China Jubilee

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Recent photos September 8, 2013

Filed under: Cooking,Craft,Life — missjubilee @ 7:53 pm

Life is staying full here, though I’ve had some down time this weekend. Here are a few little things.

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Supper in under five minutes. Leftover leftovers and fresh fruit. Leftover celery, cooked rice, and a little leftover eggplant were combined with some onion, garlic, salt, curry powder, along with a can of kidney beans and an egg, the last item only because I am apparently incapable of frying up anything with leftover rice without putting in an egg. Anyway it made two dinners for that week plus one more in the freezer that I ate tonight. I’ve never had anything quite like it, and this time at least I can say that with a happy rather than “blech” face!

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Here’s the blech – mold on two books I took from home when I finished high school. So sad. I will replace Hind’s Feet but the other would probably be difficult to find since Mom bought it in college so I’ll try wiping it down with vinegar.

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Last night I babysat an actual baby for the first time in a while. Isn’t she cute?

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Today while I was picking up some shirts from the tailor I also picked up more blue & white fabric half-meters. I’m not sure yet if the quilt it becomes will have the yellow mixed in or just more whites. Or even if it WILL become a quilt, since I’m pretty busy now and I don’t plan to ship fabric to the land of JoAnn’s and such when I leave! At least not quilting fabric. Maybe a bit of the batik blue & white prints that I’m basing this selection around (in the foreground).

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Such pretty beans growing in the cul-de-sac by my building.

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Stella watching the sunrise. It was the physical connection to a message I’d heard last weekend from John Piper about the glory of the Lord being revealed.

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Psalm 121. My heart has been tender as I’ve been stretched. It’s not easy learning to rely on the Lord for strength. Right now for instance it’s Sunday evening and I’ve felt a lot less urgent and hungry in my prayer and reading times the last 48 hours because it’s not crunch time – it’s school that is pushing me beyond my strength. But oh how this psalm ministered to me one day this week.

Posting these photos reminds me, I’ve posted most of them before, some on FB and some on WeChat. It’s been great to connect with friends on the latter app, especially people I knew in ZZ. Have you tried it? It’s the English version of an app that’s actually Chinese (I think), and it’s similar to Voxer but with more features. Plus easier to find people – so far I have about 30 connections on the one and about three on the other! The main feature they share is the ability to send short audio clips back and forth, like a time-delay walkie talkie. Not very delayed, unless your Internet speed is slow. If you haven’t tried either app, pick one and give it a go!

 

American in China August 31, 2013

Filed under: Life,Travel — missjubilee @ 8:11 pm

This weekend I’m at a training conference in Shanghai for the math curriculum our elementary school uses. I’ve been to Shanghai twice before, both times in transit to other places but with a short stopover planned to see or do things here. This is the first time I’ve actually come TO Shanghai, and the first time I haven’t had any special plans related to location. Not that things haven’t happened anyway.

Last night our whole group went for dinner at a steak house in the same part of town as our hotel (which in a big city like Shanghai isn’t saying much in terms of closeness!) I would estimate that our group ate about 2 kilos of pure beef, ten potatoes’ worth of baked/mashed/fried goodness, plus my Caesar salad (ever since summer I’ve been trying to eat minimal meat so that was about the only thing on the menu for me – but someone did share a couple bites of his steak with me and it was delicious!) So that was a very special meal.

Today the conference started. On the bus from the Best Western – which is pretty standard for here, nice but since it mostly caters to Chinese people I could give you a long list of ways it differs from one in the West – as I was saying, on the bus to Shanghai Amer. School, another teacher warned me about the shock of the area we were going to. She was spot on. We drove through a pair of ornate gates into a manicured expanse of golf course, suburban homes, and extensive school complex. O.o Wow. We were all staring around ourselves wondering if the Enterprise had come back in time again and Scotty had accidentally beamed us all to an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the States, or perhaps dropped a suburb from there down in China.

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After the meetings today I stayed an extra three hours to work on assignments for my current grad class with the wifi in the secondary library. It was good to have some alone time. More to come when I get back to the hotel hopefully (most of the staff was planning to go out and see the city tonight). I borrowed a couple books to read, then went out to wait for the taxi that had been called for me.

