The toll it took on me.

If you know me, you know that I love to travel.  Flying to new places away from home and immersing myself in new cultures has been a wonderfully enriching experience, one that has given me perspective, growth and inspired not just creativity, but understanding, patience and flexibility as I engage with people across geographic boundaries.   For the last year, I found myself not home, but ELSEWHERE almost 2 weeks out of every month.  Looking back, that was a lot of time, but  I was blessed with the opportunity to return to Europe for the first time since studying abroad seven years ago, take my first trip to Africa, make extended stays at home in Minneapolis with my family.  I also sprinkled in visits to New Orleans(thrice), Chicago (twice), Los Angeles (thrice), Florida, New York (twice), Las Vegas, DC, the Virgin Islands and Honolulu in there as well.

However, after I returned home from Dakar last December, I was just tired.  Tired of security lines, red eyes, hotel rooms, delays, airport food and schlepping 75-pounds of luggage for two weeks at a time.  And more than tired, I felt unrooted, disconnected and out of balance.  Turns out when I made my home an airplane, my REAL home–the one in San Francisco where I sleep in my big pink bed, host my beloved dinner parties, eat with roommates and shoot the shit with neighbors on my stoop–had become as foreign as the places to which I was jetting.  Coming home to hibernate away from the world only to leave six days later is no way to maintain a home, friendships or personal sense of equilibrium.

I haven’t been on a plane since December 4th, 2012 and that’s the longest span of time I’ve been on the ground in the past two years!  Don’t get me wrong, I know that I am very fortunate to be able to travel so much.  But now that I’ve been home, I’ve realized the the toll it took on the things I truly value that make me a whole person. In a way, it became easier to be away than home; now that I’ve nestled back into my routines, committed to community (hell-O Team In Training!) and re-established focus on my work, I very much appreciate the stability that a non-flying routine affords.  In a word, I just feel mentally and spiritually healthier and it shows: my skin is clear and I’ve lost 20 pounds!  

Aside from a trip to Chicago in early March, I’m going to be keeping my wheels on the ground for the next few months and I’m looking forward to rebalancing, refocusing and recharging.  What it means in terms of NaturalSelectionBlog is that I HAVE A LOT OF EXCITING STUFF ON THE HORIZON!!!!  All of the travel time (read: no WiFi and just a journal) have left me with a lot of ideas that are starting to sprout and come to life!  So trust, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

***

Now that said, you can take the girl off the plane, but you can’t take the plane off the girl.  No really, you can’t because I’ve got one tattooed on my arm.
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I definitely still have my eyes set on those distant far off horizons.  But for now, I’m going to zip my desires to experience the rhythms of Brasil, flavors of India and  vibrant metropolises of Morocco safely into my suitcase and pack them away until later.

 

Why I Hate[d] Running. (Repost from Carol’s Daughter)

I’m a frequent contributor over on Carol’s Daughter Transitioning Movement where I write about a wide variety of things ranging from hair care to fitness.  As you know, I’ve just started training for my first triathlon and my latest post over there is what really pushed me over the edge and inspired me to sign up so I thought I’d share with you.  It’s the story about how I got over my hate/fear of running and did the damm thang!  

 

The Story of a Reluctant Runner

Cassidy-Post-RunBefore the holidays, I achieved what I consider to be one of the greatest goals of my life: running a 6:38 mile.
If you had told me a year ago that I would be able to rapidly place one foot in front of the other for 5,280 consecutive feet in under seven minutes, I would have looked at you straight in the eye and laughed.  Really hard.  Like, really hard.

You see, it’s not that I disliked running, it’s more that I just hated it.  Always had.  From my days in lower school when we used to have to run The Mile (I walked) to upper school when I decided to join the track team (as a discus thrower) I developed a knack for avoiding all things running.  I carried this aversion through to adulthood and joined dance classes, pursed cycling, and took up pilates.

I was very successful in this endeavor until a persuasive friend of mine (we’ll call him Stephen, because his name is Stephen) applied a bit of pressure.   As an avid runner, Stephen sat me down and told me all of the benefits of running and I retorted with all of the expertly crafted excuses I had come up with throughout the years.

Me: I’ve got a bad knee.
Stephen: It will probably strengthen your knee.

