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a travel blog by arterra

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Hairy arms and taxi rides

Dongguan, China

Hi there,

It's a hot Saturday afternoon in Dongguan. I think it's about 32 degrees and with all the concrete around it feels even hotter! We went out this morning and explored 'South China Mall' which is only about 10 minutes down the road by taxi...but there wasn't that much there apart from a MacDonald's and a big grocery/department store called Spar...Andrew tried on some shorts but couldn't get any big enough!!! There is also an 'International' Cinema there and they had pictures of Harry Potter etc, but when we went in and looked at the board to see what was on, it was all in Chinese. Maybe another day if we really want to go to the movies we'll try asking if they movies are in English...

I thought of a couple of funny things that I should tell you about. One is about personal space and hairy arms. The kids are absolutely fascinated by Andrew's hairy arms - and often in between classes the kids stand around him and want to pat his arms!!! It's very funny. He was a bit taken aback though when one of the students patted his chest hair. The kids don't think anything of personal space or personal possessions - so after class if we're not quick enough, we'll find them looking through our bags - just happily going through our stuff to see what we have!! And they know that the English teachers often give out lollies, so the kids are always saying "teacher, give me candy". I really think we need to do a lesson on 'please' and how touching other people's things is just not on!!

We went into Starbucks this afternoon - it's a new branch that's just opened and it's closer to our apartment in Nancheng. There was noone else in the place apart from us, so the staff came over and stood around our table and talked to us - one of them, called Falen, who we had met at the Dongcheng branch, even sat down with us because he was on a break. They laughed at the few Chinese things we can say (we started an online Chinese course, and I've learnt to say "do you speak English" - not the most helpful thing is it really, because if they spoke English I could just say it in English and I'd know right away!!).

On the way home we had the funniest taxi driver - we got out our little notebooks and we were practising saying "left", "right", "go straight" etc. He thought it was so funny and he was giggling away. I said to him in Chinese 'do you speak English" and he waved his arms and said "no", so at least he understood me!! We can say where we live in Chinese ("Riverside Homes"), and we find that if we at least try to say where we want to go in Chinese (and sometimes it takes a few goes of us repeating it, or me trying to say it instead of Andrew or vice versa, before the taxi drivers will give a laugh and finally recognise what we're saying) - then the taxi drivers tend to go the direct route, but if we pull out our 'Here, Dongguan!' magazine and point to the place (written in Chinese and English) then sometimes the taxi drivers take that as a licence to drive us all around the city for a few extra dollars!! One day early on we were getting totally ripped off - I think the metre had reached 35 and was still ticking over, for a trip that had previously cost us 22, so I pulled out my notebook and started writing down the complaints phone number that was on the dashboard (yeah right, like I was going to be able to call it!!), and the taxi driver noticed and gave us back 10 yuan when we got there. Yay!

Well, I suppose I'll sign off now - we're going to go to the pool this afternoon to cool down and tonight is the big night - Wallabies vs England - so we're off to the English pub to see that - there should be lots of atmosphere there....

permalink written by  arterra on October 5, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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The end of the week...

Dongguan, China

Hi there,

Wow, the holidays seem like an age ago! It was so nice to have that break, but hard to get back into school - I think the kids feel that way too.

Tonight we had our second Chinese lesson - Belinda from the school takes our class - she works in the finance office so it's good to be friends with her :) We learnt numbers tonight and it was quite fun to be at the school at night - some of the older Chinese kids saw us there and were all looking into our classroom to see what we were doing. After class, at 8pm, we noticed that the Grade 5s were in class, so we walked past. Cookie (one of the Grade 5 teachers) invited us in to a class as it was just about to end and we just talked to the kids. That's absolutely the most enjoyable thing we have done at the school since we got here - the kids appreciated us dropping in and that particular class absolutely loves Andrew - they wrote his name for him in Chinese and they were all standing around him - I wished I had the camera!! (Pity they are not like that when we are taking their classes!!). Then the bell went and they still had one more class to go - I can't believe that Grade 5 kids are still working away at school at 8.30pm. No wonder they are restless in our classes. I definitely think it would work better if there was a Chinese teacher in all our classes and we somehow worked in conjunction with each other.

