A Travellerspoint blog

All by myself!! (aka my co-teacher goes to Australia)

“And guess what? I have to admit.. I kinda start liking it here.” ~ Winna Efendi, The Journeys

One of the reasons the end of November was so hectic was because I was having to plan out a week of lessons without my co-teacher. I mean, I understand, she got married and she was going on her honeymoon. I get it, I really do. But come on now... you have to pick the week before finals to get married and head off to another country? I mean, yes, obviously don't plan your marriage date around a final schedule... but it still makes me a little annoyed. Not a lot... but I cannot lie... a little.

Especially because a girl gets used to how things work and when you throw a wrench in the system it takes a little bit to get the whole system working like clockwork again. Tack on the change in how we teach classes (right before finals!!) to the added stress of no caffeine, NaNoWriMo, and an annoying bug problem (details that shall remain ambiguous), I was not exactly entering my week of solo teaching well rested.

It actually wasn't that bad in the long run but it was definitely interesting. My co-teacher and I are almost always together and we have a very good rhythm in the classroom. A typical class of any grade starts with me asking a few opening questions like: How are you? How's the weather? What's the date today? Basic questions to get the students thinking and speaking in English. Then we begin the lesson in the book. It can be anything from: watching short video clips and working on key expressions and listening activities, to songs, or reading passages, or playing games, doing craft like activities, writing activities. The activity for the day just depends on where we are in the lesson but each lesson follows roughly the same path. I will do the initial questioning and speaking and my co-teacher will jump in with Korean translations and grammar applications whenever necessary. The lessons aren't particularly difficult, and like I said, they all follow the same path. I didn't have to plan anything new, it was just challenging figuring out how I was going to get all the necessary teaching aspects into the lesson without a Korean co-teacher who can speak English and I cannot speak Korean.

As if changing a normal lesson up isn't tricky enough I also had to figure out how to do a review lesson without my co-teacher. I came up with some packets of dialogues that consisted of key expressions from each lesson and my co-teacher added the Korean translation. The students then had to practice reading and writing out each dialogue.

When I first got to school Monday morning I headed to the teacher's room for my usual cup of coffee (it was December I could again) and my vice principal met me at the coffee station. He loves English (although he can't speak it very well) but he tries nonetheless and I love it. He was very worried about me though. He wasn't sure I was okay with teaching without my co-teacher. I said I would be fine but he didn't sound convinced. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Haha I mean, I get that he was worried, but all the rest of the teachers seemed to think that I was going to fall into puddle of helplessness. After my first lesson running solo I was actually applauded as the teacher walked out of the room.

Again... mixed emotions.

After that the week was pretty uneventful despite me talking a lot more than I normally do and feeling like at any moment I was going to lose my voice haha. I managed the absolutely no Korean thing by improvising a few aspects of the lessons. And I think the other home room teachers started realizing I wasn't just a decoration in the English classroom because they started coming later and later (if they showed up at all) and they brought work, or laptops, or sometimes slept in the vacant co-teacher chair in the English classroom.

So, score for me! I think, hopefully I wasn't just boring them to unconsciousness.

My students didn't seem to mind the lack of my Korean counterpart. At least they didn't say anything to me about it! Second score! I had a good week after all the craziness that was November but I was glad to see the weekend and the return of my better half in the classroom!

Monday and Tuesday when she came back made up for a week of solo teaching. She handled all the lessons on Monday and Tuesday was finals! It was almost like two extra days of vacation... almost.

Until the next time!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 16:17 Archived in South Korea Tagged adventure students teaching overwhelming Comments (2)

November No More!

“Travel empties out everything you've [put] into the box called your life, all the things you accumulate to tell you who you are” ~ Claire Fontaine

Maybe if I used reverse psychology I would be better at blogging? Tell myself I won't write today until that nagging feeling of "why not?" breaks my hold on other daily activities until I am sitting in front of my computer typing away about the random tidbits of my everyday life?

No? Well a girl can dream.

Well, I am here now and I guess that is really what counts in the end. Also, if my family's comments are any indication, you haven't caught up since August anyways so, really, I am just making your job a lot easier. I am being considerate of other people's schedules! Take that lack of blog writing!