Me:  I don’t enjoy it.
Stephen: You’ll learn to.  It comes with time.

Me: I belong to a gym instead.
Stephen: Running doesn’t cost $80 a month.

I had to admit, he had me on that “running is free” bit.  So the next week laced up my tennis shoes and took myself out for a spin.  I found myself settling into a pace where I alternated running and walking while fighting an internal battle as my mind reeled between “this sucks!” and “keep going!”  Finally I made it a mile and found myself feeling….great! Sure it was hard and it took me over 15 minutes, but my body felt good and strong.

That day I made two important realizations:

  1. Other than the fact that it’s difficult to get started doing, I really have no reason to dislike running.
  2. If channel all of the energy that I spent avoiding running into actually getting better at it, then I can probably find joy in the activity.

Since then, I have consistently run 2-4 times a week and it has become a steady part of my workout regimen.  I just a few months have whittled down my run-walk mile time from 12:00 to a run-only mile time in just under 7:00.  When I see my pace and time, I can barely believe that it’s my own!  Aside from saving me those $80 each month at the gym, running has provided me with good cardiovascular health, a perky derriere, and, most importantly, the resolve that I can truly take on anything I set my mind to; in 2013 maybe, just maybe, that means a triathlon!

Here are a few of my tips to start—and keep!—you running this year:

  1. Start slowly: if you’re just beginning to run, set realistic expectations for yourself in terms of distance and time.  You might not make it a whole mile right away- and that’s okay!  Start like I did and run for two minutes, walk for a minute until you reach your desired distance.  Eventually those walking intervals will become fewer and farther between until they’re non-existent!
  2. Find a beat: running to music allows me gets me amped and I find myself jogging to the beat.  Make yourself a special running playlist of upbeat tunes and find your own rhythm.
  3. Get an app: I really like Map My Run, which tracks your distance and pace.  With the coaching featured enabled, it also chimes in to let you know your time as you’re running.  It’s also nice to have a log of your progress.
  4. Keep doing it: even if it’s hard.  Even if you hate it.  Even if you just want to sit down and quit- KEEP GOING.  Pushing yourself will keep you on track and encourage you to get better.
  5. Stretch: running is super high impact so after every session make sure you take the time to stretch it out and keep your muscles limber and loose.  Trust me, your body will thank me in the morning.

Oui Oui! We’re headed back to Paris!

Ah the City of Lights, there’s nothing like it. Especially now that the natural hair movement has hit it in full force! The Paris Natural Hair Academy is back for it’s second year coming up in March! It was such an awesome and informative event last year when we did it and this next event is taking it to the next level. I heard a rumor that there were only a handful of tickets left, so if you’re reading in France (or anywhere in Europe really), check out the ticket deets on the flyer below and make sure you get your natural (or soon-to-be-natural) self to this event!

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Here’s a few select snaps from last year’s Paris event! Can’t wait for the next one!

Lessons from Africa

[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] I [/dropcap] came home from Africa and capital C, Crashed. Well that’s not entirely true, I got the flu and wrote my stories about the trip for Black Is Global and then the holidays came around, so I never really got to share my experiences with you on the ol blog! Which may be all for the best because by now, my memories have had 4 weeks to marinate and you’re getting the stuff that really stuck with me. Here are my lessons and thoughts I gleaned from my trip with the Black Is Global team to Senegal!

1. We need a new narrative.

Years of reading National Geographic, heck even Google News, had given me the life in Africa was filled with immense suffering, poverty, violence, unrest and the idea that AIDS is so rampant that you can catch it by simply walking down the street.

Well, my trip to Dakar couldn’t have been further from this experience. Of course this heartbreaking side of humanity DOES exist, but there is also a whole other culture that is less talked about. There are posh lounges, sunny resorts, shopping malls, French cafes, comfortable homes and stretches of sandy beaches. Beyond material comforts, there is a well-educated populace, individuals concerned with environmental and social causes, and a network of globally invested citizens. In other words, life in Dakar is remarkably similar to our lives heres.

As much as it’s important to be aware of the world’s struggles, it’s equally important to celebrate and be aware of it’s successes and triumphs.

