Australia - March & April and Bye Bye Brisbane

Saved: June 6th 2013EDIT THIS ENTRY

Hello everyone <span><span>J

Wow, I’ve had a busy couple of months! It’s mainly been pretty boring, just work and Uni but there have been some exciting events so I’ll try and make this update as exciting as possible. I’m also going to try and keep it upbeat because at this moment I’m feeling very upset about leaving Brisbane because it is now imminent. I am pretending it is not happening…! But on the plus side it means that I’m getting closer to seeing everyone at home! <span>J

March was really really busy at work (still the backpacker travel agency). I worked 9 ½ hour days with an hour for lunch which I know isn’t a really long day but I rarely got out on time and even if I did the earliest I’d get home was 7.30pm (after leaving at 7.45am to get there). If I was on lates I’d leave home at 9.30am and get home around 9.15pm. I was always so tired when I got back and didn’t have a lot of energy to do anything. I am still doing my Uni course and took it to work with me to do it at lunchtime but it wasn’t enough time, I got REALLY behind. And even worse I got behind with keeping in touch with everyone at home which was really upsetting me. So… I decided enough was enough and even though I’d already been looking fornew job (as much as I enjoyed what I was doing and loved working with Jo the pay wasn’t great and I was struggling with the hours) I spent time in March REALLY focusing on looking for a new job. I was offered a few but didn’t take them because they were either a) requiring an immediate start and I couldn’t leave Jo in the lurch like that b) were only for a couple of days and it wasn’t worth leaving a regular job for a couple of days work or c) they were 12 month contracts and I couldn’t have done them even if I wanted to (on a Working Holiday Visa you’re only allowed to work for the same employer for 6 months). I got lucky at the end of March and was offered a 2 week contract starting on 10th April, which was perfect because it allowed me to give Jo 2 week’s notice and took me up till the time we planned to leave for Uganda. I was sad to leave the travel agents, I loved talking people through their trips and liked being able to share my knowledge with other people (if anyone knows anyone planning to backpack around Australia get them to talk to me, I’m a bit of an expert now) had made friends with a lot of lovely customers and knew I would miss talking to them as they walked past (most random was listening to Emma chatting to a guy walking past, hearing he was from Oxford, my ears pricked up so I started questioning him, he said he was more from Swindon, so I said I worked in Swindon, he said he lived in Lechlade so I told him I’d gone to school in Faringdon and lived in Kingston Bagpuize and then it went even more coincidental when he said he was originally from Charney Bassett…so I told him I’d worked in The Chequers and he told me where his house was in Charney Bassett and it turned out I’d been out on a date with his older brother when I was much younger!). Anyway I’d especially miss Jo and Emma, such fun people and now such good friends. We had a really good night out early on in March…went out after work and had some dinner at Tinbillys (the backpacker bar/hostel just down the road from work) and then a couple of drinks. Typically I’d planned on only having a couple but ended up having quite a few…Mike our new guy was out with us and he kept getting the shots in and it all got a bit crazy by the time we got to ‘The Vic’, a popular Thursday night pub. Drew is usually not too concerned about me getting home but I was even later than he expected so had him texting at 1.30am to see if I was ok…at least I know he’s looking out for me!

