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Where the heck is Moldova?

Feb. 4th, 2005 11:43 am It's been forever!

I know that I have not written in a very long time and I'm sorry!!!

The holidays were not only boring, they were depressing as well. Without friends and family holidays are empty traditions. Needless to say, I didn't feel much like writing then. But now I do!

We have been preparing for Odyssey of the Mind. My students are competing in this competition and it's on Saturday! However, I discovered something less than appetizing the other day. one day my students were complaining about how much everything cost and how they didn't want to do this anymore...so I reminded them that they volunteered to participate, and they informed that they had NOT volunteered. Apparently, my partner told the students that if they did not participate in this competition then she would give them bad grades in the catalog! I was so angry! That's horrible. I don't know what I can do to make things better here. SIGH.

Any suggestions are apprecitated. I hope to write a longer entry soon. So, until then...

Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated

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Nov. 6th, 2004 12:24 pm Noroc!

Part of teaching English is teaching about our culture and traditions. So last week we learned about the holiday of Halloween. It was great! Halloween isn’t celebrated in Moldova so my students were fascinated by the concept of dressing up and getting candy. We discussed what Americans traditionally do on this holiday and then watched Harry Potter. But the best experience was with my 10th form students.

Wednesday I had my 10th form class last hour (they are my favorites.) We were going to watch the rest of the movie and just kind of hang out. I was excited because I had brought candy for them. Ana, a really bright student in that class, came in and informed me that the other students were taking a Russian quiz and would be late. I wasn’t overly worried. A few minutes later I heard a knock on the door. When I opened the door, my students shouted, “Happy Halloween!” They were all dressed up with masks and painted faces. It was awesome! And they brought candy, cookies, and soda too. So we had a little party and it was great! I went home from school with the biggest grin on my face. I love that class!

I have been in Chisinau this past week for our language and technical in-service training. I learned a lot of interesting things and had a good time, but, boy, was I ready to come home. I like Chisinau but sometimes it’s too much for me and I feel like I am being suffocated by all the noise, people, and movement. Throw a bunch of loud, obnoxious and occasionally drunk Americans in on top of it, and you realize that being alone isn’t necessarily such a bad thing.

One thing that was especially interesting was all the teaching volunteers being together for the election. Some of us stayed up the whole night watching the BBC for information on the election, and using the election as an excuse to celebrate together (i.e. get slobbering drunk). I, however, did not. I was so sick of everyone and everything all I really wanted to do was go back to site and take a nice long walk through the park (am I turning into an old lady or what?). So, me and a few of my friends watched some episodes from the Simpsons (the highlight of my existence) that someone had downloaded from the internet, and then we went to sleep. We woke to hear the controversy about Ohio, and Kerry’s eventual concession. Interesting. My poor friend Igor who is a hardcore democrat was ready to throw himself out the window.

Medicine in Moldova
So, while I was in Chisinau I developed something of a cold. No big deal. I have had lots of cold in my life. But when I came home my host mom was worried and so I was introduced to the wonderful world of modern Moldovan medicine. Meaning I just spent the last hour with three pounds of potatoes and onions wrapped in pantyhose on my chest. Before this, I took a bath with some kind of herbs in it, basil I think. I was offered a shot of vodka with pepper in it, but that is where I draw the line. Potatoes in pantyhose, fine. Strange bath water, ok. Peppered vodka, no thanks. It was interesting to say the least. Almost as interesting as the time when a little baba (old lady) told me that sitting on cement would freeze my ovaries and give me female problems. Sigh. What’s a girl to do?

Since we are on fall vacation this week, I have just enough time to get better and then go back to teaching. Isn’t that wonderful?

The Nepalese
Speaking of wonderful, we just got 5 new volunteers in our group. They were originally in Nepal, but the political situation there has deteriorated so the volunteers were evacuated. Some went home, but those who wanted to stay were placed in new countries. So, now we have 5 new volunteer, 1 health and 4 TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). They will undergo several weeks of intense language training, and then be mentored by one of our more experienced volunteers for a couple more weeks. They will be considered part of our group, Moldova 13. It’s kind of neat. I am excited to meet them and hear about Nepal.