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While waiting in the gorgeous Shanghai evening, I watched frequent groups of electric scooters buzzing past on the mostly-deserted roads. My thoughts over time:

-Hm, I expected foreigners here but those are Chinese folk. I should not have made assumptions! Chinese families can afford super-ritzy homes too, after all. (Make no mistake, they would be upper-mid homes in the States, but on the edge of a crowded Chinese city these places are opulent.)
-Wow, there have been a lot of Chinese people going by and no foreigners at all. Hm.
-Oh look, a white mom and daughter walking the dog and roller blading.
-Wow, a white man walking up with a drink in his hand, walking past the guards and into the school, I bet he’s a teacher going to get some grading done on a Saturday evening.
-Oh, some white, English-speaking boys playing in their yard, how cute.
-There goes another… and another… and another electric scooter with a Chinese person on it.
-Hm, I’m noticing two different trends here. White people walking around. Chinese people all headed towards the exit on electric scooters.

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Suddenly I felt like I was in a scene from “The Help,” China version, though presumably (hopefully?) without the bigotry and prejudice that underlay the American story. The work day was ending and the hired help were headed home. At least, that’s the story I settled on in my mind, in this little piece of American – and Chinese – life in China.

Input from others? Information I’m missing regarding the situation? For the record, I have hired help of my own here, have BEEN hired help myself one summer in the States, and I mean no judgement on the institution in general nor on this specific case by comparing it to that movie/book – it’s just not something I grew up with and thus a surprise when I notice it all over again in a new context/way. Surprise makes us uncomfortable and hopefully reflective. So I thought I’d share the moment of surprise here to look back on one day, and for feedback from readers.

 

People in June June 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 4:18 pm

June is a great time for group photos.  Here are a few from the last three weeks.

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Yi Jing area staff bus on the last day of school

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Women’s Goodbye Dinner – all the women in our city who are attached to our company, honoring the 8 women who were leaving

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Staff End-of-Year dinner, with a “small” group of my co-workers and friends!

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The last day of our cohort’s first summer class in Beijing

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The requisite silly group photo!

 

Lamb & Eggplant March 31, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 9:14 pm

Since lamb seems somewhat traditional with Easter, I bought half a pound of ground lamb when I was at the store on Friday. (The lamb chops were pricey and small.)  I didn’t really know what to do with it, but I figured if I didn’t get any inspiration, I could always crumble it with some sort of sauce and eat it with rice or pasta.  At the local shops today I bought some eggplant, figuring both lamb and eggplant are middle-eastern.  Then at dinner time I fired up the AllRecipes app on my phone, did a little Googling on the laptop, and came up with this:

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Starting with olive oil and minced garlic, I browned the lamb, then added the spices from AllRecipes’ Grilled Spicy Lamb Burgers (minus most of the cumin and red pepper flakes) and a chopped up eggplant.  A couple minutes later I dumped in a guesstimate of the liquids from the burger recipe, a can of chopped tomatoes, and the vestiges of a long onion for color.  I let it all simmer covered for a while and then uncovered to thicken.  Meanwhile one Metro pita from the freezer got thawed out in the toaster oven while I dealt with a partially-peeled pineapple for dessert.  Hurrah, a yummy dinner, and I have enough of the main dish left to fill the other two pitas in the freezer tomorrow or the next day :)

 

Make the Bread February 19, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — missjubilee @ 2:12 pm

It’s another bread-making day today.  Why?  Because I wanted to try a new lasagna recipe.

Train of thought yesterday evening: Oh, I will need ricotta for lasagna.  I guess.  It was the main reason I didn’t like lasagna as a child, the texture grossed me out, but… yeah, I’ve made my peace with ricotta now after having it on fresh bread and toast so often.  OK, ricotta it is.

That means I will have the perfect amount of warm whey for some bread or bagels!  But I REALLY don’t have time to make bagels tomorrow.  Ooh, good thing I finished up the bread for breakfast this morning then!  I’ll make some fresh bread.

So, this morning I made ricotta & let it drain, then made bread dough with the whey and set it under the radiator to rise, then used half of the ricotta for a half-recipe of zucchini lasagna (I’m not fully convinced I’ll like it better there than spread on the bread, so I couldn’t bear to use it all in one go).  The lasagna is now covered with foil and waiting till 5-ish to go in the oven, the dough is still rising, and I’m taking a break!

A break means time to type up recipes!  The bread didn’t rise enough the first time I made it (just one loaf’s worth thankfully).  I think the problem was that it called for room-temp water and my kitchen is way too cold.  Since that first loaf I’ve wised up and used warm liquid like I do any other time I make bread, specifically the whey from ricotta, topped off with a little water if needed.  It got rave reviews when I made it last weekend, and I’m going to be sharing some of today’s batch as well – the whole reason bread recipes make 2 loaves is because you eat 1 loaf the first day when it’s still warm/fresh and then eat the other loaf slowly over the next week, isn’t it?

