About her

I am  a first generation Taiwanese American. I love  song writing, writing poetry, learning languages, and engaging in social activism in the community.  Currently I lead a Racial Reconciliation class in a White Evangelical Christian church in Santa Cruz, CA. Though luckily my class is made up of diverse people  in terms of gender,  racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, which means that these conversations in my class help me to see how multifaceted racial conversations can be. My writing seeks to decolonize the aspects of Taiwanese ethnicity, unveil indigenous austronesian heritage behind Taiwanese culture, and to build a chain of solidarity with people of color.

…I feel like (race) it’s the intersection to a lot of things in American culture. It’d be a shame to change  whatever color skin you’ve been born with, so how do you live with it? The tensions with race and ethnicity is that people can feel like they are either, the oppressed, the oppressor, seen or unseen in so many different ways. My work here will be in dialogue with these tensions of race amongst people of color, Asian Americans,  and being Taiwanese as well…

-Esther

On Grief …My Steadfast Friend

lego-cutie

Photo by Esther Lu. Copyright 2017. 

A creative writing piece on a death of loved one.

Sometimes there is the struggle for me to feel grief on the passing of a pet.

I have this second voice in my head that says, “Well, it’s just an animal!” But I know that animals are loved ones too.

With the recent passing of a human friend , I’ve been processing grief a little differently as well.

This is my first piece on grief, a letter to my steadfast friend and sibling.

To: Lego, my first dog, whom I remember asking God to give me a German-Shepherd when I was in the second grade. Why specifically a German Shepherd? I’m not sure I think it was the only dog breed that I knew of. I think I was seven or eight. About four years later, God gave me Lego. A mix german shepherd-siberian husky. Even better! Two dogs in one.

I walk through the front door, with my own stench of oil and smelling like the gym. My human scent mixed in with the rest of the people in this apartment. But your scent is gone.

It used to balance the doorway, your hair scattered on the floor, on the bottom of our shoes, our socks, even our underwear. Your hair was everywhere. I suppose even now that you have passed your hair will still be with us, a constant reminder of your presence of being a gift to us, a being who stayed with us and moved with us. You were my mom’s third child who left too quickly. She (our mom) used to accidentally call you Esther and realize she was calling my name ( her second daughter) when she really meant to call your name, the name of her third son.

We haven’t touched your stuff since you died. We keep on hoping that if we never touch your things, it’ll be as if you never left. As though you only went on vacation. But I know dogs don’t go on vacation without their owners.

Your blanket rolled up in folds, even when you were too sick to play with your blanket, you still managed to leave it messily strewn about on the floor, your space, your home. It is still strewn across the floor, in rolls this way and that, as if you only left us yesterday. My mom says, 我沒有 性情, to clean up your things. Your bowl still sits in the place where you would get your food. It’s still waiting for you, it is emptied. Only your water bowl is gone. It’s as if you are still half there. I only learn now that 性情 (xin1 qing1) can mean nature or temperament, I guess those are stronger words than the just the word “feeling.” I thought our mom just had no feelings or did not feel like cleaning your things up. But really it’s because she has no temperament, it is not within her nature at the moment to wrap your things up and to say that final closing prayer she has been resisting for weeks.

She rolls over in her bed and says to me, that you died too early. I assure her you were a geriatric and that according to the chart in the Doctor’s office you would’ve been 80 years old in human years, which is a ripe old age to die. I guestimate your age to be “basically” eleven, and that that you died not at 10 years 5 months but at 11 years because that gives me peace and something solid to tell her that you did not die early, even though she felt like you did.

I want to write down everything that I know and remember (as of now) about you, but I simply have no 性情 but I know  I will forget slowly about you because humans are forgetful, though I know dog’s are not.

I remember when I did not want to see your death, but mom wanted to. She held you in her hands when you passed on. The Doctor said, “I am sorry for your loss.” I knew he meant it. She paid the extra $55 to have you be put to sleep first, before they shot the drug in to stop your heart so that you wouldn’t feel pain. I wonder if you knew your life were to end there in that room, on that day?

