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Wednesday 28 March 2018

Exploring Helsinki

Today we got an overview of Finland's capital city. We walked for about 15 kilometers with frequent stops for coffee, food, rest and sightseeing.

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There are plenty of monuments in the city. Like the memorial for Runeberg; the man who authored Finland's national anthem. The woman at the base of the statue is The maiden of Finland.

We found the square where the Helsinki Cathedral is. A big square surrounded by big neoclassicist buildings, and the Cathedral.

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Strolling around, seeing two giraffes having tea on a balcony.

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We saw the Greek Orthodox Church, but did not walk up to it. And of course today even Helsinki has a bridge of love...

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Then we walked to one of Helsinki's most popular attractions, the Church that is carved from rock, and on the inside it has a huge copper dome. An intriguing building.

We were there for quite some time. When outside, Bjørn consulted his phone's map to look for the best route to our next destination, the Sibelius monument, while I took a picture of the houses we stood next to...

The next stretch of walk felt quite long, probably because we had walked so much already. We were starting to wonder if we were even going to find the Sibelius monument, but then - there it was. It was well worth the walk. It was a beautiful, cool and fascinating sculpture, well worthy of Finland's great composer. And it lent itself nicely to photography.

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The day was mostly sunny and nice, but being on holiday in April in a Nordic country means you can never be confident the weather will be stable. And after many hours of spring, we suddenly got full winter with heavy snow.

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By now we were hungry and a bit tired, so we found a place to eat. Then we spent ages looking for a roleplaying shop that was very difficult to find, but finally, with some help, we were there. The owner there suggested the pub "The Dubliner", where we spent the rest of the evening.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Goodbye, Turku, Hello Helsinki!

We got up early, to get the most out of our last day in Turku. We started with a walk to the Wäinö Aaltonen museum, Finland's most famous sculptor. Earlier, we had come across his sculptures all over Turku. We were a little disappointed that most of the museum was dedicated to other artists. But the main exhibition was very good. Hannu Wäisänen had been inspired by the story of Anna Akhmatova, and made paintings and installations centred around themes such as censorship, and memory. Akhmatova's husband had died in a gulag, and her poetry was not welcome in Stalin's Russia. She therefore had to memorize all her poems, and burn them. I was glad I got to see the exhibition. We found a place to have breakfast / lunch, and just walked around a little. On the way back to the hotel, we walked through Turku's food hall. Or "Turku Kauppahalli" as it was called in Finnish, which was strange, since "Kauppahalli" sounds like old Norse. Anyway, there was so much cool food in the food hall that we deeply regretted having eaten already. I did not bring my camera this day, so I found this picture on google pics.

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We walked back to the hotel, paid for the parking and said goodbye to Turku and to the friendly receptionist at the Radisson Marina hotel. We have really liked it here, and it is a place we would want to come back to.

But now it was on time to head for our next Finnish destination: Their capital Helsinki. Bjørn drove us safely to the hotel, we parked in the hotel's garage, and headed in to our next Radisson hotel. They had just recently renovated, and the reception area looked very trendy and cool. I really liked it. We went to the reception to check in, an the woman in the reception said they had a message from us from the Radisson hotel in Turku. They wished us a good day and a very pleasant stay in Helsinki. And as if that was not nice enough, she told us that thanks to the person in Turku who had left us the greeting, we now also had upgraded our room to a superior room, with no extra charge. It had to be the woman we talked most with in Turku, she was very nice and she had lived in Haugesund, Norway for a year. Since we had taken the luxury it was to stay at a Radisson in Helsinki also, we had originally booked one of their cheapest rooms. But now we got a big, super nice room with a big bed. That was such a nice start of our Helsinki part of the visit!

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We rested for a little while before we went out to find some food and to have a look at downtown Helsinki. There is so much cool architecture in Finland. Everywhere you look there is some fascinating building to look at. Like this little chapel which is supposed to be an Oasis of calm and reflection for everyone who wants to use it.

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And of course we stumbled upon a huge statue of the man who gathered Finnish mythology and stories of old and made the Finnish national poem Kalevala: Elias Lönnrot.