No, but in all honesty, November. Wow there are so many things that happened in November I am amazed I didn't drop from exhaustion.

I started the glorious month of November off my swearing off any and all forms of caffeine (that includes the Excedrin I take for my lack of caffeine headaches I get when I miss a cup.) I actually started not drinking caffeine on October 28th and I didn't resume until December 1st. For those who don't want to do the math that is 34 days without caffeine. Thirty-four days. Thirty-four! Now if you don't know me that well that may not seem like a big deal, so she gave up caffeine for a mere month? Trust me people. It's a big deal. I live and breathe for my coffee and tea. I have at least one cup in the morning, probably another before lunch. One or two when I get home from work. Sometimes I'd have a cup of tea before bed. Addicted does not even begin to describe my reliance on the glorious drug that is caffeine.

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? I figured I really needed to do something about my consumption of caffeine when I went from breakfast to dinner without having a cup of coffee or tea and had a headache for most of the evening because of it... So my month of abstaining from caffeine began. I also just had to prove to myself that I could do it. Caffeine does not rule me!

I picked the worst month in the universe to stop drinking caffeine.

November is probably one of my favorite months. Aside from October and Halloween (it's definitely my number one love), November is second. I love fall and the holiday season and it doesn't hurt that it's my birth month. Fall is is total bloom and the holiday spirit starts peaking through the haze of cobwebs and skeletons.


It is also NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is "National Novel Writing Month." It's a month dedicated to writing at least 50,000 words of a new novel during the month of November. It's a chance to meet up with other writers in your area, or to explore your creative side, and to do something you wouldn't necessarily do any other time. You get some great pep talks from other writers (some famous some not so much). If you have enough people in your area then sometimes you can meet up and have "write-ins" where you all just sit around and write for a few hours. It's a great experience. And for me it's a challenge to do what I know I can do if I wanted to, but I just don't for eleven months out of the year. But most of the writing takes place in cafes, for me anyways, and what do you do in cafes most of the time? Drink coffee or tea. What was I abstaining from? Coffee or tea.

Apparently I am a masochist. I am also a procrastinator. To make things easier on yourself you should write about 1500 words a day to get to the goal of 50,000 by the end of November. Two weeks into November and I barely had 10,000 words. By the end of three weeks I only had about 16,000. That meant that for the last week of November I had to punch out 34,000 words. When I finally got down to it I was having to write 5,000 words a day to finish it time. But finish I did. For the second time I became a "winner" of NaNoWriMo!! Woohoo go me.

It became a very big struggle to write, teach, socialize, and generally participate in life without caffeine. I don't recommend it.

But manage I did! I had a very productive month that I am still surprised I made it through without breaking and drinking a cup of coffee. No matter how much I wanted to.

When I wasn't writing I was doing a myriad of other things. Sometimes I went hiking (and saw some amazingly beautiful trees). Koreans are very into hiking. I am sure other countries are too, but seriously, you see so many adjummas and adjhussis climbing mountains in Korea it borders on crazy. One of the most common thing to see elderly people in is obnoxiously bright climbing gear. And I mean obnoxiously bright. Neon green, pink, orange, yellow, and red, and all of them usually on one part of their body. Like, seriously, I saw an old lady with a bright green hat, orange backpack, pink shoes, and a yellow jacket once. She was brighter than the sun. But more power to the old lady, I don't see a lot of retired grandma and grandpas back home waking up at 5 am just to go hike up a mountain. Although I'm sure it doesn't hurt that once they get up to the top they sit around drinking Makgeolli and eating. I prefer the trees myself.


And the Buddhist Temples are pretty amazing as well.


Between hiking, writing, my birthday, a friend coming to visit me, and various other day to day activities I was a busy woman. And school was no different. The school year is coming to an end so we are preparing a lot for the students. Most of November was spent finishing up lessons, preparing final tests, preparing school festival activities, making sure we had enough prep and review time, and my co-teacher was getting married at the end of November.

When I say I don't understand how I survived November I really mean I don't understand how I survived November.