I remember the day you died, I woke up with the song Great is Thy Faithfulness, knowing that God the Father is faithful even in death. Something in which I still do not understand. I also woke up with the verse from Matthew 6: 25-30, and (this other verse) so I know you are and were taken care of by God. He created you in His image. You are his creature and you are good in his eyes (as seen in Genesis, when God creates animals). He cares for you because you are his creation. I rest with that peace knowing that.


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Oh, Father: A Song of Reconciling

 

 

This song was inspired by my Jewish Travels class from the soulful story of “My Father Was A Hero” by Shlomo Katz. It explores the bridges between cultural norms, generational differences of immigrants and parent- child relationships . Check out my page of original music and cover songs. https://soundcloud.com/essiepeach .

Copyright 2016 for “Oh, Father,” by Esther Lu.


Esther Lu

Prof. Murray Baumgarten

LTMO144 Jewish Travels

Mapping through Song : “My Father Was A Hero” by Shlomo Katz. Page 60 in the story section in Streets of Gold, in The Jewish Streets.

This song is maps the reconciliation process of a broken relationship between a father and son. The song is focusing on, the first part of the story (60) where the son feels guilty for running off to different places, leaving behind his aging father. Then every time the father sees his son going away, he asks “And where are you going?” In this scene (60), it is implied that the father and son do not belong to anywhere physically, but they do belong to each other. The reason why they do not belong to no where physically is because the son explains how whenever he would see his father and then depart, he would be heading off in a new direction “Each time I left I went off in another direction”.

As for the father, the entire story talks about the various journeys that his father takes and the various places that his father has lived in. Near the end of the scene (60), every time the son departs he now heads back to New York, but his father always forgets where his son is heading back to, “He nods assent, but doesn’t seem to care. New  York is only a name to him”. This implication of forgetfulness is symbolic because it shows how even to the father, the son does not belong anywhere.

Yet even though the son and father belong no where in the world, the scene shows that wherever the son runs off to, he always goes back to his father and finds a sense of belonging there as seen in  “Now that I have ceased running off at a different tangent each journey, he no longer remembers where I came to rest”. This repeated coming back to the father shows how the son feels guilty about departing and so he seeks the forgiveness that his father gives to him as a way to reconcile with his father and this reconciliation shows how the son finds a place of belonging with his father, every time he comes back from a new place.

The verses of the song over all imply how both father and son belong no where physically but do belong to each other as family. There’s no grand finale like in many contemporary songs, this song represents a map of reflecting, a time of processing for a son who is reconciling his relationship with his father. The layers of ooohs in the background represent elements of the different stories that he tells about his father. The ooohs are mostly consistent and do not have huge changes in dynamics, this is done in order to represent a thread of memory that is continuous in his running memories of his father all throughout the story. In the parts where the ooohs are broken up, this gives space and represents some of the tension between narratives of his father and the narrative of the son reconciling with his father.

The soloist in the song represents the scene on page 60, it is this main voice that has the most prominent dynamic variation. This prominence in dynamic variation represents the jagged process that happens during a time of reflection and reconciliation with his father. In verse 1, the son is reflecting on how communication with his father is dwindling and how they seem to speak only through silence, this silence is forged by his father’s slipping memory, and slipping trains of thought when they are in each other’s presence as seen where the son attempts to help his father remember, “I try to draw him on, to reestablish the thread of his thought”. In the silence of where his father’s memories are wandering, the son is searching for a way to connect with his father.

Even though verse 1 is focused on page 60, one of the lines “This my prayer to you, I know not” is a reference to (65) of the story where the son talks about how his father knows that God hears the mumbling and silence of a prayerful spirit, even when the words spoken by the person praying is not clear to the human mind. This reference is included in verse 1 because I imagined the son praying a prayer to his father and although his father may not be able to fully grasp the words that his son is speaking due to his memory loss, the spirit of his son attempting to communicate with his father is still there.

In verse 2, is a nod to the stories (throughout “My Father Was a Hero) that his father tells the son or in another sense how the son remembers the stories of his father. In the stories of his father, his father is often known to be the hero, but is not acknowledged fully as a hero by society. This verse was important to include because these stories connect the son to the father in how even though in old age the father can no longer really speak to his son, the son remembers and spiritually communicates with his father through the semblance of story telling.