Ricotta

from Smitten Kitchen, though I looked at the below book this time too because I ran out of lemon juice last time I made this and haven’t been able to find a bottle since then

Pour a 1 liter box of milk into a heavy saucepan.  Sprinkle in about 1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt (or table salt?)  Glop in somewhere between 1/2 and 1 cup of heavy cream (if you have it. If not, it’s OK.)

Heat the milk, stirring constantly (or at least almost constantly) until it’s almost boiling.  This time I was looking really closely during short stirring breaks to try and get it just right, and I noticed the surface moving a bit though bubbles weren’t breaking the surface, so I figured that was a good place to stop.

Take the pot off the heat and pour in ONE of these acids:

6 Tablespoons white vinegar OR 3 Tablespoons lemon juice.

Give it a couple gentle stirs, and leave it to sit for 5 minutes.

Line a colander with some cheesecloth (I use a triple-layered cheesecloth, ie a longer piece that I fold twice) and put it in a bowl to catch the whey.  Check that the milk mixture looks curdled, and pour it into the cheesecloth-colander-bowl stack to drain.  (If it isn’t curdled, as happened to me once, I’m not sure what to do – maybe add more acid and see if it helps, or maybe shrug, pour it in anyway, and use what manages not to flow through as sour cream or something.)

After a short time you can pour out the whey to use for bread – by the time it’s cool enough not to kill the yeast, it will be almost finished draining.  Leave the ricotta longer to drain more if you like it really thick, but you can go ahead and use the bulk of the whey while it sits.

EverydayBread

adapted from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

In a large bowl, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon yeast over 3 1/2 cups warm whey or warm water.  Let sit for 5 min or so.  While it sits, grease 2 loaf pans.

Add the dry ingredients:

1/4 cup ground flaxseed (optional, but why wouldn’t you use it?)
7 1/4 cups of flours*
4 teaspoons kosher salt (or about 2 tsp table salt)

(* My flour mix is different each time; this time it was: 1/2 cup wheat germ, 1 cup graham (whole wheat) flour, 1 3/4 cups bread flour, 4 cups all-purpose flour.)

Mix well.  That’s right, mix, but no kneading needed! Of course, you can knead it if you want to. I tend to stir it for an extra 60 seconds and call it good.  Put half into each loaf pan and spread it more or less evenly.  Cover them with a damp kitchen towel and place somewhere warm to rise until level with the top of the pans (2-5 hours or possibly longer, depending on where you leave it).

Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Sprinkle loaves with a little kosher salt and put into the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Then remove the loaves from the pans, return to the oven, and bake about 15 min longer, until the crust is a nice crusty color and the loaves sound hollow when tapped.  Place on a rack to cool.

Let cool as long as you can stand it, then cut into one and enjoy it spread with nice fresh ricotta and any fruit spread you have on-hand, or melt some butter on it if you didn’t make ricotta!

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Rising bread dough – below the radiator, with an old towel draped over it to trap in heat.  My mini loaf pans fit perfectly on top of the radiator and rise like nobody’s business! but the full-sized ones go under it and rise more slowly.

 

Some things I’ve learned February 12, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 9:42 pm

It’s the break!  Happy Chun Jie to one and all :)

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As the title says, this post will focus on a few things I’ve learned recently.

Those huge cups you get at the movie theater?  The kind I NEVER buy except just this once because it (and none of the smaller ones) had The Hobbit on it?  Yeah.  PERFECT for when you get a cold.  Fill that baby up with hot-ish water and you’re good to go for at least an hour.  Just keep the Kleenex box and bathroom close by.  Bonus: Since I kept the lid and heavy-duty straw, my cat doesn’t feel the urge to drink out of it or knock it over to drink off the floor.

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I would, as I have always thought, LOVE to go to Europe.  Mostly Western but I wouldn’t mind seeing the whole place if I had the resources!  (As I teach my kids, our resources are time, talent, and treasure – thank you, Pastor Eric, for that alliteration!)  Right now all I have is the time and possibly the ability to save the treasure.  I am lousy at planning, though (the talent part of a trip), and while I enjoy learning my way around a place if I have an extended time there, I do not tend to get much sight-seeing done in new cities if dropped into them solo – eg, I have totally wasted a day in both Shanghai and Bangkok.  I have very little experience traveling with friends, but I know enough about myself to know it would have to be a very close friend and our personalities would have to be the right match for traveling together.  So, awesome though going next Chinese New Year would be (PERFECT time to avoid the crowds, no? Everybody else in the Western world is working then!), I think I’ll be waiting till I’m married.  Or possibly working there someday.  Or both.