Our students are great though. One of the lessons for our sixth graders is "Because we should save the earth." Besides the annoying fact that the lesson teaches them to begin sentences with the word "because" I enjoy this lesson. It's all about recycling and saving the planet. One of the activities for the students is to make a poster saying we need to save the earth and then giving a few examples of what we should do to accomplish that. The kids really took the assignment to heart this year. I had some great posters and I liked them so much I ended up putting every single one on the walls of my classroom.

Some were crazy creative in their designs.

Some were just wacky and fun.

And then some were heartbreakingly accurate.

Not gonna lie, that last one made me tear up a little.

At the end of the year our school had a festival that showcased all the different classes and clubs for the entire school. It was a bunch of dancing, singing, drumming, taekwondo-ing, magic-show madness, and general shenanigans that took weeks of planning and practicing and culminated in a Saturday spent at school. Or, technically, a convention center, but still. My favorite moments can be summed up pretty well.

Tiny dancers (and I mean tiny, it was the kindergartners and they were adorable in their tiny hanboks), cute drumming babies (again kindergartners drumming, I may have squealed with happiness and cute overload), Spirited Away music on the flute, "Puff the Magic Dragon" on Recorder, and a Taekwondo performance to Pirates of the Caribbean and Queen, and a magic show that had "Living La Vida Loca" as their background music. I think I had more fun than most of the parents. I also found out (because there were displays about each club) that there is an English reading club at my school. I had not even heard of it but apparently it's a thing. That's pretty awesome in my opinion.

Here are a few shots of all the kids doing a fan dance at the very end.

And of course there are three very important holidays in November. 빼빼로 Day, my birthday, and Thanksgiving! Woot woot. I kind of made out like a bandit with 빼빼로 from my students.


My co-teacher told all of the other teachers it was my birthday and they surprised me with a cake and a song in the teacher's room. It was really sweet and made me feel very loved. (sorry no pics because I don't know if my fellow teachers would appreciate their picture on the internet...)

And then Thanksgiving! I find I really miss being home during the holiday season. So this year a group of expat friends and I decided we were going to make our own Thanksgiving. We ordered a turkey, went to all the foreign markets we could find to get all the fixings and trimming for an authentic Thanksgiving dinner.


It was delicious and tasted like home.

Speaking of home one of my best friends from home has been travelling around south east Asia for the past six months and she decided to end out her random ramblings in Korea while she waits for an English teaching job in China. It has been quite fun having a roommate. I am going to miss her when she leaves but it gives me someone to stay with in China when I go and visit! I will see that wall... I will!

I ended my crazy hectic month of November by attending my first Korean wedding. I don't really know what I was expecting but I had a great time. There are some strange differences, like all the brides will sit in a little room and before the wedding people will go in and sit and have their picture taken with her. And people don't really give gifts, they give money, but the money doesn't go to the bride and groom it goes to their parents to pay for the wedding. I can't say much about the ceremony because it was in Korean but they had some people come up and perform some songs in the middle of the ceremony. It was sweet, a little strange at times, but then the groom sang to my co-teacher and I may have teared up a bit (shush don't judge me it was adorable). Brides and grooms don't kiss each other at weddings, at least not at this one. They did do the formal bows to both sets of parents. I really liked that bit, the groom did the full on "get on the floor bow" but my co-teacher did the formal "half" bow because of her dress. Then after the ceremony we all went into this huge dining room and ate. And ate and ate and ate. The buffet was huge and it was delicious. If you ever have a chance to go to a Korean wedding go just for the food.

I kept having flashbacks to an episode of Gilmore Girls when Lane Kim gets married and how they have the wedding for her Korean relatives and then the second wedding for everyone else. I always thought it was a dramatization but seriously, all Koreans do is see the wedding, eat the food, drop of the money, and then they peace out. It was super quick and then bam we were gone.

I'm sure I missed some things but November is starting to become a blur. Oh the life of a Native English Teacher... I am finding that I am domesticating myself into this life and I don't necessarily see myself as a traveler anymore. I really must fix this.

Future plans? Yes. Traveling to Japan for a week of my winter vacation. going to China for Buddha's birthday, and making sure to explore every ounce of Korea that I can reach during my weekends and the rest of my vacation time? Sounds perfect to me.

Until the next time!!!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 03:12 Archived in South Korea Tagged festivals weddings teaching nanowrimo caffeine overwhelming Comments (0)

October... what happened??