With the students of the Senegalese – American Bilingual School

2. THINGS FIT!

So you know how you’ll walk into a store here and try on a pair of jeans in “your size”, but they’re too tight in the rear, too narrow in the thigh and somehow way too large in the waist? Even after trying on dozens of pairs you walk out empty handed and frustrated. Le sigh.

Well NO SUCH THING WAS HAPPENING IN DAKAR MY DEARIES!

I walked into one shop in the local mall, pulled an [awesome] one-piece pantsuit off the rack, tried it on and it FIT PERFECTLY. My fellow traveler Miss Felicia Leatherwood did the same with a couple dresses and other pieces. Never would this happen in the states, we thought and realized that these clothes were made and designed by people with bodies more similar to our own! Pretty cool.

Even cooler was that so my piece happened to be a little big in the chest area and the on-site tailor took it in within a matter of minutes for free . Very very cool.

And while we’re here, I might as well mention the abundance of beautifully patterned fabrics Dakar is known for. Sold in stores and markets, you can take a fabric of your choosing and have the outfit of your dreams created. It took me awhile to figure out that this was REALLY how a majority of the amazing outfits were created that I saw and I missed my boat. But you heard it hear first: custom tailored African garb—- I will be back for you.

 

3. H-U-S-T-L-E

There’s hustle and then there is HUSTLE and as far as I’m concerned, Dakar wrote the book on it. The tenacity of the sales people I encountered was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life before. “NO” is not taken quickly or easily as an answer. People are selling anything and everything–EVERYWHERE and at all times. It was truly impressive.

4. Natural has a long way to go

Weaves and relaxers are beyond dominant in Dakar. I knew this would be the case based on what I had heard, but I was truly surprised to see how few naturalistas we encountered. Felicia attributed this not just to lack of access to products, but also a lack of education about what to do with one’s hair once natural. As a result, out of the handful of natural styles we saw, a majority were loose naturals or simply braided. There were no two-strand twists, coil outs, or flat twist updo’s we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. That said, there were a few naturals to be found and thankfully Felicia was there to give advice to those who were looking!

 

5. We are all connected

It all comes back to Africa. Everything.

From the theories of human evolution that place the birthplace of mankind in Subsaharan Africa to slavery the subsequent diaspora of black people around the world, Africa is the origin of human life and all civilization. As such, all humans on this planet are related to one and other, regardless of color, religion or ethnic heritage. I touched on this earlier, but we are truly more alike than we are different.

Dakar is a former French colony with a 94% Muslim population, even with these differences I still saw similarities in culture and lifestyle, values and traditions.

I interviewed a very prominent Senegalese doctor who had some very important words of advice for the children of the African diaspora about our need to come together and guide the rest of the world back to a place of balance and shared understanding. Idealistic indeed, but still something for which to hope and aspire!

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All in all, my experience in Dakar was fabulous. The people and their unparalleled Teranga (hospitality in English) made me feel oh-so welcome. It was not only a beautiful country, rich with cultural history and heritage, but also a beautiful people. I’ve written several articles exploring Dakar in greater depth over on Black Is Global, so please go check out the site and like the Facebook page to support the movement!

Now without further ado, I’d like to share some of my photographs from my trip with you! Enjoy!

No need to freak out… it’s just my FIRST TRIP TO AFRICA

Yes, that’s right peeps— I’m making my maiden voyage to the continent!!! When, you ask???

Um…today.

When this opportunity first came across my plate, everyone was extremely surprised by my reaction: complete and utter silence. “Cass, why aren’t you excited!?,” they asked. “Oh, I’m excited alright. In fact I’m a little too excited I can’t even react.” So I stuffed this amazing trip to the back of my mind, an easy thing to do when you can pile a 5 week jaunt to Chicago, NOLA, Virgin Islands, Los Angeles, Hawaii and Thanksgiving in San Francisco on top of it.

But then last Saturday it hit me when I saw this shirt:

Of all places, I was with friends at a Dead Prez concert. Upon seeing this shirt, I realized the magnitude of this experience of traveling to Africa for the first time. The colonization and subsequent enslavement of millions of African people is a gruesome and painful history we share, but most of us live pretty far removed from it. However, it came smacking me in the face that I would be traveling to one of the main ports of where people were captured, shipped, and sold into generations of forced and brutal labor. It was a powerful and necessary realization to have.