Andrew is still battling away with his classes in a computer room that has heaps of broken computers - the funny thing is that there are 2 Chinese computer teachers and they have fantastic computer rooms with all sorts of capabilities - like being able to shut down the students' computers from the teacher's computer etc. So that has been very frustrating - for the kids as well, because they know that the computers are falling apart - and that there are other much better computer rooms. Most of Andrew's classes he is running from one computer to another trying to fix some problem or other - like keyboards that have letters that don't work, or a mouse that doesn't work, or a computer that is just dead!!

Anyway, enough about school! Yay, it's Friday tomorrow - our best day, as we both have only 1 class each, and then I look after 5 Grade 5 girls for a couple of hours and then our week is over.

As you can see from the photos, I emerged from the hairdresser without the need to resort to a hat! I went to a pretty flash looking hairdressing salon - and it was great. 50 Yuan (less than $10)!! There was a funny young guy working in the salon - he had bleached blonde hair and was so vain!! He kept looking at himself in the mirror. Then he disappeared and came back with blue hair!! The lady doing my hair said something to him and he went and washed it out, and then he came back and sat down in one of the chairs and blow dried his own hair. He must have been bored - a quiet day in the salon maybe.

Oh, and there was a comment on the blog from someone coming to Dongguan - I don't have your email address so will just write what I know here! We've only been here a little while, so I don't know anything about Chang An. We are in Nancheng and that's a pretty good area - there are restaurants around here and some good apartments (sorry I don't know what the rent is as our accommodation was supplied). Dongcheng is also another good area - it has heaps more restaurants and grocery stores - we go there all the time and it's about 25 Yuan by taxi. I think I read in a magazine that it's more expensive to live in Dongcheng though, but it is a nicer area. There is a website that might be helpful too : http://www.thatsdongguan.com/

Anyway, bye for now,

permalink written by  arterra on October 11, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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My name is dumplings

Dongguan, China


Friday night is here at last...best night of the week. After school Jack, the computer teacher, came over to our place - I think he was curious to see it. From there we caught a taxi to Yin Feng Liu (Yin Feng Road) - I even asked the taxi driver myself - wow, my Chinese is just taking leaps and bounds. Well, actually, just before we left school, as we were walking out the gate with Jack, we saw one of our students with his mother and we were just standing around saying hello etc - the student asked if we could speak any Chinese and I said 'My name is Ruth'....well so I thought, but Jack told me I said Dumplings Ruth...and not just any dumplings, but fried ones, not boiled!!

We went out to dinner on Yin Feng Road to a restaurant we've been to before - it was good having a Chinese person with us...but we still got a chicken complete with head! Then Jack invited us back to his apartment which was nearby - he lives there with his Dad. It was great to go into a real apartment and also to meet his father, who doesn't speak English. The Chinese people we have met so far are just so lovely. Jack and Andrew played computer games and Jack's father watched for a while and then curled up in bed (which was in the same room)...and I should say 'on' bed because it looked pretty much like a piece of wood on legs!

Also, another thing that I keep meaning to mention (For all the animal lovers reading the blog!)....just near Sam's corner store is an aquarium shop - it's really tiny but it has some amazing fish and aquariums in there. The shop owners also have 2 dogs - a big one and a little one - a lovely golden retriever and a little white dog. Often we walk past on the way to and from school and the dogs are playing with each other having a lovely time. It is a pity though that they don't have any grass or a backyard to play in - it's all just concrete, but they seem very happy and are definitely loved! I think there is also a cat in there somewhere, but we don't see that as much. I'll have to get a picture of them and put it up on the blog.