I was very excited when my friend Floor (from The Netherlands, I’d met her in Fiji) came over to spend 3 weeks on the East Coast. I’d sorted out all of her trip for her (bless her, trusting me over email to plan it out and choose her trips) and planned stuff to do in Brisbane when she got up here. In the end Drew and I took Mildred on a trip down to Byron Bay for a day and a night to meet up with her. We left on the Sunday morning; it’s a couple of hours drive through lovely scenery. We got a bit lost a couple of times… (took a detour to try and find the signposted ‘Drews Road’) and ended up in Byron for 2pm where we met up with Floor at the hostel then had a quick change before heading out for a 3 hour surf lesson with Black Dog Surfing. I’ve booked a lot of customers in with them and am glad because they’re great! Byron Bay is the best price to learn to surf because lessons are really good value and the surf is perfect for beginners. Our instructor was Dom who was from Switzerland and very cool. There were 6 of us; me, Drew, Floor, 2 English girls and a Swiss guy and we hopped into a mini bus to drive down to the beach. It was a bit awkward carrying the surf boards… Drew typically had to be awkward and carry a big bottle of water down with him which made it even more awkward. We spent the first half hour on the beach learning the ropes and the safety stuff (e.g. you should never go surfing on a board without one of those things that ties around your leg…). And standing up on our board on the beach. It’s pretty straightforward when you’re not in the water although the pose is a little bit awkward (you basically have to do an upward dog…like the yoga move). Then we headed out into the surf…it was pretty raining and windy so the surf seemed quite big to me (there was talk that any bigger and it wouldn’t be suitable for learners) and it was a bit scary at first. I have my fear of water and big waves crashing over you was not the nicest… but once I got used to it I was fine and actually found either jumping over or under them pretty fun. We started off with Dom lining us up and giving us a push off and it’s fair to say I was pretty useless. I got halfway up and then either forgot what to do next or got stuck before I could get to my feet (a sign of my age?!! I’ve always had a weak lower back so it did not help). Floor was really good and got to her feet most of the time, Drew wasn’t too bad. I think I managed to stand up and stay up twice…unfortunately Sam the photographer (a pro surfer, from Cornwall) didn’t catch either moment. We had a break halfway through our lesson which was much needed as it’s frickin hard work paddling back out through the surf and spent a total of 2 ½ hours in the water. I’d like to keep practising, don’t think I’m a natural. Back at the Black Dog shop Floor and I looked through the photos whilst Drew went to watch the Melbourne Grand Prix in the pub. We headed back to the hostel for a shower and change which was not enjoyable as there were some unpleasant French people sharing the room with us. They were not at all friendly and worst of all they STANK! It was such a horrible smell it made me feel sick and dirty and I didn’t want to breathe in the room… It stank of off fish and we think it was a mixture of them not washing and this mouldy pair of shoes that surely were not wearable because they were so decomposed. We met back up with Drew and headed out for dinner. Byron Bay is a really lovely town…it was a shame it was raining as I think it’d have been even nicer with nice weather…I wouldn’t describe it as typically Australian, it’s very much a backpacker beach town but it’s nice like a European holiday resort with lovely clothes shops and nice restaurants where all the tables are set up outside. We picked a nice Greek restaurant and had a lovely dinner and BYO cider and wine. We then headed back to the hostel for a couple more ciders before heading back to the pub so that Floor and I could have a bit of a dance! Then we took a walk to the beach which was cool as could see the lights from the famous Byron Bay lighthouse (famous because it’s the most easterly point in Australia) and then back to the hostel before Floor and I headed to bed (Drew decided he wanted to sleep on the beach…he didn’t last long). I’d tried to have enough to drink so I slept well and didn’t notice the smell but there was no blanket and I was soooooooooooo cold! I slept in the Peru Jumper (felt terrible, didn’t want to pollute it with the smell) but was still frozen!

We were up very early the next morning because we were DESPERATE to get out of the room before the smell permeated everything! Floor was driving back to Brisbane with us and as neither of us had been to Byron Bay before Drew and Mildred (who had been before) took Floor and I for a drive up to the Byron Bay Lighthouse. Floor and I got out for a quick walk around, it had to be quick because it was raining which was a shame as it was really beautiful up there. We went back to Byron Bay to pick up a coffee and some breakfast then started back towards Brisbane because Drew had work in the afternoon. We took a detour through Surfers Paradise so that Floor could see it… Surfers Paradise is an interesting place. I quite like it, think it has something about it but it’s very artificial and touristy…kind of a cross between Blackpool and Miami. Drew sat in the car (it was raining!) whilst Floor and I took a walk along the beach and through the shops and to Baskin Robins for some ice cream. We arrived into Brisbane early afternoon and dropped Drew at work…I took Floor up to Kangaroo Point for a daytime view of the city then dropped her back at her hostel because she was feeling a bit poorly. I went home and did some jobs then headed out to pick up Drew and locked myself out of the house and car keys inside…so had to wait for the complex manager to come home and let me into the house and get the car keys so I could get to Drew to pick him up! I worked the next day and met up with Floor afterwards… we were supposed to get something to eat but I was ONE HOUR late leaving work (good job Floor is patient) so we had time to grab sushi before Drew picked us up to take us for a night time view of the city from Kangaroo Point (my favourite city view… think Floor was impressed!). The next day I worked again and met Floor after for some dinner at Tinbillys… Drew came to meet us for a drink and we had a few interesting debates before dropping Floor back at the hostel. The next day she was leaving so I was a little sad, I met her at her hostel and walked her to the bus station to send her off on her trip up the coast… Floor is only 21 but so wise for her years, she is such a lovely, smart, fun girl and I love spending time with her. I feel like we’ll stay in touch for a very long time. I missed her as soon as she’d left and had my fingers crossed nothing went wrong for her trip…I felt especially responsible as I’d planned it and she’d had her trip messed up by the flooding last year…thankfully this years flooding had receded in time for her trip.