Closing Thoughts
Well that’s about it for now. However, I will write again soon. Oh, and if anyone would be willing to send Christmas stuff, I would be very, VERY grateful. Things like pictures, decorations, stories, candy canes, etc. (Especially candy canes. There aren’t any in Moldova and I think my students would like them.) Gata (done). Va doresc sanatate si bucurie, dragii mei. (I wish you health and gladness, my dears)

Current Mood: draineddrained

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Oct. 28th, 2004 12:22 pm Seminars, and Testing, and Rookies, oh my!

So, I am not working this week. At least not teaching at the school. My partner teacher told me yesterday that we will be putting on a workshop this weekend for area English teachers. So I am supposed to spend the rest of the week preparing for this thing. Apparently, my site mate, Katie, and I will be presenting the “theory” of teaching English as a foreign language, because we are native speakers. Does that make sense to you? Partner teachers: learned English as a foreign language. Katie and I: learned English as native speakers. Crazy. I’m still not entirely sure what this whole workshop is about either. Sigh. Welcome to Peace Corps Moldova.

Testing in Moldova
Gave my first tests this week. It was interesting to say the least. I think I’ve mentioned before that cheating doesn’t exist in Moldova. However, I was bound and determined to have them work alone on their tests. My 10th form classes did wonderfully, but they always do because they’re amazing. My 9th form class….wow. I have a 9th form class that is mostly girls. I went over the procedure for test taking with them before I handed out the test. At first, they were all working so quietly. I was very proud. Hooray! No cheating! But then my partner teacher came in to ask me a question. So because they thought I was distracted they started whispering to each other. I reminded them to work alone, but the whispering continued. Then my partner teacher left and as I was walking back to my desk I saw one of my girls looking in her homework notebook for answers. I was SO angry. I took the notebooks from her and let her finish the test, but she’s getting a 2. However, I don’t know what to do about the rest of the class. Is it really worth all the drama that it will cause? They’ll probably start crying if I give them all 2s. Maybe I should make them retake it. I don’t know. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, because I’m torn on whether this is an educational issue or a cultural one.

Next test, there will be two different forms of the test so they can’t “accidentally” see their neighbor’s paper. Also, they are going to have put up folders for cubbies. (Thanks to Mrs. Humphrey and my fabulous 1st graders for that. ) In the meantime, I am at a loss for how to deal with this. Sigh. I find it hard to punish them for the way their culture raised them to work. Wow…don’t know.

The Rookie
On a happier note, Calarasi is getting another volunteer! That means there will be three of us here. Her name is Darcie and she’s from Topeka, Kansas. Small world, huh? She’s an EOD (Economic Development) volunteer so she will be working with the center for handicapped children. She’s here now on her site visit, so Katie and I have been filling her in on how things are here in Calarasi and in Peace Corps in general. It’s been really strange because it seems like just yesterday that I was the new kid on the block and now I am giving advice like a pro. It’s kind of neat!

Well, that will be about it for this edition of Lost in Moldova…Tune in next week to see what happens to our dazzling young heroine when she attends her training sessions in Chisinau. Succes si sanatate!

Current Mood: confusedconfused

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Oct. 25th, 2004 02:45 pm Make them cry!! Ha ha ha!!!!!

Well, I must be the most evil English teacher EVER. I am going to make my students cry! My students had their tests and for the most part did very well. But there is one class who didn't. And they will suffer the wrath of the crazy American!

As I have mentioned in previous entries, cheating doesn't exist in Moldova. But in Miss Maria's class it does. Before the test, I went over the rules. We discussed what cheating was, what the consequences were, etc. My 10th form classes were amazing (even the one that had cheated before. I guess they had learned their lesson.) But one of my 9th form classes....wow! Was Miss Maria angry.

So they began taking their test very nicely. No talking. No copying. Nothing. I was proud. Enter the partner teacher. So, my partner had a question for me. I figured I am still in the classroom they wouldn't dream of cheating. Boy, was I wrong. Apparently, they think that if the teacher is distracted they can do whatever they want. As I was talking to my partner, little whispers started. I reminded them to work alone quietly. My teacher left and as I was walking back to my desk, I saw one of my girls using her notebooks. I was angry! She will be getting a 2. And she will be crying. That's why I am an evil teacher. HAHAHAHAHA!