That's it for now...I hope everyone at home is well.... Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on October 12, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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You are very beautiful today

Dongguan, China

Hello! Hooray Hooray Hooray, it's Friday! Friday is the best. I have just one class - a Grade 2 singing lesson, and Andrew has one PE class. Then in the afternoon I have the five Grade 5 girls for a couple of hours- today I promised them that they could come over to our place, so that will be interesting!

We've had a mixed bag this week - some classes just make you want to tear your hair out (or the kids hair actually!!), and some have been great. I had a couple of lovely Grade 2 singing lessons yesterday - I got them more involved - getting kids out the front to do the actions etc, and it was fun. And it always helps when the Grade 2 Chinese teacher settles down the class at the beginning and gives them a talking to (probably telling them that if they don't behave something terrible will happen to them - I can only imagine what the teacher is saying, but it works like a treat - all the kids sit up straight and are quiet...so that is a good start anyway!)

One little girl stopped me in the corridor between classes to say "Teacher, you are very beautiful today"!!!

Apart from school we've been having a good time...we've been making friends around the place - everyone seems to like talking to Andrew and he isn't one to say no to a good chat, even if it is mostly trying to work out what the other person is saying! One of the security guards at school has been trying to communicate with us every day...she is lovely...one day she caught a student as they went past made the student be the interpreter, so she could say "I will teach you Chinese and you can teach me English"...so now every time we arrive or leave school she teaches us a word! Also Sam at the corner shop has started teaching us a few words...they think it's great when we try and learn some words...

Andrew has spent this morning at school - he went in early to test all the computers and write down what is not working ( he still isn't back, so it must be a long list!). He is going to give the list to the Chinese teacher in charge of computing, and then hope for some action!!

We asked Cookie (a Grade 5 English teacher) if we could sit in on her class last night - the class was for 30 minutes from 7.20pm...so we turned up to school and the kids thought it was great that we were there. They were just doing homework, so Cookie told the kids that they could ask us to help...we walked around and talked to the kids and they were so lovely...I had a nice chat about earrings with a group of the girls...and at the end of the lesson 2 girls came up to me and said "Ruth, welcome back to our class next Thursday"! I also helped Harry with his homework - he was doing an English comprehension thing. When I was standing next to him, another boy from the class (John) went and got me a chair. John and Harry are sooo cute - they are boarders at the school and share a room. I find it sad that such little boys could be living away from home!

Apparently there is a mountain climbing trip tomorrow with students from the school, so we've said that we'll go along - it is an early start, but it sounds like an opportunity not to be missed...I'll let you know how that goes.

Well, Andrew is back now so I'll sign off...I hope you are all well and that you have a great weekend! I am thinking of Canberra in Spring with all those lovely flower smells. (I don't know what I'm smelling here, but it ain't flowers).

permalink written by  arterra on October 18, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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He marched them up to the top of the hill...and he marched them down again

Dongguan, China

Hi there,

We just got back from our little excursion this morning - it was a very early start for a Saturday morning...the alarm went off at 5.45am...and then to our dismay we discovered that the water was off...the water supply has been intermittent this week! So we had to just douse ourselves with bottled water, apply liberal amounts of deodorant, and head off to school.

We discovered when we got to school that it wasn't a trip for the students at all, it was a trip for the teachers! So it was very civilized - one school bus took us all to a nice green place about 30 minutes away, and we all walked up the hill together. It was fun...and then on the way home we stopped at Winnerway hotel and had breakfast....I was hoping for bacon and eggs, but I was pretty happy with what I got anyway! There were some Spring roll type things, but in rice paper, filled with vegetables, and lots of other small bread type things that were very sweet. And Oolong tea. Andrew and I sat at the Principal's table (Mr Ding), along with the other foreign teachers that went this morning - Katharina and Sarah, and Dalene (from South Africa). We had Andrew, a Chinese English teacher, with us too so he could help us out with interpreting!

We've put some more photos up....

Anyway, it's time for a little nap now after the shock of being up so early. Then I'm going to go out with Katharina later and get a massage - we need it after our big walk up the hill!!

Bye! Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on October 19, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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(In the words of Kath and Kim) - 'That was eyebrow'!

