and communication.

Hold my hand sister is a philosophy that says, ‘I hold your hand because’:

-I love you just the way you are

-In my presence, you can be free to live your truth

-I will support you to fulfil your purpose

-I will laugh and enjoy this journey of life with you

-I will cry and encourage you during trying times

-I will pray with you and for you so that your life will reflect God’s glory

Sisters, go out there and hold each other’s hands!  Happy Women’s Month! 🙂

 

Image courtesy: http://www.ilanelanzen.com

 
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