I have a line of little boys waiting to use the computer so I'll write more later.

Current Mood: amusedamused

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Oct. 13th, 2004 05:53 am Cold in Moldova

Yeah, so it's starting to get cold here. Cold meaning I can now see my breath in my bedroom. That means time to turn on the Peace Corps issued heater. I hope you all appreciate how much your nicely heated houses mean. :)

School is going well. Although, I had to give out my first 2s the other day. (The grading system here is based from 1-10. Teachers don't give 10s, except for the crazy American of course. They also don't give 1s because students can add a 0 so that they have a 10. It happens.) I gave my 10th form students a quiz the other day. I have told them from the first day of school: No talking during test/quizzes. No copying. I have repeatedly discussed this with them, because cheating doesn't exist in Moldova. If you copy someone's work, they're just kind of helping you out. Anyway, I told them if it happened in my classroom they would receive a 2. End of story. Well, 2 of my 10th graders had the exact same answer word for word on the quiz that I gave them. So I gave them 2s. Surprisingly, they handled it very well and understood why I had to do it. It was interesting.

Although I'm pretty busy here, I'm not busy enough to not be lonely for you guys. This week has been pretty rough because I miss you all so much. I'm suffering from contact envy. My sitemate receives letters, packages, emails, and phonecalls ALL the time. SIGH. I don't, and I feel cut off from everyone and that is no fun....

But I have no fear. I am Maria Super Volunteer, and I'm sure that I will get out of this slump eventually. Until then take care and fiti santatosi (Feetz Sahn-ah-tosh: be healthy).

Current Mood: lonelylonely

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Sep. 29th, 2004 03:13 pm The chickens are coming, the chickens are coming!!

I used to think that the scariest sound in the world was the sound of 30 pairs of chicken feet running behind you on the pavement. I was wrong, there's something scarier. Monday was a religious holiday here in Moldova, the holiday of the cross. It marked the beginning of one of 4 lent seasons that we have in the Russian orthodox church. So, that pretty much means we don't work, we don't wash our clothes, and we eat "lent" food. That is what's so scary. The scariest thing is NOT chicken feet running behind you on concrete, but chicken feet (without the chickens attached to them)put in front of you for dinner. Wow! My host mom plopped those babies in front of me with such pride and ordered me to "mananca!" I just looked at those creepy little claws and laughed. In between giggles, I managed to explain that I had never even seen someone eat chicken feet, much less eaten them myself. She laughed at us "silly Americans" for never having had such a delicacy as chicken feet. Needless to say, my dinner that night was potatoes si gata (she gah-tah: and that's all.) Life in Moldova is definitely interesting.

On Tuesday, we didn't have any classes except for first hour. At first, I thought this might be due to the beginning of the lent season, but I later discovered it was due to an assembly (which the American knew nothing about. Go figure!) We had an assembly to protest what's going on in Transdnistria. If you haven't heard, the government in the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnistria closed all the Romanian speaking schools this summer. There are military men standing guard to make sure the children don't enter. So a whole bunch of kids are without an education just because they want to speak Romanian and not Russian. So we had an assembly where people gave speeches and afterwards all classes were cancelled to show our solidarity with the students in Transdnistria. Interesting cultural point: a speech here in Moldova means that one person talks about whatever the heck they want for as long as they want and everyone else doesn't listen. One of our older professors gave a speech that started off about everyone's right to an education and ended up being about not smoking in school. It was ridiculous.

Another funny story to make you laugh: So Maria had a really stressful weekend getting things turned into my director and preparing for classes and whatnot. Sunday night I was so tired that I went to bed at about 9 without having eaten dinner. 9:45 my host mom opens my door and asks if I'm awake. I don't answer, so she asks again and then enters, turns on the light, and gives me a plate full of coltunasi (kinda like ravioli). So I sit in my bed with a plate full of food, exhausted to the bone, and I start to cry and I say, "I hate my life!" It was pretty funny afterwards though. And I'm much better now, so no worries. Such is the life of an American Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova. :)

Current Mood: sassy

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Sep. 20th, 2004 08:34 am ah Life!