Dongguan, China

Another little blog entry....we had an interesting night last night - Dalene was given some tickets to a concert, but she had other plans (she's from South Africa, so she was preparing to watch the rugby final!)...so she kindly gave them to us. So I got dressed up for the first time since we've been here, and we had a night of culture at the 'Dongguan culture plaza'!

We had no idea what the concert was going to be, or where it was, so we gave ourselves plenty of time, had a quick dinner at Neighbourhood's Favourites and then hopped in a taxi. The place wasn't too far away but we had to walk around a bit to find exactly where we had to go...we arrived at the theatre with 5 minutes to spare, showed our tickets at the door and walked through, expecting to be shown to a seat, but the ushers just looked at us in amazement and kind of pretended they didn't know we were there!! So we kept looking around, as if to say 'where do we sit' and eventually one of them showed us to a seat down the front - perfect seats in the middle that were roped off (we wondered if these were the foreigner seats!)

Out came the compere - a young guy who seemed pretty enthusiastic about the whole thing...then out came a very elegant looking Chinese lady with short hair, dressed in a beautiful full length navy blue velvet dress - she looked stunning. She was carrying a stringed instrument. On the stage there was a piano, and also a sofa. The compere and the lady sat down on the couch and he interviewed her...then after a while he left and she talked more about something, and then started to play - wow, it was fantastic. In between each piece she played she talked for quite a while - i guess about the piece.....in total she was on stage for over an hour!!

Then out came the Chinese man and the compere and they all went to the couch again for another little chat. There was also question time - so people in the audience could ask the performers questions.

By this stage we were starting to get the giggles - just because we were sitting there, without a clue about what was going on in the conversation, but we would clap when everyone else clapped etc....I started to think of the Seinfeld episode when Elaine had to run out of a concert because she couldn't stop laughing.

We were wondering if there was going to be an intermission...but no, it just kept going!!

Then the Chinese man started his part of the performance...he was playing a different kind of stringed instrument, and had piano accompaniment. He was great too. Both performers really got into their music - they were loving it and it showed.

Finally it was over - after about 2.5 hours!!!

I looked up on the net to see if I could find out what the instruments were - I found a website with info...the instruments were the Pipa and the Erhu.

Anyway, it was a great experience, and if we get to go again we will be prepared for a long evening!

permalink written by  arterra on October 20, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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Prisoner on the 12th floor

Dongguan, China


Here I am, it's 4.25am and I can't sleep....I've been overloaded with sleep over the last few days and now I'm wide awake.

Hmmm...let's go back a few days....on Monday I actually had a good class! Yay!! There were lots of disruptions to classes this week because there were health checks going on at the school - all the kids had to have blood tests, eye tests, and the general medical check up, so some classes were cancelled all together. So, on Monday some of Andrew's classes weren't on and he came to one of mine. He sat up the back and it was great because the kids liked having him there...and then I started involving him in the lesson like he was a student, getting him to pronounce a word etc. Then I'd say "Oh wow, what a good student" and write his name on the board...the kids thought it was so funny - they were yelling out "nooooo, he's not a student, he's a teacher" but I'd just pretend not to know what they were saying, and carry on.

Tuesday was a fairly average day really. Tuesday night at about 8pm we went to the school - I thought I might be able to get some Tai Chi in, and Andrew was set to do some laps of the oval. We weren't there very long though when we bumped into some of our Grade 5 girls....well, weren't they happy to see us. We were quickly organised into playing games with them, and the numbers grew, until we had enough to do relays on the track, play "teacher says" and then do some more running games!!! Some mothers had turned up to collect their kids, and they had trouble getting them to leave. Wow, I've never felt so popular!! The kids made us promise that we'd come back at the same time the next night!!!

Andrew has started helping out with the music at the school too....he has made friends with the music teacher (who doesn't speak English), and somehow arranged to help out on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, teaching a small group of students who play trombone and trumpet.