“See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask for no guarantees, ask for no security.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Again I say October what happened?? Where did you go?? I swear it can't be November already. It just can't be.

Clearly time just needs to stop happening so fast! Although I say this as if it is only October that is passing at warp speed. The past year has been insane. But my October has been spent in a bliss of various fall activities, school, and much needed socializing with people outside in the real world. What was that life? A good job? Why thank you.

Let's see the last time I left you I had participated in the Zombie Walk... I was going to do a silent dance party but I ended up not doing that. The weather has been amazing and I have fallen in love with the color of changing leaves.

There is a school festival coming up so my school has been a little crazy getting all the different clubs organized. My coteacher has an English singing and dancing club and they have been working very hard lately perfecting two different English songs. I am really looking forward to their performance of L.O.V.E. by Nat King Cole. They are adorable. And they have this strange little song about a tad pool becoming a frog... it's strange but the dance my coteacher made is chalk so full of cute it makes you gag.

My sixth graders are also studying bullying and racism in their class so I keep getting little groups of kids who want to interview me to talk about any racism I, or anyone I know, have encountered in Korea. I know that racism is still a big issue in the world and I have heard many horror stories from expats in Korea but I have never been on the receiving end of racism in Korea. Although I have noticed any time I have a black person in my ppts some of my students yell out "OBAMA!!" The only thing I can say is I have been treated differently because I look partly Korean and some Koreans don't understand why I can't speak Korean if I look Korean. Some older individuals have been rather forceful in their annoyance but that was about it. I do know a friend who could not find a teaching job, despite her being born and raised in the US, because she is Korean. She did not look the part of a foreign teacher. Korea is getting better, but like most countries, there is still a long way to go.

But I take pride in my waygook status. Just last weekend I took part in a picture scavenger hunt with friends. We dressed up for halloween and in teams of 3 and 4 we set out in search of random pictures on a check list. For an hour and a half teams of waygooks dressed in funky Halloween costumes ran around the major shopping areas of Ilsan taking pictures of things like: everyone crammed in a phone booth, planking, guys putting on make-up, taking pictures with Korean babies, and dogs, and in trees, and proposing to strangers, singing on the subway... we definitely lived up to our foreign status. But we also had fun. I, for one, definitely saw some brighter smiles on people's faces. It's fun to see other people clearly having fun.



Halloween came and went and now I am sad. It is by far my favorite holiday and Korea just doesn't celebrate it like they should. There are no trick-or-treaters. No dressing up for work. No scary movies. No copious amounts of candy. No decorations. There are the generic money makers that some shops are trying to profit from but it is still such a novelty here. I watch shows from back home and they are all doing their halloween specials, I see pictures from friends, and it makes me miss being in the US. I am going to have a lot of halloween mischief to make up for when I finally go home. I did try and brighten my kids holiday though. I put up some paper decorations and handed out candy to any student who said trick-or-treat.

I can't change the lesson plans for my daily classes but my after school day care class I have free reign so they have been having Halloween lessons all month. They will be glad when we go back to normal I think. There are only so many days of monsters and jack-o-lanterns before these kids will break. I wish I could have shown them Hocus Pocus or The Nightmare Before Christmas but alas their level of English is just not good enough, and they really can't keep up with subtitles well enough to watch either of those movies. I, at least, was able to watch Hocus Pocus. All is well in the world.

Instead of dressing up and walking the streets in search of candy I spent my Halloween hiking to a sky park to revel in the fall colors with half of my fellow teachers, my vice principal, and principal. It was a beautiful, albeit, very long walk. Instead of walking basically straight up the stairs, we went around this long road that had a pretty steep incline. I don't know which would have been better honestly. But when we finally reached the park it was worth the walk. This island is right next to the Han River. It used to be a land fill. Back in 1976 (or 1978, can't remember now) they decided to clean it up. It took fifteen years but they were finally able to clear out all the garbage, plant the grass and vegetation, build all the buildings, create wind and refuse burning energy sources, and add the sculptures but the end result is marvelous. Once we got to the top we stayed for a bit and just sat and enjoyed the wonderful weather. Then we all went to dinner. It was very nice spending time with my fellow teachers, even if communicating is still such an issue. A lot of my fellow teachers are pretty good at English but it is still a challenge. And my Korean is just not very good at all. I can understand more now but it is still abmissmal.