Teaching in Moldova
In some respects, teaching here is so much easier than in the States. I only teach 18 hours a week. Classes are only 45 minutes long. I have two of every grade so I can repeat lessons quite easily. My classes are small. But then there are things that make teaching here difficult. Classes are only 45 minutes long. My classes are small. My Romanian is less than adequate. And of course my students desire for perfection in EVERYTHING! Sigh. Oh well, you gotta make do with what you have.

I love teaching my kids though. They are so funny. Like today. In my 10th grade class they were writing in their journals and I was grading their homework. I read Nicolai’s homework. I had given each student a list of three things that they would have with them on an abandoned island and they had to give me as many reasons as possible for having those items. One of Nick’s items was a mirror. So he had written that he would use it to make fires during the day, but at night he would use to look at himself because he did not want to forget his beautiful face. In the middle of this silent room, I burst out laughing. It was a riot! Then they all wanted to know why I was laughing,, so I told them and they all laughed too. It was really fun. Makes me love teaching.

Host family
My host family is really great. I have a host dad, Andrei, who drives a truck for some company here in town, a host mom, Laura, who is constantly saying to me “mananca, Maria, mananca!” (eat, Maria, eat), and a really sweet host sister, Julia, who is studying in Chisinau. They are great. My host mom cracks me up. She is forever asking me about how things are in America. One day as we were eating watermelon, she asked me if we had it in America. I told her we did, and she asked, but not as good as this right? And I said it was pretty much the same in both places. And then I explained how we had watermelons without seeds and she was floored by this. She said, I have never heard of this. I don’t believe it. I tried so hard not to laugh out loud. It was pretty funny.

So, my living situation is good, but it looks like my site mate, Katie, will be moving out to a new house just like I did. Here host mom treats her like a little kid. For the longest time she would ask Katie, “vrei sa faci lulu?” (do you want to take a nappie-poo?) Plus, now all they do is argue about how much Katie will pay for food (which she doesn’t get to eat very much of). So, Katie will move out into a new house. I am happy for her because she wasn’t happy at the old house and the new host family has a host daughter close to our age that Katie is friends with.

Messages from Home
You guys have no idea how wonderful it is to hear from you all. Every time I get an email or a text message from you guys I almost cry I am so happy. It really makes my day. Man, do I miss you guys! So, keep sending the messages because they make me days so much better, brighter, and easier. I love you all and think of you often.

Updates to Maria's Fabulous Wish List
*DVDs and cds (It gets really boring here sometimes)
*Books for me to read (Like I said...boring.)
*Books for my students (poetry books, books on women's rights or the achievements of women, multicultural books, books on the environment, books on health issues, etc. Oh and Harry Potter. :) )
*Peanut Butter (Crunchy and regular)
*Drink mixes of any kind (like hot chocolate)
*Laminating Paper
*Word searches or crossword puzzles of any kind
****Food for Thanksgiving. (Some of us poor PCVs who are staying here for the holidays want to have a traditional meal so anything that would make it feel like home is appreaciated. Canned goods, marshmallows, pumpkin pie mix, etc.)

Current Mood: lovedloved
Current Music: The Smiths

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Sep. 13th, 2004 03:37 pm Hram

So, I have had an interesting couple of days. Yesterday was Hram, which is a very important day. Every town and village in Moldova has their own special day called Hram. It's kind of like a saint's day, and each place has a special saint who has a special day. On this day you gather with friends and family to eat as much food and drink as much wine as humanly possible. And if an American happens to be in your house, wow. You'd better make sure they understand the phrase "Moldovan hospitality."