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Only a very short little walk, but Helsinki does seem promising. It was getting late, and we found a pub where we sat till it was time to go to the hotel and get ourselves some sleep.

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Back at the hotel, we did not sleep right away, but chatted, talked about what to do tomorrow, went online and had a glass of the Drambui that we bought on the ferry. And of course, made sure to get a good picture of it.

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Monday 26 March 2018

Exploring Turku

Today we walked the streets of Turku for about ten kilometres. It is easy to find one's way around here, which is nice. Much to see, and we both really like this city. And we are learning so much as we go along. I did not take many photos today, and the ones I took did not turn out so well.

When we had walked for some hours, we were hungry, and found an Asian place that had cheap lunch buffets. They had so much good food, and it was eat as much as you want for 10 Euros. A very good deal. That was breakfast, lunch and dinner for us. On the other side of the road from the Asian restaurant, was a wall, damaged from wartimes.

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On today's walk we strolled around the market square

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We walked around the art museum, that had an odd combination of old stone building and a new glass wall-thing.

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And right by the museum we came across something you do not see very often these days - a statue of Lenin.

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By the statue we met a fellow tourist, a man from Poland who shook his head in disbelief and mumbled "Oh, these Finns", when he saw the statue. We made him aware of something that was written on another, smaller monument close by; that Lenin had spent some time in Turku. The Polish man kept on shaking his head, and said "I am quite sure Lenin spent time in many places, but they don't keep statues of him for that reason. I later learned that the statue has provoked people. This is what www.turku.fi has to say: !The V. I. Lenin bust sculpted by Mihail Anicushin (1917-1997) became a symbol of political division in Turku, and it still provokes political debate. Consequently, the sculpture has been defaced several times over the years."

We had walked 8 kilometers, seen quite a lot, become very confident that we love Turku, had good food and were quite tired. So we wanted to go back to the hotel for a rest. Yesterday when I sent pictures to my Finnish friend that we had bought, tried and thoroughly enjoyed the Finnish Karhu beer, she told me that we also had to try the Finnish drink "Lonkero". So on the way back to the hotel, we dropped by a store.

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The blue one is the original, and was very good.

After a short rest, we decided we did not want to the spend the evening in the hotel, so we went out to look for a pub. We found one, and walking into it was like stepping back to the 1970s.

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They had Karhu, in glasses we wanted to steal.

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On the way back to the hotel, we walked along the canal. It was really nice, and one of the bridges over the canal was decorated with lights and flowers, and when you stood on it, there was ambient music from loudspeakers that were integrated in the bridge. Unfortunately none of my pictures turned out OK, but this was a favourite moment in Turku!

Sunday 25 March 2018

Our first day in Turku

The ferry docked at around 8am, Finnish time. Check-in at the hotel was at 3pm. We decided to make the most out of those hours, and do some sightseeing. Turku is the oldest town in Finland, and it it was the capital city before Helsinki. We started a with a bit of history since the oldest building in the town was also the first we came to, lying down by where the ferries dock: The Turku castle, or the Turun Linna as the Finns would say. The first Finnish word we learned was thus "Linna", which means "Castle".

This early in the morning, and outside of the tourist season, the castle was not open. But we walked around in, and could go into the court yard there.

From the Castle, we drove to the Turku Cathedral. A nice building from the outside. We did not go inide because there was a mass going on that we did not want to crash....

Outside the church was a statue of Mikael Agricola who was the first Lutheran bishop in Turku, and an important figure in Finnish history.

With our backs to the Cathedral, we faced something else I had wanted to see while in Turku; The Old Great Square. This was our first meeting with Finnish neo-classisim, but it would not be the last. This architectural epoque is something I will forever connect with Finland from now on.

In Norway we learn quite a bit of Swedish and Danish history, but we know close to nothing about Finland. I will admit that I come to Finland knowing nothing about its history, art, literature, architecture, music and so on. But it is already early morning on our first day here, and so far I have already learned quite abit, since we have taken the time to stop and read about both the castle, the Cathedral, Mikael Agricola, the Old Great Square, and Finnish architecture. This trip will be quite educational! And by this square, was a statue of Per Brahe. Another unknown name to us, but reading up on him gave us another useful glimpse into Finnish history.