This is the bottom of the hill.

This is the top entrance.

This is the house that told the story of the transformation from landfill to beautiful park.

There was a point where you could write down a wish or prayer and tie it to this stone for good luck. That one in the middle is mine.

These brush looking plants covered the top of the hill. They were super pretty, amazingly soft, and sounded amazing when the wind blew through them.

The trees are amazing.

And the view... wow I could go up to that park everyday if it weren't for that hike.. whew.

OH I also went and stalked Tom Hiddleston when he came to Korea to promote Thor: The Dark World.

It's a blurry picture but I love it.

And a not so blurry one.

That was pretty amazing. I went with two great friends, KP and MM, and it was a great thing I did because without them I would not have had such amazing memories to accompany the night. To top off the pictures, I got to see Tom Hiddleston dance to Get Lucky and sing Man in the Mirror. Talk about *swoon*. I of course had to see Thor: The Dark World in 4DX and it was amazing. There really is no other way to see a movie. I am going to be quite sad when I no longer have that option. The rest of the world really needs to get their act together when it comes to 4DX movies. Like, every movie theater needs them, seriously... get on that people.

I will be participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again this year. I am excited. I did it in 2011 but I skipped last year because moving to another country and starting to teach was too much to deal with without adding the stress of writing a novel in a month. This year I have no excuses. I am actually prepping right now by writing in this blog. Go me. Now if only I can keep the self-control needed to stick to a schedule and write everyday. I hope it won't be terribly difficult. It helps that I've gotten back into a reading mood. Although I am currently reading two different books (and waiting on a third to be delivered) so it might actually hinder my writing to be in a reading mood...

Alas the only way to know is to do.

I shall hopefully be posting more frequently this month since I am trying to hardest to write something everyday.

Until the next time!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 06:45 Archived in South Korea Tagged friends adventures seasons teaching Comments (0)

Zombie Walk!!

“The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon...” ~ Christopher McCandless


Zombie Walk!!!!! So every sense like flash mobs and the like have started to pop up I have always wanted to join. I finally got my chance! Seoul held an annual zombie walk! Getting all zombie-a-fied and walking around one of the most populated areas of Seoul was fantastic.

It started with the basics, You have to be a zombie. Now I was lazy and didn't get much in the ways of make-up so I resorted to painting myself like a zombie.


This was prior to blood. I think I did pretty good. I was also lazy and ended up not doing to other arm and just wore a long sleeve over it. I did do my chest and face. I had fun with some bullet holes in my chest (sorry no picture). I mean, I had to die somehow right?

The trip to Hongdae (where the walk was going to be held) was fun. There were four of us going together. Four zombies walking down the street in Korea, not something you see everyday, we actually had one car roll their windows up after seeing us and another stop in the middle of the road just to watch.

The actual walk was super fun! Walking, scaring, drooling blood, taking pictures, getting your picture taken? Awesome! haha. Here are some of the people from the walk.


I didn't have time to take many pictures but it was a blast. There were people who really got into being scared and then we ended up taking pictures together. Some even wanted us to pretend to eat or attack them. Definitely a blast.

If there is a zombie walk near you I highly recommend going! There will be another one in Seoul near Halloween and I shall definitely be attending! This time we'll ride the subway!

On a side note. I am loving the weather! It's breezy and the leaves are changing! Which definitely made the experience more Halloween-ish. I can't wait for more Halloween like activities in the future!

Until the next time...

Posted by cstravelsabroad 00:15 Archived in South Korea Tagged adventure halloween seasons zombies Comments (0)

The One with the Update

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson's Essays


Why hello there!

It's finally fall. This makes me happy. No more suffocating humidity. No more clothes taking three days to dry. No more frizzy hair. No more sweating profusely. Just peace. Cool breezes and sunshine instead of stifling clouds and stagnant air. Yay!!