So I did what any girl would do: I ran out of the concert and onto the street and called my mom sobbing at 2am. After she calmed me down, then I called Felicia, also joining me on this trip, who also calmed me down. She explained “Cassidy, my gift is to teach people about natural hair. Yours is to write about your experiences and share them with the world.” With that I dried my tears and put my “Holy-F-This-Is-Going-To-Be-An-Amazing-Trip-And-I-Can’t-Wait-To-Write-About-It Hat back on! And then I went back into the concert and enjoyed the rest of the show. Dead Prez and crying. Go figure.

So let me tell you a bit about this trip. I’m going with an amazing new multi-media project called Black Is Global (B.I.G). The purpose of Black Is Global is to create an online platform to share stories and experience of black people all around the world. Black culture in the United States is very different than the black culture in Brasil, which is different than the black culture in Ghana, which is different than the black culture in France. So as you see, blackness IS global and through the diaspora we have created a multitude of international black identities. Very cool, right? Make sure to check out the site because this is going to be BIG (pun intended).

The inaugural trip will be to Dakar, Senegal, located on a beach lined peninsula on the Western Coast of Africa. I can’t give away the details yet, but we’re going to be seeing, visiting, tasting and exploring some very exciting and noteworthy places and experience.

Besides myself, the B.I.G. team is made up of Felicia Leatherwood, who will be speaking at the Natural Hair Expo we’re headed to; Elton Anderson, a phenomenal photographer whose work I’ve been following for years (featured once here on NSB!); and the two Black Is Global owners, Chimole Williams and Amber Patton.

We’ll be documenting our entire journey and sharing on BlackisGlobal.com, but for quick updates be sure to follow the Black Is Global Facebook Page and Twitter (@blackisglobal).

I’m amazingly excited for this trip and I know it’s going to be the experience of a lifetime! I’m really floored by the fact that I’m not just going to a new country, but one that is perhaps the homeland and birthplace of my ancestors. It’s truly a powerful thought. Stay tuned for more FROM THE CONTINENT!!

Xoxoxo

US Virgin Islands — St. Croix I AM BEAUTIFUL: event wrap + gallery

On the heels of the St. Thomas event, we all got up early in the morning and boarded a seaplane to hop over to St. Croix, which is another island just 20 minutes away.  We were welcomed by a delicious home-cooked island meal (and yes, I’ll be doing a post just of the island sights, flights and flavors!) before heading to the hotel to get ready.

If you follow me on Instagram (@cassiroll), then you know I was particularly excited about the dress I picked out for this event.  I cannot recall a time when I have ever worn just BLACK for a natural hair event, usually opting for something bright, colorful and loud.  But when I saw this dress in New Orleans, I had to have it.  The sheer lace was just too haute to pass up!  I paired it with my funky wooden earrings, winged liner and bold red lip to create the picture perfect ensemble.

Anywho, enough about me, I wanna talk about the Cruzan naturalistas!  They came out in full force to enjoy the presentations and shop around the vendors at the event.  I truly enjoyed getting to speak with them, especially one teenage attendee with a long relaxer named Kari.

 

The conversation went something like this:

Kari: “I don’t want this anymore!” [pointing to her long ponytail]

Cassidy: “Soooooo….you want to transition?”

Kari: “No, I just want to cut it all off. And I want to know how”

Cassidy: “Um.  Like you want just chop it????”

Kari: “YEP!”

Cassidy: “Heck yes.  Go to a barber and do it!”

I absolutely LOVED that this young girl had zero attachment to her long hair (which was about bra strap length) and was just ready to cut it short and go for the natural!  If only I had been so courageous…

All in all, the St. Thomas and St. Croix I AM BEAUTIFUL events did a wonderful job of exposing Caribbean women (and their families!) to natural hair education and empowerment.  A virtual round of applause for the organizer and the Miss Naturalista Team (y’all know who you are buuuuut: DENISE, EMMET, BEN, ZAHRA, KIM, and WAYNE to name a few) for making this all happen.

As always, I took lot’n'lots of pix so here’s some of my favorites from the St. Croix event!