A definite highlight for me has been a night out that Ant, Hannah, Drew and I had at Outback Spectacular, a Christmas present from Anthony’s Mum & Dad and family. It’s a show on the Gold Coast all about the outback and it is amazingly spectacular! It’s in a massive horse show arena with horse stalls and the like around the outside. As you go in you are given either red or yellow cowboy hats (we had red!) and there are lots of outback related stands. It then opens out into a big cattle yard area where there are more stands, several bars, a stage, dogs to have your photo taken with and open horse stalls with horses inside! It was a really really nice atmosphere. There was a warm up show on the stage with a guy putting us into red or yellow and doing a big of a sing song. Then we went on into the main arena which was huge… the area was surrounded with long benches facing inwards, there was a long table shelf in front of each on which there were plants and various cups (we had dinner and included drinks throughout the show). The show started off with an old cowboy guy and his dog faffing about with some ‘explosives’ they typically went off and then the big show started. It was absolutely brilliant, at the back of the area was a huge screen that they used to display video. The first section included the history of Australia, back to when the world started and focusing on the 50000 years in which the aboriginals lived there undisturbed. It was incredibly moving, powerful words supporting my stunning outback scenery and moving music. It then moved on to more of a modern day story about how the life of the cowboys have developed, the show moved between the arena floor and the video screen behind (it was so clever, the horses would gallop off the arena floor through a door at the back and then move seamlessly into the video image). The story developed from total reliance of the cowboys on horses to the use of motorbikes and helicopters (a helicopter actually came out of the background), with stories about Phar Lap (a famous Australia face horse) and various quad bike, motorbike and horse stunts (e.g. vaulting). All the way through we were eating a delicious 3 course lunch with complimentary wine, beer or lemonade and lovely coffee to finish up. It was such a brilliant night and I’m so so so thankful we had the opportunity to go. It was such a perfect present, especially for a horse lover like me, I spent most of the night in tears because it was so moving. Hannah I spent the journey home raving about it whilst Drew and Anthony had a little sleep!

So…. April was the month in which I finally got a little bit of confidence cooking! I managed to cook some omelettes that were quite successful and a cottage pie which was very good even if I do say so myself. I even managed to cook a roast with Anthony towards the end of the month… had thought I was cooking pork when it was beef all along but hey ho! I think one of my best successes was a meal I cooked for some of Hannah’s visitors. Sue and Alison are relatives of her granddads partner and were over in Australia for a few weeks. They were passing through Brisbane and Hannah had arranged to meet up with them at home, take them on a quick tour of Brisbane then bring them back home for some dinner which Drew was cooking… so it was all organised, Drew had planned dinner and started it off (some sort of flan) before he went to the doctors to get some travel jabs. I got a phone call from him soon after Hannah, Sue and Alison had left to say he wasn’t going to be back in time to finish it. He tried to give me instructions but let’s face it…a flan isn’t the easiest thing to cook so I had to think of another plan. I had about an hour… not much time! And all I could think of was bangers & mash! We had no ingredients in so I headed up the IGA and on route made a call to my lovely friend Gemma Hancock for some help (she is a bangers & mash expert!) Gem talked me through it and somehow I managed to cook a reasonably acceptable meal! Drew arrived home at the crucial time and although I think he was a bit put out that I hadn’t finished off the flan he did help me make the bangers & mash look presentable and it went down well, cleared plates all around! We had a lovely evening with Sue and Alison, they were such interesting people! I was sad it was only a quick visit!