It was nearing 10am, which meant that one of the museums we were interested in opened, and we found our way to the Sibelius museum. I said we did not know anything about Finnish music, but the one person we have all heard about in Norway is Sibelius. I knew the name, and I knew he had composed "Finlandia", which I knew was important, but I did not really know why. Anyway, we went to the museum and spent a couple of hours there. They had an exhibition of musical instruments, and then they had a room dedicated to Sibelius. As you walked around the room, you followed his story from he was born till he died. You learn about him, his music and Finnish history. And you get to listen to his music in headphones. I learned so much from this, and I also realised he made some wonderful music and that I should listen to more of it. Before we left, Bjørn bought a CD with all his symphonies, and I look forward to getting to know his music better.

We had not had breakfast, so by now it felt right to have brunch. While searching for a place to eat, we came across an odd fellow and a strange cow:

We found a nice little ravintola (restaurant - a word I learned from my Finnish friend Tajia before we left Norway) by the canal: Ravintola Pinella. They had buffet starters, buffet desserts and a la carte dinners. A funny concept, and a very nice and friendly restaurant with good food for a reasonable price.

After Brunch we walked back to the car, and found our hotel, the Radisson Marina. Not as expensive as this kind of hotel would be in Norway, and they had a very friendly atmosphere and very nice people working there. It was good to find our room and relax for a little bit.

Later in the evening, we went for a 4 km stroll along the canal.

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We walked up to and through the Turku sport stadium, and a park that must look very charming in spring and summer with duck ponds and everything.

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And we saw three statues by Wäinö Aaltonen, and thus learned a lot about this famous Finnish sculptor.

Not to mention that his sculpture of Alexander Kivi made us read and learn about this Finnish author, and that his sculpture of Paavo Nurmi, made us learn more about this Finnish runner who was called "The flying Finn".

Another sculptor, Andrei Kovaltshuk, had made this:

And to quote "visitturku.fi": A statue from Russian artist Andrei Kovaltshuk depicts the meeting in 1812 of Russian Emperor Alexander I and Swedish Crown Prince Karl XIV Johan. Alexander I and Karl Johan were negotiating about how Sweden and Russia should respond to the threat of Napoleon. It was also notable for being the point at which Sweden gave up its interest in recapturing Finland from Russia.

Last, but by no means least, we stumbled upon a cave with a manmade spiderweb. We had no idea what this was about. So we asked the nice woman in the reception at our hotel. She looked a bit embarassed, and said "It's like art". So now we know.

It's like art:

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We did some grocery shopping before we went back to the hotel, so that we could have an evening snack and something to drink in our room. And this was when we tried the Finnish Karhu beer for the first time. We are embracing everything Finnish!

Saturday 24 March 2018

The museum of photography in Stockholm.

We drove from Sigtuna to Stockholm to take the ferry from Stockholm to Turku, Finland. We had time to kill while waiting for the ferry, and down by the docks there happened to be a museum of photography. We went in without any expectations, and came out having learned more about the three brilliant photographers that had exhibitions there. Truly remarkable.

Ellen Von Unwerth with the exhibition "30 years of photographing women". So many amazing photographies. Here are three of them.

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Zanele Muholi with the exhibition "Be greeted, dark lionesse". Very thought provoking. Here one of them.

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Christian Tagliavini with the exhibition "The extraordinary world of Christian Tagliavini" which was just utterly intriguing. Here three of them.

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Then to the car, onto the ferry and finding our cabin. We slept while the ferry safely brought us across the sea to Turku, Finland.

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Sigtuna, Sweden

Our ferry did not leave until 8pm, from Stockholm, so we had a day in Sigtuna. We slept quite long, and then had a day of strolling about in the town. I love it here.

I have photographed the trees of Sigtuna before. And now I do so again.

The main street of Sigtuna, the oldest preserved street in Sweden. Buildings date from the 17th century.

My favourite place to have a coffee in Sigtuna: Tante Brun (Aunt Brown). The name stems from a well known childrens' story.

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The town is full of rune stones. That was the focus of my first and second visit in Sigtuna. This time I did not look at them, but here is another symbol of Viking culture:

Sigtuna has history, rune stones, a wonderful hotel, and a charming cafeteria. Another thing Sigtuna has, is ducks.