The chorus represents the father’s point of view of trying to communicate with his son as shown on page 60, where his father is always asking “And where are you going”?  Towards the end of the scene the father never quite remembers where his son is going to, but in his attempt to ask his son this question “And where are you going” it shows the desire of the father to want to communicate and speak with love and concern to his son. The line in the chorus, “No place I belong not found” shows how the father does not feel any sense of belonging in the world, this sense of not belonging comes from the line (60) “The gentleness in his eyes changes into a faraway look that reaches across distances over which I cannot follow.” This line shows how the father has been to many places and has traveled far and wide and yet there is no sign that the father has found a place a physical place to stay and belong. This implication coincides with how his son is always trying to go to a new place and find a sense of belonging in the world.

The pre-chorus is shows the desire for the son to reconcile with his father. This line goes back to the quote “Now that I have ceased running off at a different tangent each journey” (60), the son stops going off to different places and instead now is walking towards his father.

The bridge explains how the son tells his father that he feels guilty for leaving him whenever he goes to a new place or even goes back to a familiar place, New York. This guilt from the son comes to the surface as he realizes that his place of belonging has never been in the physical places of travel but through familial connection with his father and the son who perhaps had realized this earlier on still continues to run off in another direction up until the point where his father is losing his memory. In the bridge the son comes to realize that he finds his place of belonging and rest with his father and not with anything else. This realization from the son is seen through a reflection, “Now that I (the son) have ceased running off at a different tangent each journey, he (the father) no longer remembers where I came to rest” (60). In this process of reflection, it is shown that the place of rest for the son is with his father, this rest always comes after the vast travels of the son.

What should be included in map:

What should be included in this mapping son, is perhaps a time frame of when the son realizes his lost connection with his father. Also, where in his travels does the son realize that he belongs to his father? Where and when does his father realize that he does not belong to any physical place in the world?

Verse 1

Gm                                              Bb

Oh father where, where are you now?

Gm                              Dm

I see your face in the clouds

Gm                                  Dm

This my prayer to you, I know not

Gm                        Dm

My silent sounds, the breathing,

Bb

silent words are speaking

Verse 2

Gm                          Bb

Silent saint, silent hero

C                      Bb

Worthy to be found

Dm                Am

Never seen, never risen

Gm                             Am

Disappearing into the sound

PreChorus:

Gm              Bb

I am        walking

Gm                Bb

Towards my father

Chorus:

Bb                          C

Where are you going?

Dm                    Bb

Where are you now?

C                     Am

My memories fading

Bb                                 Dm

No place I belong, not found


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Improv in Our Communities/ Breaking the Stereotypes of Color

 

 

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This was our original People of Color group. What a bunch of beautiful and lovely people!  Many of our former members were also apart of the Improv night shown below. Photo by Iris Mejia Copy Right 2015


Intro: I am a facilitator for People of Color group on campus where we come together to create events, workshops, performances so that we can start conversations in our community about what it means to wrestle with our identities of race and ethnicity, social justice issues and following Jesus

On May 19 2016, our group hosted a improvisational performance utilizing members of our community from Intervarsity Christian fellowship at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The original idea came from a theatre director named Augusto Boal who created a form of theatre to have people who identified as queer work together as a community to solve their problems.

I credit my African American Theatre class for providing this opportunity to write a play annotation on this improv show!


The original idea came from a theatre director named Augusto Boal who created a form of theatre to have people who identified as queer work together as a community to solve their problems. The first time I saw this theatre performance played out was at an Asian American Communications and Relationships workshop hosted by my friend Maricar. The format for this improv performance with People of Color group was that we split our fellowship into five racial groups, White, Black, Asian, Latinx, and Mixed race.

Each person would have to choose to belong to one group that they racially identified as. Each group came up with a five minute skit detailing what types of problems each group might face when dealing with an issue such as immigration in America. Each group would have their own space to go up and perform and they were to improv the beginning and middle of the plot. They would end their skit by presenting the problem and then the community (or audience) would be given a few minutes to come up with a solution to help that racial group. Then the community would send in one or two people to become apart of the skit and take on a new role in order to act out solution to the problem.