We’ve also made time for a couple of little trips out. I went to see American Pie The Reunion with Hannah, Amanda, Phil, Jane, her friend Lewis and Hazel. I liked that. And we had another great BBQ at Kangaroo Point, my favourite look out and it was a beautiful night, one of those nice warm happy feeling ones. I also had a great trip out to watch AFL (Australia Football League aka Aussie Rules) with Anthony and some of his mates. I was so chuffed to go, I’d wanted to go since arriving in Brisbane so when Anthony’s team from Melbourne (Carlton) came up to play Brisbane Roar he invited me along. The game was at the Gabba and we all met for a drink in the pub beforehand. All the fans mixed, Anthony’s friends were a mixture of Brisbane and Carlton fans and in the pub it was a mixture of Carlton and Brisbane fans. And in the stadium it’s all mixed as well. It’s interesting as everyone gets pretty riled up but they’re still so friendly, all the shouting is at the pitch and not at each other like it is in the UK. The game was awesome and very exciting even though I had no frickin idea what was going on! I’d done a bit of reading beforehand but it was still pretty hard to follow. There were 18 players on each side, 8 referees, 1 runner on each side (their job was literally to run on and off and around the pitch sharing the coaches instructions) and the aim was to get the ball through the 4 post goalpost. There was always something going on on the pitch even if you weren’t looking at the ball, from the runners to the on demand massages on the side of the pitch. As soon as Brisbane Roar scored there was a big roar of the lion sound, although didn’t hear that often as Carlton thrashed them. I was sat next to a grandma Carlton fan who was with her grandson and English husband, moved over from Leeds years ago. They were nice and she kept me up to date with what was going on. I had a few beers and thoroughly enjoyed myself! We tried to get something to eat afterwards but didn’t have much luck, everything closes in Brisbane so early.

I also spent a lot of time getting sorted. I’ve spent time getting fit, going to gym and personal training with my lovely trainer Marnie. We have also booked the next stage of our trip… to Uganda. I’ve found it a little stressful because Drew has done a lot of the organising and I don’t like not being in control but it was good for me! We’re booked to leave Australia on the 1st May (the day I am posting this!) and are spending 7 weeks there. We spend 3 weeks with the Kigezi Healthcare Foundation in Kabale (Drew found out about them through a friend he made on a trip in Costa Rica), then we go to Rwanda for a few days (that was a bit of a pickle to arrange because I want to go gorilla trekking). The gorilla trek has been not easy to sort because you have to get a permit, and to do that I had to send money to Uganda and the poor guy in Kabale had trouble getting the money out the bank because I didn’t put a number on the request and then he had to send a man over the border into Rwanda to get the permit (he deserves a lot of thanks). And then we go to Gulu to help on a less organised project with a friend Drew made on a flight home from Portugal last year. Hugh and his girlfriend Becky have been going to Uganda yearly for 6 years, Hugh is a pharmacist and Becky and nurse and they support a community in Gulu. Hugh’s blog is fantastic if you’d like to have a read If you want to know more about Kigezi here you go I’m not too excited not too nervous, somewhere in the middle which is good. We’ve checked out all the safety stuff and are going to be super sensible. It’s a peaceful country now, still have to be careful though. After Uganda I’m coming back to Melbourne and then through Tasmania onto New Zealand, where it will be cold brrrrrrrrrrr, to visit my lovely godmother Jenny & family and Drew’s sister Heather, her husband Mike and little boy Fergus (who also just happens to be my lovely godson).

I had a change of job during April. I’d been looking since February and the hours really really were stressing me out because I was so behind with my Uni work and staying in touch with everyone, let alone having enough time to do anything fun! I found a position that allowed me to give Jo 2 weeks notice and took me until the end of my time in Brisbane. So I did a 2 week temp position with a big financial services company. I thought I’d been doing customer process administration but I was put in the HR department and ended up doing a very similar job to what I do at home. For some of the time I was actually doing a big task that everyone hates at work at home… it’d become a bit of a joke that every time it came up I managed to get out of it (usually because I left the country) and it was a bit of karma that I ended up doing it in Australia! It wasn’t so bad as at home though, I guess when you’re not accountable for delivering it it’s not so stressful! The environment I worked in was lovely, the people were so nice, it was very flexible (could start early, have shorter lunch and get home early – I was actually home before it got dark!) and there was an area decked out as a kitchen with microwave, fridges, DISHWASHER and you could make a proper cup of tea! The best bit however was the view, I was on the 26thfloor and I sat next to the window and there was an uninterrupted view out over the Brisbane River and further. It was beautiful and considering I love Brisbane so much it was a perfect place to end my working time here. I got to take some decent photos (I could also see how many of the brightly coloured buildings around the place there were… knew there was a purple one near home but there were loads… found out later that they were chimneys along the Clem 7 tunnel, the colours represented different things, the purple near me represents the purple in the trees on the south side). The only downside was that we (Julie who was temping with me and I) were so efficient so finished up a day early! It was still the best move for me, I’d never have got my latest Uni assignment in if I hadn’t had left the other job.