On Wednesday, sickness descended. I went to school in the morning, but by lunch time my throat was really sore and I went home and collapsed on the couch. I've barely been off the couch or out of bed since then, and it's now Saturday morning!! I think it's the flu...aches, pains, coughs, and only enough energy to go from the couch to bed and vice versa!!! Andrew is now coming down with it too...I haven't been out of the apartment since Wednesday which is starting to drive me a little mad...Thank goodness for the DVD player, I've been watching lots of 'Thank God You're Here' and ER! Dalene sent me over a nice loaf of bread and Anne has been ringing to make sure I'm still alive, so that's nice...

Oh, and to top it all off, we didn't have hot water for 2 or 3 days...in the end, after we got tired of waiting for the workmen to come and look at the gas thing, Andrew went and bought some new batteries and put them in, and also cleaned the inside of the gas thing (I forget it's technical name!!)...and bingo, it's working again...it's very unreliable though, so we will enjoy hot showers while we can.

So, that's the latest....I'm not sure what the weekend will hold, probably more lying around I'd say!!!

Hope you are all well....breathe in some of that fresh air for me....Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on October 26, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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The lift

Dongguan, China

A funny story..well, it cracked me up anyway....

One night, a while ago, we arrived home to find that the lift wouldn't budge from the 12th floor - we kept hitting the button, but the lift was not going anywhere.

So we had to climb the 12 flights of stairs (we paused at floor number 6, tempted to break our journey at Matt and James' apartment, but then we soldiered on and made it to the top)....

When we got to the top, Andrew inspected the lift....

Being the dutiful citizen that he is, and not wanting anyone else to have to walk up 12 flights (like our elderly neighbour who incidentally has a very cute little dog), he approached the lift to use his impressive handy man skills on it :)

By this time though, someone had got in on the floor above, and so because Andrew had pressed the button, the doors opened at our floor. The guy in the lift was quite surprised when Andrew didn't get in, and because of the language barrier, Andrew couldn't explain why he was loitering outside the lift - I heard him say "doors broken", but clearly the guy in the lift was a bit mystified - he kept signalling for Andrew to get in and Andrew would just stand there and say "no thanks"!!!

So, after the guy accepted that Andrew was just standing there for no good reason, the doors started to close - but then they sprang open again, because they weren't aligned correctly (although lift man probably thought Andrew had pressed the button again!!!)

After once again ascertaining that no, Andrew did not want to get in, the doors started closing again - this time Andrew lunged forward and punched the doors back into place...this must have been quite a frightening experience for the guy in the lift, who would've seen Andrew approaching as the doors were closing, and then heard him punch the doors violently!!!

Poor guy....he probably got home that night and warned his family to be careful of the crazy Westerner on the 12th floor!!!

Oh well, it gave me a laugh anyway. And we haven't had a problem with the lift since.

permalink written by  arterra on October 26, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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Back to school tomorrow

Dongguan, China

Hello there!

I've been slack with the blog this week...sorry about that! My flu got a bit worse last weekend and I ended up with a chest infection as well - must be all that lovely air around us! So on Monday morning we headed off to the Global Doctor - actually an Australian company...and I saw a Dr from Venezuela, called Dr Jesus! So I knew I was in good hands. He hooked me up to oxygen and ventolin through a mask and then gave me an IV drip of penicillin. I was treated really well and the place was nice and clean....much better treatment than I probably would've got at home!! Yes, Jesus saved me. So I've just been recuperating all week and taking medicine... I'm on the road to recovery now - I went back to school on Friday for my one class of Grade 2 and my 5 Grade 5 girls who came back to our place and watched a DVD.