Highlights from the Adventure (so far…)

The adventure kicked off with a few days in Chicago for the CurlyNikki Motions Chicago Meet Up at Japonais Restaurant, which turned out to be one of the more fabulous events I’ve ever produced.  Almost 500 (!!!!!!!) Midwestern naturalistas showed up and we ate, snapped pictures, and enjoyed [those strong as heck] Motions Margaritas!  It was nice to be back in my neck of the woods and enjoy that Great Lake love!

With Michelle of NaturallyCurly

With Chuck the [awesome] photographer and Myleik of CurlBox

With Miss Samantha, one of my former volunteers who big chopped back in March!

Next up was NOLA, and since the only time I’ve gotten to spend there was sequestered in the Central Business District for Essence Music Festival,  I’m finally starting to get a chance to see a bit more of the beautifully historic city.  It was a quick trip, but I’ll be back there for a full 10 days after this stint in the Virgin Islands so I’ll get to see more.  Why so much time in The Big Easy you ask?  Oh, my boo lives there ;)  Maybe I’ll introduce him next time around and you can get in on our fun and romping around town!

 

 

But now…I am currently sitting pretty in the tropical wonderland called the US Virgin Islands.  This is my second time back here and it’s so nice to be once again among familiar places and faces.  Yesterday, Felicia Leatherwood and I spent the day sitting on the beach of the magical Magen’s Bay before filling our bellies with fresh conch, salmon and shrimp.  Then I slept for 10 hours because the travel really took it out of me.

 

Now it’s morning and I’m sitting on this glorious balcony overlooking the bay in St. Thomas.  I keep getting interrupted as I write this post because THERE IS A LIZARD on the BALCONY.  And at first I was like, “okay, lil dude…I don’t bother you, you don’t bother me!” But then homeboy started bumrushing my toes and I had to scoop my computer and cameras and scoot inside!! Felicia came back out with a Swiffer to drive him away, but now he’s back!  The guy is no more than 5″ long (which is nothing compared to the massive 4′ iguanas all over the place here), but I DO NOT like how aggressive he is.  I don’t know if he’ll bite, but there’s no need to find out the hard way, right!?

 

 

Today is the St. Thomas I AM BEAUTIFUL event and I’m really excited for it because it promises to be even bigger and better than last year’s.  In addition to Felicia, I’m also down here with Kim Coles, CharyJay, Dr. Kari, and BlackOnyx!! I’ll be snapping tons of pix and videos so stay tuned for more from the USVI!

 

 

Next Up: CHICAGO! VIRGIN ISLANDS! NOLA! LOS ANGELES!

Just when I thought I might get a breather after hosting Fall Into Natural and Brown Girl Bliss, it’s time for me to pack it up and hit the road…FOR A MONTH!  My little carry on suitcase is packed…well almost packed, I’ve got to make some serious decisions about shoes here soon and I’m leaving my dearest San Francisco tomorrow morning!  Here’s what I’ve got in the pipeline!  If you’re in any of these places—come join the fun!

CHICAGO

On Saturday October 20th, I’ll be at the CurlyNikki + Motions Meet Up at Japonais.  Curly Nikki events are always a fun time to socialize with some fierce naturalistas.  The goodie bags ain’t bad either!  The event is from 2-5pm and unfortunately it’s at capacity, but I’m still looking for some volunteers to help out behind the scenes if you’re interested in that!  If so, please email events@texturemediainc.com.

NOLA

I’m headed back to the Big Easy for my first time since Essence Fest!  I’m excited to see what this city has to offer beyond the Convention Center and Superdome.  You can be sure I’ll be taking some videos showing off some of the hidden gems off the beaten path that we can find.  Keep your eyes peeled for an update from Jez and HIS big chop.  I’m also hoping to catch up with my girls Aevin Dugas and Gabby Allen of StrawberriCurls (see how I made that public, y’all!  It’s we make sure to make it happen.  #accountability).  It will also be halloween while I’m down there, WHICH IS MY MOST FAVORITE HOLIDAY EVER!