I’m not sure that continuing with my Uni course whilst overseas was my greatest idea! I’m really really enjoying it and it’s so interesting (is all about the‘Environment’, so flooding, how the world has evolved, extinction, climate change and the like) but it’s been hard to keep up with it. I’ve so far submitted two assignments and got 79% on the first and 84% on the second, I was especially pleased with that one as it was not easy. I had to do 3 weeks work in a week and write the assignment. I was lucky to have Hannah and Anthony here, Hannah kept me calm when I couldn’t figure out some of the simple maths questions and helped me find out where to find the information I needed (BBC GCSE Bitesize is VERY helpful!) and as Anthony is a mathematical whizz he helped me with the complicated stuff! Thank you guys <span>J I’ve got to submit two assignments whilst in Uganda so that will be interesting! On the plus side that means I will have to get the internet which means I will be able to stay in touch with everyone! I’ve been lucky in Australia as calls and texts are not too expensive, it’s just been quite difficult to talk as the time difference is a bit weird and it’s been complicated by me working weekends. I really am sorry that I’ve not managed to Skype and the like as often as I’d have liked. It’s been so lovely to see people when I have! April has been a very difficult month for me with missing home, Gemma and Joanne had 30th birthdays and I wished I’d been there. I’ve questioned several times what the hell I think I’m doing on the other side of the world…

I had a really beautiful night away with the girls in Montville, near Maleny and the Glasshouse Mountains on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. They had been planning it for months and I’d decided not to go because of money and wasn’t sure if I’d be working, but last minute I decided to go just for the night and I’m so glad I did. Hannah’s friend Stacey (who I’d never met) was also leaving a day later and just going for 1 night so at about 11pm the night before Han arranged for Stacey to pick me up and take me in the morning (the other girls Hannah, Amanda, Hazel, Jane, Becki and Allison had left the day earlier). Stacey and I had a lovely drive out to Montville, it was beautiful scenery. I got my first glimpse of the Glasshouse Mountains and they were fascinating, big oddly shaped rock formations scattered around the landscape which I later found out were volcanic plugs, the rocks around them have gradually eroded so all that’s left if the solid lava. We met up with the girls at ‘African House’ in Montville (it had a South African theme) it was a lovely little house. We had a quick catch up then headed to Maleny for a look around. It’s a pretty little quaint town full of little quirky shops and cafes where you can get cream teas. We had a nice look around and stopped for a drink at a later café. We had an upsetting incident there when the Dad at a table next to us took a funny turn, his wife and daughters got very upset because he lost consciousness and an ambulance had to be called. Amanda helped them out because she’s a first aider. I found it upsetting seeing the poor girls there, by the time the ambulance came it was looking more likely that he was suffering with the heat but they still took him to hospital. We then went to a natural healing place and we sat in whilst Hannah had a reading, I hadn’t wanted to go in because the place smelled of aromatherapy oil and I can’t stand that when I have a migraine (which I did) but it wasn’t so bad out the back. I found it quite interesting and then before Becki went (the only other person that wanted it done) the woman told me she wanted to do me… because of the migraine. I wasn’t really sure what to make of it all but I think there must be something in it as whilst she was doing her thing my migraine got much much worse. And some of the things she said rang true, like making sure you look after yourself and always taking 15 minutes in every day just to reflect and think by yourself.