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I might not have as much time to visit Europe from here as other China-based friends.  I’m not sure of anything yet, but it looks like next year’s might be my last Chun Jie (Chinese New Year) while living in China, at least for this season of my life.  For various reasons, I feel like summer 2014 may be the time to move back to the United States for a while.  I am still praying for guidance and confirmation and open doors – I suppose I will be praying for those sort of things all my life if I’m wise – but I found that my heart’s compass shifted during the week after I told the school that I would like to sign just a one-year contract for next year, shifting from “I live in China, maybe I’ll leave soon-ish, ask me again next winter when contracts come up again,” to “I think I will leave China in 18 months unless something changes and I stay.”

I have learned in the last year or two that I need friends who pursue me, because I am not great at keeping up relationships nor do I always trust my ability to read/interpret social cues.  And I’ve realized that I need and want to be more of a pursuer.  Having been blessed by a friend pursuing me, I want to share that blessing with others.  Not just random people off the street, mind you – if I’m pursuing you, it’s because I DO want to spend time with you, know you better, have a deeper relationship in which we can glorify the one who made us to live in community with others.  We have a God who pursues us passionately – I want to be more like Christ in this way!  And if I’m not pursuing you at the moment, it doesn’t mean I DON’T want to be with you, like I said I’m not great at this – ladies, if you want to get to know me better, try pursuing me and see what happens.  If I’m slow on the uptake, spell it out for me even.

And I am so grateful for friends to talk these things over with!  Different kinds of friends, but each such a blessing in my life.  I am going to miss Sara as she’s going to be away the rest of the break – no time for a cup of tea & a chat, or things like that.  I’m glad I can spent time with Stephanie during the days to come, with movies and talking and all.  Maybe I can find a time to Skype with Mom when it’s not too early or late “her time” since my own time will be more flexible during the break.  And so many other wonderful people here and elsewhere… I love and appreciate you!

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PS: Oh, and that also means the clock is ticking on traveling within Asia!  Where should I visit?  What MUST I see while I live here?  I’ve come up with a couple ideas of multi-stop itineraries for next Christmas and Chun Jie breaks (domestic and international respectively), but there are still two Spring Breaks to possibly fill!

 

Various Notes + Birthday February 2, 2013

Filed under: Friends,Life — missjubilee @ 12:38 am

What started as a “too many thoughts for a simple status update” post turned into a birthday-week run-down.

Listening to the Hobbit soundtrack (thank you, Jordan!) and wondering how I can get “Misty Mountains” as my ringtone. … And wondering if I would ever answer the phone if I managed it, or just listen to it ring until the caller hung up.  Actually, I’d probably want to shuffle “Misty Mountains” with Aragorn’s coronation song which, yes, I have memorized in its original whatever-Tolkien-language-it-is (but am not geek enough to know WHICH language, apparently). If this super-long soundtrack ever ended I’d go listen to that right now, but I’m not interrupting a new album for a song I’ve heard before!

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My sweater collar and pushed-back hair one morning made me think of Gary Oldman’s bad guy in “The Fifth Element” so I stopped to snap a photo.  This sort of thing amuses me.  The character was loathsome, mind you, but I like the movie and like Gary Oldman as an actor!

The internet has gotten, hm, more free-flowing?  Less constipated?  Something good.  Recently.  Videos from the US stream at watchable speeds – something they haven’t done in well over a year.  This morning I heard Amy K and Beth talking about the new Lizzie Bennet Diaries video and so I pulled out my phone, plugged in my headphones, and pulled it up – and it PLAYED!  I have NEVER been able to watch an internet video on my phone here before!!!  Even when videos loaded slowly-but-surely on my laptop, the phone used to load about a second per minute and after 5-10 minutes of trying I would give up in disgust.  Now I’d better remember I have only 300 MB 3G service per month… (and too bad it was the first day of the month today; I had over half of last month’s left yesterday!)

Thursday was not only the last day of January, it was the 100th day of school.  Three children brought in 100 of something to celebrate.  Fun :)

I’ve started knitting a pair of socks with the pretty green yarn Mom gave me last year for my birthday + the needles she gave me this year.  So far I’m 1-for-2 on finished pairs of socks – one finished pair with yarn she gave me quite a few years back, and one very-much unfinished pair with hand-dyed yarn I bought online another year.  I hope this pair follows the trend of Mom-given yarn and gets finished, and quicker than the last pair!

I love to drink a piece of fruit!  Not like with a juicer – just what it feels like when I eat it and it’s very juicy!  Usually it’s apples; this evening it was about 1/3 of a pomelo that I pulled apart last weekend and then kept forgetting because it was hiding under all the birthday leftovers in my fridge.