That explained, I shall commence with my story. My friend, Ana, invited me to join her as she went to visit her friends and family for Hram. I was hopelessly underdressed. But being as I am the stupid American, it was okay. I spoke with Ana's dad in a crazy mix of english, romanian, and spanish. But we all laughed and had a good time. (Maybe the wine should be thanked) And then the inevitable moment arrived: the moment when someone announces that they have a cousin (nephew, son, grandson, neighbor, fill in your masculine noun of choice) that you just HAVE TO meet. After all, 22 and single is just a shame. It's very amusing actually. So I was introduced to a bevy of male cousins, friends, grandsons, etc. and asked, "Aren't moldovan boys the cutest?" To which I replied, "desigur." (of course)

Later, Ana and I went to her boyfriend's family's house. There I met his insanely drunk uncle, who did nothing but welcome me to Moldova over and over and over. He was hilarious. He kept forgetting that I spoke only Moldovan (romanian) and would lapse back into Russian. It was hilarious. It became even more funny when he attempted to sing for us. But, I am told this is nothing out of the ordinary for Moldovans, especially during Hram.

I had a really good time with my friend Ana regardless of the fact that she is "trying to be inside my soul", according to my partner teacher here in Calarasi. But that's a whole other story. So, my advice to you. Eat lots of food, drink lots of wine, but make sure you do it in the company of good friends, and then you can have your very own Moldovan celebration just like us. :)

Current Mood: amusedamused

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Sep. 4th, 2004 03:31 pm Maria's 1st day at school

So the new school year has begun. We had a big ceremony that was completely unlike anything in America. Since my school is 1st-11th grades we had the introduction of the new 1st graders. Everyone was dressed up in their best, boys in suits and girls in nice dresses, skirts, or suits. The 11th graders escorted the 1st graders around the playground where we had the ceremony as we clapped for our new students. Then the director (our principal), the ex-director, and the vice-mayor all gave speeches. Very LONG speeches. I was introduced and gawked at. It was neat. Then 3 priests from our local church blessed the beginning of our school year. After, a boy and a girl from the 1st grade and along with two 11th graders rang a bell to signal the start of school as they walked around us. It was fascinating. The students dispersed and went to their classes, and I finally got to see my closet, I mean classroom.
Yeah, so obviously my classroom is not very big. It’s a good thing I only have 6-10 students in classes, because there is no way I could fit anymore kids in there. I have a chalkboard, but it is horrible. And I had to fight to get it on the long wall. In Moldova the traditional classroom is organized with the desks in rows facing the chalkboard. So for me to want the chalkboard on the side wall and not the front wall was near blasphemy. But it hangs there now and I am happy.  It was also strange for them to see my desk in groups and not rows. (But, Maria, the students’ backs will be to the board. They won’t learn.) But in groups they will remain.
Oh, most important thing. I didn’t teach a single thing the first day. It was SO boring. But now I am teaching and it’s great. I have two 8th grade classes, two 9th grade classes, and two 10th grade classes. My partner is very worried about me having the “bad” kids. But compared to students in America, Moldova students all seem like good kids. So far anyway. I’ve been told that they will become more obraznici (oh-brahz-nich, cheeky) as the weeks go by.
So that’s all for now. I hope everything is going well back home. My love to everyone.

PS: Here’s my updated wish list.
-Any kind of candy…especially chocolate
-Phase 10 (card game: and any other card games)
-rubber bands
-GOOD toilet paper (the stuff here is…ummm…less than adequate)
-Pictures of you guys!!!!!! (I miss seeing your faces. Plus, my students love seeing pictures of you all. Mom, the picture of your butt is famous!)

Current Mood: contentcontent

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Aug. 31st, 2004 02:53 pm Life in Moldova thus far...

Okay so my life in Moldova…I know you all have been dying to hear of my stories and adventures. So, in absolutely no special order, here there are.

The food here in Moldova is absolutely wonderful right now! It’s summer so we have lots of fruits and vegetables. Meat is readily available (the chickens are right outside after all). And ice cream here is pretty decent. The traditional Moldovan food is the best. My host mom in Lapusna (my training village) made something called placenta (not placenta, pla-chen-ta). This is the Romanian word for pie, but it’s not really anything like a pie. It’s made with dough, a little bit of sunflower seed oil, and a mixture of eggs and brinza (brinza is sheep cheese, it’s kind of tangy). Then you fry it up in the frying pan and mmmm….it’s so good. Man, I’m making myself hungry. What else do we eat? Oh yeah, we have coltunasi (colt-sue-nash). It’s kind of like ravioli, but in the middle there is brinza or potatoes or sometimes even cherries (yum!). Things I miss: MEXICAN FOOD!!! Although it is possible for me to make this myself, I am not yet adept at moving around the kitchen here. What else do I miss? Pringles, good Mountain Dew (the MD here is awful!), and most of all Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups! Better switch subjects, I am making myself homesick.