It's perfect cafe weather. Settle down in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee and a good book. Yes please! I just wish it felt more 'fall-y'. It's almost like Spring instead. I think what's missing is the blatant commercialism of the season. I don't see Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas decorations hitting the shelves and windows of every store with indecent rapidity. Menus aren't changing to reflect the now "pumpkin" season (because let's face it pumpkin is a staple in Korean diet year round). But come on people... pumpkin spice lattes. Just saying. They're delicious and worth it, I promise.

This season also means the school is running fairly smoothly because we have hit our stride. We are past the "new after break" restless feeling and haven't hit the insanity that is "oh crap finals are near I need to study like crazy" hectic-ness yet. This makes me happy.

Now if only my day care class would cooperate with my oh-so-content-and-happy mood.

I swear, I miss the semester I only saw them once a week. And during that once a week we sang some songs and played alphabet BINGO. There was no prepping. No real effort. Kids cooperated or didn't and it honestly didn't matter. Le sigh... to only be there again. But I guess what I have now is better than last semester when I switched from once a week to EVERY day. Now I only see them three times a week.

I actually have to plan now though. (waaaa poor pitiful me...)

Ok, I complain, but it is actually pretty good. I can actually tell that my kids are learning even if it is very difficult sometimes. My daycare class is about 18 students ranging from first grade to sixth grade with every level imaginable. Making a lesson plan that keeps everyone entertained and still be understandable by all... I am still not that talented. Getting better but it is a slow process. Anyone out there have any suggestions for ESL students with that big of a gap in age and level all in one class??? I'm all ears...

I have found that the best way is to treat each week like a camp and learn a set question and answer or theme. Working well so far. Except some days... some days my students are replaced with demonic doppelgangers. There is no other option for it. Demonic doppelgangers or maybe fairies? Changelings? SOMETHING!

For instance, yesterday we were finishing up "Where are you from?" "I'm from _(fill in the blank)_." And I just had nine different country flags and we learned their names and answered the question with different games and whatnot through the week. Yay, simple, fun, learning English. All seemed well. Anyways there is a great game for this topic called "Find the spy." Basically you print out a bunch of cards with one country name (I chose Korea for obvious reasons), and then you print out one (or two depending on the size of your class) card(s) with different countries on them. I had one card that read "The USA" and one that said "Japan" and then you pass them out to the students. The cards are a secret and they have to go around and ask each student. "Where are you from?" and find the two "spies" from Japan and The USA. Super fun, the kids (usually) love it and it makes them really practice the phrase and answer.

So I explain the rules, I pass out the cards, and then I tell them all to start the game. And here is where we hit our first snag. And by snag I mean full blown chaos. Chaos I tell you.

Instead of calmly (and most importantly quietly) walking around and asking "Where are you from?" my students jumped, and I mean jumped - chairs went flying - up and started running after each other. Screaming indecipherable shrieks (I'm pretty sure it was their native demonic tongue) and tackling each other. Yes, tackling. Three kids rammed into a fourth and they all went toppling over. The poor fourth mark was writhing on the floor in pain once everyone got up.

Let's just say I was not pleased. After calling order and getting everyone to shut up and sit down they quickly realized their mistake.

Let's back up a few weeks to a different day when it took me almost fifteen minutes to start class because they were talking so much. I told them in no certain terms how unacceptable that is and given that I have been coming to this class for a year, and for half of the year it was every day, they know better. I said anymore messing around like that and games are off the table. I try to have a game every day because I know it is the end of the day and they don't want another English class anyways. But if they acted insane and crazy again the game was gone and we would write until I said stop.

Flash forward to right after the horrid display of loss of control I have seen in a group of children in class. They are sitting down and I am livid. I get all the cards back and give them a piece of paper, write the names of the countries on the board, and tell them they have to copy the names down at least five times. In complete silence.

After the expected grumble of "Teacher!!!" ... "Five times?!?!"..."Why??" they settle down and begin to write. I don't think I will have that problem with them again for awhile.

At least I hope. We shall see when Monday comes along.

As for life outside of school? I am not doing much exploring of Korea but more of just socializing. I shall become a zombie on Saturday though. Zombie Walk Seoul here I come!

Until the next time...

Posted by cstravelsabroad 22:15 Archived in South Korea Tagged teaching humidity Comments (0)

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