After Montville we headed to Lake Barron which was really really pretty and there were loads of big lizards about! We then took a walk to a nice waterfall where loads of young ones were diving about off the waterfalls, it was like something off Twilight! And then we went to an Irish pub with the most amazing views out over the Glasshouse Mountain, it was just so vast and impressive. The place wasn’t at all busy and I can’t believe it because it was such a perfect spot, and it really made you feel alive. I wasn’t feeling very well but think it called for a nice glass of wine! So we enjoyed a drink and some chips then head back to African Cottage. We made some pizzas and watched a film and toasted some marshmallows on the fire then headed for bed. I had a nice little bed of my own with Hannah and Amanda and slept so well… although there was a big pond outside full of frogs that made sounds like popcorn in the microwave. It was nice though, with the sounds of the rainforest all about. Hannah, Jane and I got up early as we all had to be back for different things (Jane had work, Hannah had a hairdressing competition and I had a Skype date with Joanne for her birthday!). The drive back was amazing… it was foggy and the views out over the vast valleys were stunning and very mysterious as were half shrouded in mist. We had to keep stopping to take pictures it was so beautiful. We had a really lovely weekend and I’m glad the boys persuaded to go… think they wanted a free pass for FIFA!

We had a lovely day out for Maria’s (Anthony’s Mum) 50th birthday on ANZAC Day. We all (and by all I mean so many people, it’s a massive Italian family) went out to Wellington Point and set up to surprise her. It was a really lovely special day. I don’t think Maria knew anything so it was a real surprise! We had a beautiful family BBQ and it was in a beautiful location. It was quite windy but the wind bought lovely fresh air that cleared the senses. We had cake and the obligatory family photos (each group of people has photos with the birthday girl) and Drew and I are so lucky to have been part of that beautiful family whilst we are here. They are all so nice and kind and thoughtful. Anthony’s grandparents Josie (his Nonna) and Joe (his Nomna) are so Italian and so special (Josie does wonders for me as she’s always telling me I’ve lost weight when I see her!). Maria and Tony are so loving, they’re our Australian adoptive parents! I adore Anthony’s brothers and sisters Stefania, Gianluca and Deanna. And all the uncles, aunties and cousins are fantastic. It’s so lovely seeing them all together, how well they know each other and how loving they are. For Drew and I it was brilliant to be with all of them in our last week. It was a great day to spend ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Day, which is a national holiday to commemorate the Aus & NZ armed forces. They have dawn services all over the country which I really wanted to go to but would have had to have been out and about in the city on my own at 4am and decided that wasn’t such a great idea.

The rest of our last week in Brisbane was spent getting organised! We had medical appointments (from the simple stuff like getting Malaria tablets to general check ups… I had a really bad migraine with pain in my eye so had to spend a fortune at the optometrist – nobody knew what an optician was – getting all sorts of scans, shopping for bits, visiting people. And Uni work! And I had my last PT session, it was nice, outside under the stars in the fresh air, I will really miss Marnie, she’s been so good for me! It was hectic but nice to get organised and a little stressful, I can’t believe the ridiculous amount of stuff I have spent on medicine I need and the ridiculous amount of space it takes up. I have found time to fit in a spot of abseiling (my leaving present from work it home). It was AMAZING! At the Kangaroo Cliffs at sunset, there were 5 of us and I had to go first. It was very nerve-wracking going over the edge for the 1sttime as it was pretty hire but by my 3rd go I was flying down. We also had a few farewell drinks with all the people from Drew’s work. That was lovely and Anthony and the others were so kind to arrange it.

I am so very sad to leave (although it rained a lot on our last weekend so maybe not so much!). I know I can’t be here forever, but it’s been such a nice time in my life. We’ve been so lucky to have a nice place to live, and spend so much time with Hannah and Anthony, and meet such lovely people like their family and friends like Amanda and Phil, and the friends I’ve made through work. I love Brisbane, think I’d say it’s my favourite city in the world, every time I come into the city and see the skyline I hear that tune ‘Put Your Hands Up For Detroit’ and sing in my head “I love this city”. I am so thankful for the kindness and love we’ve been shown whilst here. I can’t thank Hannah and Anthony enough and I don’t trust myself to say anymore because I’m already feeling a little emotional and don’t want to start myself off when I’ve got a few hours to get a lot sorted ready for Uganda!

I’ll sum it up by saying it’s been a really really special time.

I love and miss you all.


PS Drew and Anthony have had an ongoing Fifa battle since Drew arrived in October…! In total they’ve played over 200 games and worked out that they’ve spent nearly 60 hours playing! They totalled the scores up last night and…… Anthony won by 6 games! AC Milan rules!

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