Here in Moldova family is a real big deal. Families are pretty close. In fact usually the youngest daughter stays with her parents even after she’s married so that she can care for them in their old age. My 1st host family was absolutely wonderful. I stayed with them during training. In fact, we are so close that I call my host mom “mama”. She loves it! My host sisters and I are really close too. Victoria is 20 and going to school in the capital. She wants to be an international lawyer. And Cornelia, gosh I love her. She’s 14 and reminds me so much of my sister Hannah (love you lil ROO). Cornelia is the reason I recovered from my homesickness. Even though I no longer live with them, I still talk to them and I will probably spend Christmas with them. I love them so much! My new host family here in Calarasi (Cal-ah-rash) is absolutely wonderful. My host parents are sweet and I get along great with my host sister Julia; she’s 18 and is getting ready to go to the university in the capital. I love how close the families here are, especially the women in the families. It’s wonderful!

Since I will be teaching here in Moldova, I should probably say something about the school system. They have several different kinds of schools here. The Gradinita (Gra-din-it-sa) is the kindergarten here. It’s similar to preschool and all kids attend. Then when students are 6 or 7 they go to the Scoala Primara (Sh-cwal-ah pri-mar-a). This is for 1st through 4th graders. After that they attend the gymnasium, 5th-8th graders. And finally the lyceum 9-12th grades. They have really important tests they have to take in 9th form and 12th form (a form, by the way, is a grade. So if you are in the 9th form, it’s 9th grade. Don’t you love British English?) similar to MAP testing back home, except these tests pretty much decide what these students will do for the rest of their lives. And then there’s the school I will be teaching at. My school, scoala media, goes from 1st to 11th grades and is a throwback to the soviet area. In some places they also have Russian schools, where only Russian is spoken even though Romanian is the national language. Students begin learning a foreign language in 2nd grade, either French or English. They are required to learn Russian. However, they national curriculum is rarely followed and the books are impossibly difficult. And everything is so unorganized. I start teaching in 2 days and I still don’t know where my classroom is or what grades I will be teaching, but I am not too worried because MY students will become pros

When I first got here I expected something similar to Mexico, the whole 3rd world thing. And to some extent that exists, but that is such a clash of cultures, ideas, generations, etc. that Moldova is a huge contradiction. It’s not unusual to see a beautiful Moldovan girl dressed in the height of fashion strolling down a street next to an old baba wearing her slippers and bathrobe. There is also a big clash of East and West here. It’s so strange. Moldova though is absolutely gorgeous. My town is up in the hills and surrounded by the padura (pa-dur-ah: an ancient forest). Breath-taking. And the drive from the airport into the capital was when well worth making because I got to see “the gates of the city.” It’s very majestic.
Also, a lot of families have members working abroad. It’s very difficult to get a good job here, so they go and work in Italy, Israel, Greece, Russia, etc. and then send the money home to their families. But it’s difficult because sometimes they are gone for a very long time. My host mom in Lapusna worked in Israel for 4 years as a nurse because she couldn’t find work here. It’s strange. More than a 1/5 of the population is working abroad. It also makes the economic situation difficult because most of the money spent is coming from outside the country.

At first it was difficult for me to be here because I was so homesick, but now I am content and happy to be here. I know that I am supposed to be here, there is a purpose for it. I still miss you all but asa-i viata omului (ah-shy vee-at-sa om-ul-oi). It means that is the life of man, very popular saying here. So if you have questions or thoughts for me, please feel free to share. I love hearing from you guys. And as always keep me in your thoughts and prayers. Succes si sanatate! (success and health)

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