One thing I haven't mentioned about Dongguan is that it is shoe lovers heaven. A lot of the factories around here make shoes....and so there are heaps of shoe shops and the shoes are gorgeous!! Lots of heels though, so most of them I just admire and don't buy(I'm not too good on heels!!). They have lots of groovy shoes, different colours, and with very interesting decorations on them. Most women around here wear heels all the time - even with jeans. And if you are looking for a plain pair of jeans, forget it - all the jeans I've seen are heavily laden with decorations like pearls, sequins, embroidery, etc. The fashions over here in the shops are very strange - even hard to describe! I didn't bring any winter clothes with me so now that its starting to get cooler (we can finally sleep without the air conditioner on!), I've been keeping an eye out for some warmer clothes - but so far I haven't found anything that I wouldn't look competely ridiculous in!!

We are planning another little trip to Hong Kong next weekend - and hopefully a trip to Macau on Saturday for the day, so we are looking forward to that.

Anyway, that's about it for now - I hope you are all well....Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on November 3, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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Macau adventures

Dongguan, China


Hope you are all well and enjoying Spring in Australia. Well, it's Monday again here and we are back at school once again.

We had a great weekend - we got up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and hopped on the bus to HK. It takes about 3 hours, so it's not too bad, and it's broken up by lots of hopping on and off the bus for the border crossing. We arrived in HK and headed for our hotel - I searched the Internet for ages and found a great deal at a hotel on HK Island...so we were very excited when we arrived and saw the fantastic view we had of the harbour and all the ships and ferries going by.

Our plan was then to go straight to the Macau ferry terminal and get on a boat for Macau -we hadn't booked - just goes to show we are still not used to just how many people there are here....we naively turned up at the ferry terminal, and thought we'd be able to get on the next ferry (just like we do in Sydney!!)....so it wasn't to be...we had to book for Sunday instead.

So, what to do? Well, shopping, of course!! Poor Andrew - I did suggest he could go and sit in the Irish pub while I made my way happily around the shops, but he decided it would be safer to accompany me (mainly for our bank balance I think).

So, we had to get up early again on Sunday and be down to the ferry terminal, ready to go through customs etc. We went on a hydrofoil thing, so it was fast (took an hour) and smooth (no need for those ginger tablets)!

We hired a pedicab in Macau - I don't think we got too ripped off, as we managed to get them down to less than half the price that the guy originally wanted to charge us!! So we had an hour trip around seeing the sights - lots of casinos, but then we reached the centre of town and started to see the prettier Portugese architecture and cobblestones, and Churches. People zoom around on little motorbikes, so there is always a hum of them to be heard. We walked around the streets for a while and took in the sights....took lots of photos, so we'll put those up.

We thought we had plenty of time to get back to the ferry - we weren't entirely sure how to get there but we decided, over our yummy lunch of foccacias and chips (mmm, haven't had a foccacia for ages!!), that 45 minutes should be ample time to get back. We headed off....our pace increasing as we watched the minutes ticking away and we didn't seem to be seeing anything familiar from the pedicab ride....hmmm...little bit of panic sets in...we run a bit....we realise we don't really know where the hell the ferry terminal is...there are no taxis to be seen....it's hot....my feet hurt....we are going to miss the ferry....we are going to be stuck here!!! Andrew says 'let's just cut through on this street" for about the 5th time...we go past a Casino and I have a brilliant idea - let's ask someone where to go...gee, that's a good idea. So we talk to the bellboy of a hotel...he says the ferry terminal is 2-3 kilometres away. Andrew says in horror "23 kilometres"!!! I interpret for him. I can see Andrew working out in his mind exactly how fast we have to run to cover that distance, and I say "can we get a taxi". Bellboy says there are no taxis but we can get a limousine for 30 HK dollars. Now you're talking. I picture a stretch limo, but it turned out to be just a normal car (a nice one though, and I was so happy to get into it!!!)....Our panic was not quite over as we had to be at the terminal 15 minutes before departure and it was already 2.15pm...our boat was leaving at 2.30pm....

But, in the end we made it (after running through the ferry terminal). Not quite the relaxing end to a nice relaxing day, but I was so glad to get on the ferry!!

We didn't have time to go over to the island at Macau (we just stayed on the peninsula), so that is on my list of things to do still.

Anyway, that's all the excitement for now. I'll be in touch again soon. Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on November 11, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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