In the first skit, the Asian American group came up with improving a story line where a boy named Marc was trying to explain to his parents why he wanted to major in film and acting. In this skit’s dynamic, his parents were immigrant parents who discouraged him from pursuing film and acting because

they did not believe that was a way for him to make money in order to take care of the family. It is often culturally respectable for the children to take care of the parents after they graduate from college. Marc’s sister was readily accepted by his parents because she was pursuing a degree in Biology, which from his parent’s perspective STEM majors are more likely to make more money.

Marc, then goes to an audition where he is trying out for the lead character, but the casting officials suggest that he should play the Asian side kick or some role that is more “fitting” for an Asian man to play such as the stereotypes of being a doctor or engineer. Discouraged, Marc leaves the audition without getting any part to play. In the solution that the community provides, one of the audience members is a person of color who pretends to be a writer that is writing roles for people of color in Hollywood. The other audience member, plays a white man who owns an independent film studio who offers Marc some investment capital in the independent film sector to create a film where people of color and in particular Asian Americans can be better represented.

This skit represented the problem of how Asian Americans are seen as the perpetual foreigner who may never get the chance to be seen by society as someone who can be fully human, who can play any aspect of being human outside of the perceived stereotypes. Also the skit represented the struggle of Asian Americans even having representation in mainstream or independent theatre,film, or arts industry. It challenged the community to think of a solution where they could show up for the interests of those who would be underrepresented in the media.

In the second skit, the Black/African American group comes up and presents their play of where they are African immigrants from Eritrea who are in America. Their son, Ian grows up in a bilingual household and is struggling with his English class at school. His parents are not able to help him because English is not their first language as well, but expects him to do better than he currently is. Ian is also faced with pressures because his siblings have adjusted well into American culture and with the English language, yet he is unable to adjust into the society that he was brought into.

The way that the community shows up for Ian is that they send in a white teacher who takes the initiative to reach out to Ian and offers to help him with his English homework after school. This dynamic of initiative is helpful, because often times the student may be pressured to take that step into getting help, but sometimes it is necessary for those in power to step up and help out those that may be facing barriers

that are unseen in the classroom such as students that struggle with English who come from immigrant families that do not speak English as their first language. Also, this play presented the story of recent African immigrants. At least in the media, the stories of immigration are largely presented to be about Latinx Americans or Asian Americans, but the stories of African immigrants are not often talked about. This skit brought in a realization for me and the audience that there are African immigrants who are struggling to adjust into American culture as well.

In the third skit the the Mixed race group presents the story of two women wanting to be married. The first woman is from Japan and the other woman is from Guatemala. Though when they decide to have their families meet, their families dislike each other and question why these two women should get married if their cultures are so different.

In the solution, the community sends up someone who tries to explain that perhaps the two women should have talked it over with their families first before getting married or before having the families meet each other. But the solution that the community presents does not actually resolve itself in the skit due to lack of timing for the families to figure out whether or why they should accept each other.

In the Latinx skit, it is a skit that talks about the experiences of two different Latinx families that are trying to get their children to college. The first family is a third generation Latinx American family who is already well adjusted into the American education system. For them getting their children to college is not much of a problem and they even receive preference from the admissions counsel to receiving help to getting in because this family has more money to offer the school. The second family is a first generation, low income Latinx family who is unaware of how to do financial aid for their child going to college and unaware of the scholarships out there for Latinx students due to language barriers and poor accessibility to resources.

The solution that the community presents itself is that they send in “Dr. Alyssa Bercasio” who is a Filipina 1st generation woman of color, who graduated from college in the United States. She is an advocate for the first generation Latinx family and advises the students, resources such as scholarships for people of color and also reaches out to be a mentor for those students because they share similar barriers in getting into college.