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(all the different yogurt in the bottom is to try as starters to make my own yogurt… once I remember to buy a couple liters of milk! till then it goes on pav.)

Birthday leftovers!  My fridge is still more than half-full, including 2 personal-pan-sized pizzas that Ayi made TUESDAY and I still haven’t baked because there’s been so much else to eat!  I wonder if the yeast is all dead yet?  Well, I’ll bake them tomorrow for lunch at last!

Other leftovers get a little story of their own – the story of a lovely birthday week!  Just before my birthday I started the ball rolling by leaving some regular-food leftovers in the fridge because I tend to suffer from empty-fridge, bored-tummy on weekends, but then I just snacked on my birthday while I cooked my birthday dessert – Pavlova! – so the mundane foods had to take a back-seat as the birthday foods began.

I made a double batch of pavlova (1 regular large circle and 8 small ones) and the thought I’d burned it – it certainly smelled burnt! – so I quickly whipped up another single batch, only to find when I took them out of the oven that in fact they were all wonderfully edible.  I still have 3 single-serving sized meringue bases left, along with some of the second batch of strawberries I had to buy to eat with them all!

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my first pavlova

I already had eaten some birthday dessert by then, though – Cindy P made some super carrot cake with frosting to share that morning!  And sent me home with 3 pieces (breakfast, snack, dinner dessert….)

My birthday guests that night made dinner and brought it with them.  Steph T brought yogurt and fruit that went on the pav along with the cream and strawberries I had for it – SO perfect!  That finally reached its end today after sharing it with my class (along with the other full-pav, my “birthday cake” this year).  Carrie made yummy sweet banana-fruit bread like I’ve never tasted before – it’s been snack or breakfast all week and isn’t gone yet!  She also made some of the best chicken in BBQ sauce.  Some of that stuck around with the fun pasta salad Edith brought (eaten up now!)  I’m either forgetting or misattributing something here, I know Sara made something – veg, I think! we must have eaten it all up right away, what a delicious night.

Also filling the fridge: I made applesauce from the small bunch of dinged-up apples in the big 44-lb box of apples I bought, and simmered down a jar of plums I canned with honey syrup and a vanilla bean last summer, and went to Canvas on Monday where I had perhaps the best hamburger I’ve had in China + an appetizer (unusual for me) thanks to a gift card from a student’s parent at Christmas. (I got 3 more for my birthday so apparently I’ll be back.)  Anyway the Canvas meal was so much good food that half the burger made it home to furnish another meal, and I brought home 3 slices of blueberry crisp from another A-mazing chicken dinner last night with the Budensiek family, and oh yeah went upstairs for “brinner” tonight where my homemade sauces were appreciated and I got to eat some yummy breakfast foods before settling down to work on masters stuff.

So yeah, a good food week, and food is important to me so that’s part of what made it a good birthday week, but it was beyond the food or the gifts.  Yeah, I was excited to get a birthday package from my family (thanks, Mom and Dad! thanks, Jordan!), which came perfectly on Monday, right after my birthday.  Even better was calling up Jordan to open it “together.”  It was fun being celebrated at school and at church – they all sang to me Sunday morning, much to my embarrassment as well as enjoyment (oops, just realized I forgot to go up front at Assembly today for my birthday pencil + song in 3 languages!)   Spending time with a family I don’t get to see as much since moving out of the downtown area, talking and stuff and being free to look silly dancing to a song from Lilo & Stitch with their Wii/Disney dancing game.

Lilys 2013 Bday party girls - Copy Lilys 2013 Bday party group

Birthday Party!

And it was really great to have time with dear friends in my apartment on my birthday.  I often feel like an inept party planner, but Carrie taking over the meal planning freed me up to enjoy the time.  I brainstormed ahead of time about what to do and it was kind of random, but it was “me-style” and since it was a small group I didn’t feel so stressed that people would be bored and since it was “my” day I wasn’t too worried they’d wish they were doing something else (yeah, I love to host but I’m not a secure hostess) so it was the right mix.  We talked, including a tradition of Rick’s family of asking the birthday person questions.  We played a goofy lego game I bought in Aus that involves sheering sheep (knitters love fiber, you know!)  We prayed for each other, for the upcoming year.  And my blessed, beloved parents got up extra-early on a Sunday morning US-time to video-Skype and “meet” my friends before everyone here went home to bed.

I don’t think I had the concept of a “birthday week” before I lived here; do you have such a concept in your life?  What was a good birthday or birthday week that you remember?

 

 
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