VIRGIN ISLANDS: St. Thomas + St. Croix

Ah, yes… the gorgeous Caribbean paradise of the USVI calls me once again.  I’m honored to be invited back for a second year to the Miss Naturalista I AM BEAUTIFUL events hosted in St. Thomas on the 27th of October and St. Croix on the 28th.  Last year’s events were magical as hundreds turned out for the shows, with waiting lines wrapped around the buildings.  This year, promises to be even bigger and better with the addition of more speakers, vendors and natural hair education.

LOS ANGELES

The event details have not been released quite yet, but suffice it to say I’m going to be a part of a very awesome event in Los Angeles on 11.11!  As soon as the deets are up, I’ll post them.  I can’t wait to give some love to my SoCal naturalistas!

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Phew!  It’s going to be quite a month, and I’d love to say that is it for me for 2012, but SOON I’ll be announcing details about my most exciting adventure yet.  To a place where I’ve never, ever been before…I guess you can say, it will be like going home… ok ok ok, that’s enough hints for now!  Stay tuned for more stories from the road!  And if you’re in any of those places, hit me up!

Who Has 2 Thumbs and a New Haircut?? this girl.

Yea yea yea, I’ve gone and gotten adventurous with my hair again! It all started a couple days ago, when I swung through the Hair Rules salon in NYC to say hello to my old pal Dickey, the co-owner and founder of the company. Dickey did a quick styling of my curls as he was finishing up, he said to me… “I’d like to cut your hair. What are you doing on Thursday?”

Up until that point, I was seriously considering growing Lola right on out. I’ve had some “big hair don’t care” cravings and the long side had gotten pretty long (below my shoulders when stretched). But if you’ve been reading this blog, you know that once an adventurous style idea gets planted in my head, there’s really no turning back. So I hemmed and hawed and made a video talking about how I was conflicted on whether I should grow or chop my coils. The style has really evolved over the past few months, but I’ve known it’s been time to take it a new direction.

FEBRUARY 2012

LAST WEEKEND BEFORE NINAF

But let’s be realistic, there was really no turning back once Dickey had made up his mind that my hair would be cut. I just decided to stop resisting fate. Besides, as a commenter to my video pointed out, it’s not everyday that you can get your haircut by Dickey. (After he did the quick styling of my curls he left and went to style Solange for the Obama Fundraiser! Cool stuff!)

My salon at home in San Francisco, Madusalon, uses the Deva cutting technique, which is a dry cutting method where your hair is cut curly. Hair Rules also cuts on dry hair, but the curls are blown straight as a way of really seeing what was going on on the ends. I was definitely curious to see how the two techniques compared as both have their champions.

I haven’t had my curls blown straight since last year’s incident at the Dominican salon (and some of my pieces are STILL showing heat damage from that), so it was awesome to see what my hair looked like when blown straight. I must say that I absolutely loved seeing my highlights on this texture!

The actual cut was pretty amazing to watch as Dickey swooped and angled and sliced with swift precision. There were a few moments where my heart lept as I watched 7″ of hair fall to the floor in some sections. Once the final cut was done I couldn’t even tell because my hair was straight so I was whisked to the washbowl to revive my curls before I could see how it turned out!

Stay tuned for part two and the final look!

Natural Is NOT A Fad! Come join us THIS weekend in DC!

 

Can I pleeeeeeze get a HELL YEA for Natural Is Not a Fad!!???  This is the second year in a row that Koils by Nature has hosted this awesome event in the DC area and the second year that I am honored to be an attendee and featured speaker.  I had such a good time at this event last year and I know that this time around is going to be even bigger and better.  I’m a true believer in the message of this event—that natural hair is HERE TO STAY, so I love that this day-long event is geared towards not just celebrating natural hair, but empowering the entire lifestyle around it.  In addition to the blogger/expert panel I’m speaking on alongside Natural Chica, Mushiya of The Damn Salon, Dr. Nina (aka BeautifulBrwnBabyDol), Mama Naturalista and Pretty Girl Blog, there will also be:

  • a bootcamp session by Digg Deep Fitness
  • appearance by Aevin Dugas, world’s largest afro record holder
  • beauty session by Kim Roxie of Lamik Beauty
  • vendors
  • giveaways
  • goodie bags and MORE

 

Check out last year’s event recaps here and here for a taste of what’s to come!  Get your ticket now and I hope to see you there!

 

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