The last group, the White people skit took place at Thanksgiving dinner where the grandparents are talking to their grandchildren about who they should vote for, for president. They are Trump supporters who agree that building a wall and having people immigrate the “legal” way is the best way. The grandparents are immigrants from Poland but they remember going through immigration the “right way” than compared to the current population of immigrants who go to America the “wrong way.” They do not acknowledge their privilege of being White in America that increases their accessibility for immigrating to this country.

The solution that the community sends is Jefferson, a Black pastor who is invited to their Thanksgiving dinner and presents with them a bible verse Deuteronomy 10:18-19 – “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” He advises the grandparents to think of themselves also as foreigners who were brought in by the grace of God into America so they too should be welcoming and sensitive to those that come from different places.

The strength of this improv play production is that because it involved the audience, people were able to build relationships in the community by working together to come up with a solution for each play. Also these skits encouraged community members that every immigration story is different and we should all be loving to our neighbor. Also we are encouraged to be listening and sharing about our stories of where our family and cultures come from. A weakness for this production would be that there is not always a clean solution for the community to provide or the problem sometimes takes a lot more than a few minutes to solve thereby presenting an inaccurate method of giving help to the community group that is faced with a conflict. Also the person that the community decides to send in sometimes leaves out other groups that may want to present a different solution to a problem, so whoever is sent up, that is all determined by how much confidence they may have in performing on stage.

Those with more confidence may have a higher chance of presenting their solutions thereby leaving out others who may feel shy but have a wonderful solution to present to the group facing a problem. Rainbow Theatre at UCSC should definitely try out an improv performance such as this that breaks the fourth wall by inviting in the audience to become apart of a play that is uplifting, advocates for people to share their stories and to be a team in innovating solutions to a social issue that affects all of us in various ways.


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To Be Black: The United States versus The United Kingdom

Check out his song! Sadly, I couldn’t find the original music video for this song, it must have been taken off Youtube.

This is a critical annotation (Black Feminist Revolutionary Art Class), of the song “Slave” by Nigerian-British artist Samm Henshaw. Unlike formal research papers, this work is done much more loosely in terms of formality but does dig deep into the substance of exploring the symbolism of his lyrics. He explores the systemic confines of what being a Black man is like in the United Kingdom.

Critical Annotation:critical_annotation_of_slave_by_esther_lu

My inspiration behind writing this piece grew from a gnawing question of how the concept of race is viewed and explored outside of the American definition . This song seems to be specifically centered on Black maleness in the UK. Also, Samm Henshaw is an artist who creates beautiful gospel / R&B influenced music which is what drew me to him in the first place.

 


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Decolonizing the Taiwanese Identity

How did Japanese colonialism in the education sector of Taiwanese society influence the creation of a unique Taiwanese identity that separates itself from being seen as Chinese?

 

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Photo by Esther Lu Copy Right 2016.

This photo was of my great uncles who was recruited by the Japanese government to fight in World War II during the time Taiwan was colonized by Japan. Behind him are Japanese war planes.

This was a final paper for my East Asian Politics Class. My interest from this topic largely stems from my interest in how Japanese culture has influenced my own family who are Taiwanese as well. Also, stemming curiosity on how why certain people groups will resonate with the cultural powers that have colonized them instead of deflecting colonial influence.

As always, let me know your thoughts on the topic or my paper.

Check it out here: final_research_paper_esther-lu_polisci


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What Lies Behind Hope and Blessings For the Taiwanese Identity

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Within the Taiwanese culture, people worship their ancestors or parts of nature in temples such as these,  as a way to receive blessings all throughout their lives. (Taipei, Taiwan) Photo  by Esther Lu Copy Right 2016.

This research paper was one of the first dives that I took into exploring what it meant to be Taiwanese American. The translation aspect of this paper involved understanding the socio-cultural context of translating a poem from Taiwanese-Mandarin into American English.

Taking this Translation Theory course literally changed my perspective on how I understood my own identity in seeking the spaces where I translate my daily world in my own upbringing of a 1st generation Taiwanese immigrant home.

Check out my work here: estherlu-translation_final_paper

As always, let me know your thoughts on the topic or my paper.

Preview: 

Blessing’s Touch 幸福的滋味

 by Jimmy Liao 幾米

 

1 Even after , we did not feel the need to speak anymore

後來, 我們甚至不再說話了。

2 No longer did we open our eyes

不再睜開眼睛。

 

3 We did not even (need to) wonder what the other one was doing or to ask what the other one was thinking. 不再在乎對方在做什麼, 想什麼?

4 Even after, we fell asleep,

後來, 我們甚至睡著了,

 

5 blessings are not aware of sleeping

幸福地不知不覺地睡著了。

6 and as we were tossing in the midst of each other’s dreams

我們在彼此的夢中,

 

7 Our blessings ever so slightly awoke

幸福的慢慢醒來。

 

 


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Reading Deeper Than the Lines

img_3816

Photo by Esther Lu Copy Right 2016.

As a Literature major my interests constitute the intersection of racial/ethnic, cultural, gendered, religious identities, systemic inequalities and how those topics shape the voices of any narrative.

Aside from my own studies, I can be found facilitating workshops, classes, and conversations on race & ethnic identities and how they connect with social justice issues.

I am currently teaching a year long class at High Street Community Church in Santa Cruz, CA on the Church’s Role in Racial Reconciliation for our communities and America. Feel free to read through my : Research Papers, Personal Essays,& Reflections.


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Spiced Apples, pork sausage, egg over rice

IMG_4280

Photo by Esther Lu Copyright 2016

Fried, spiced apples…it’s definitely something southern. I grew up in the south with it’s assortment of heavy foods, creative foods, heavenly foods. It’s hearty meals are what I remember most.

Some might ask, why do you eat white rice for break fast? Well, I actually learned of this style of breakfast from my friend Joanne who is Filipina. Her family on occasion will eat white rice as a breakfast staple with sunny side up, and sausage, which I have to say is the best thing ever! They say in the Philippines, white rice for breakfast is common place on certain islands.

Ingredients:

White Rice (Medium Grain)

1 Egg

Pork Sausage (or any kind of sausage) w/ sprinkled with paprika and salt

Fried Apples sprinkled with cinnamon

Cooking:

-Rice

I love making rice with a rice cooker because it’s so simple! For this, I poured a cup of rice in the cooker, and pour water until it covers the rice about one centimeter over.

-Sunny Side Up

Heat the pan with cooking oil, the oil should be about 1 tsp.

Once the pan is warm, crack the egg and cook it till you see the egg whites and yolk form together. Add salt if desired.

-Pork sausage

Cook the sausage on medium high heat for about 5-7min. You can add paprika and salt for tasting.

-Fried Apples

Chop 1 apple into small slices, so they cook quicker. Heat the pan with 2 tsp of cooking oil. When the pan is warm, add the apples in and fry for about 5-7 min. on low to medium heat. You want to make sure the apples don’t burn, but they’ll turn a golden color and if you add cinnamon, that’ll be all the better!


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Beef Noodle Soup

These are leftovers from a bakery called 360 Degree Bakery in Fremont, CA in the Warm Springs district. Sadly, the place has since closed because story goes the rent there has gone up double. Thank you, gentrification.

I’ll miss their bright colored macaroons. I remember I ate an earl grey macaroon , green tea, mocha with gold leaf painted on top… the store was sparsely decorated except for a bunch of random wedding trinkets in a see through glass shelf.

The original recipe from this bakery is simple but still delicious. Normally, Beef Noodle Soup comes in a large bowl, it was priced here at around 7 dollars. It had beef broth, tendons, pickled veggies and noodles. If you eat in store, the owner would even give you freshly made 冬瓜茶 (Winter Melon tea), a Taiwanese original favorite . For this leftover dish,  I added a touch up of chopped tomatoes, an egg,  and chives.

My favorite memory of this place is whenever my mom and I would drive back to Santa Cruz or be coming up to the East Bay, this would be our stop. Sometimes, when my mom came to visit me, she’d bring Beef Noodle Soup from the 360 Degree Bakery. I’m not sure what makes food taste good, is it the memory of compassion or just the taste? It’s probably both.

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Photo by Esther Lu Copyright 2016.


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