After this visit to Sigtuna, we have now seen the place in three different seasons, and this is the first time I left without feeling I need to come back to explore it further.

Us enjoying Sigtuna. In late winter. I look really strange :)

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Friday 23 March 2018

HOLIDAYS!

Got up early and finished packing. Drove to the man who treats my plantar, and had a session there. Then drove to Ørje to meet Bjørn, and to park my car. I have no desire to see the mad neighbour, so I asked Anne if I could park my car at her place, and I could. I drove there, met Bjørn and we were invited in to Anne for a coffee. So nice talking to her, and we stayed for three quarters. And then... off for our Easter holiday!

Today we drove Ørje - Sigtuna. Sigtuna is a favourite destination of mine, Founded in 980, it is the oldest town in Sweden. Quoting the Wikipedia article: "Sigtuna has a picturesque medieval town centre with restaurants, cafes and small shops. The old church ruins, runic stones and Stora gatan, the old main street, are popular attractions for tourists especially in the summertime. The small streets with the low built wooden houses lead up to several handicrafts shops and the old tiny town hall, Sigtuna Rådhus. There are restaurants and a hotel (Stadshotellet) in the town centre." We have been there two times before. We had not needed to stop here, and certainly not to sleep over, but that is what we did. The other times we have been there, have been day trips, so it was nice to have a hotel and to stay the night. We slept at the five star Sigtuna Statdhotel. We have walked by it so many times before, thinking it would be nice to check in there one day.

Sleeping section of the room:

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And a glimpse from the bathroom:

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Our room was old fashioned and wonderful. We had dinner at the hotel, and dinner was beyond words. This is what I had for a starter:

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After dinner, we took a walk in their main street.

Some Easter decorations in a window!

Back to the hotel for a well deserved late evening of relaxation and eventually - deep sleep.

Thursday 22 March 2018

Last day of work before Easter

Bjørn had slept over in Ås after yeterday's musical, so we had breakfast together and got to talk about our holiday that starts tomorrow. When he left, I went to work. Came home and started packing.

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Wednesday 21 March 2018

HAIR

Went to Oslo. Met Amalie, had dinner, then went to see the musical HAIR. I enjoyed it a lot.

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Tuesday 20 March 2018

Nothing much going on

Work. Sending out invitations for my mother's birthday. Making arrangements for the holidays.

Monday 19 March 2018

What a day!

I went in to work today. Since I am going back to my Askim job after Easter, I felt the need to find out what sort of classes I would have and to start preparing for them. I also wanted to have met my colleagues again and have that out of the way. It was a little scary to go back after such a long time. I need not have worried. I had just come into the the study room I sit in, when one of the teachers saw me, threw herself around my neck, and said "I love you" repeatedly. And then she said she hoped I was back to stay. Next came Lene and more hugging. Then Geir and more hugs.... and the day continued like that. So much love and friendliness, it was overwhelming. At one point, when I was having lunch, one of them said "Unni, being here again must feel like coming home!". And that was exactly how it felt. These are my people. I have missed them so much, and it was so good to be back. My boss asked to talk to me, and she asked me if I perhaps wanted a softer start than the one I had planned. Because our social welfare system offers the opportunity of not starting up with a 100% job when you have been away for a while on sick leave. They want to make sure that the employer starts up again in the best possible way, to make sure that the workload will be bearable. It was just such a tremendously good offer. And I felt such a relief when it was given, so I understood that it would be good for me to say yes to that offer. We then talked about what sort of tasks it would be good to have a break from, and found the best solution ever. I can not wait to start now. I used to be a little apprehensive, and wonder if I was ready for it. With this solution is place, I will cope without difficulty. I really do have the best work place in the history of work places.

I was at work till 4pm, and then Bjørn came to pick me up. We went to the mall in Ski, and I picked up three books at a book sale. I should not, I have so many unread books at home. But they were SO cheap, and they were all quality books. I think I was a good girl to only pick out three. Bjørn paid for them, which was a nice gesture. Then we went for a meal before he drove me back to the parking lot at work where my car was. back at Ås, I went for a short walk, since I want to try to do a bit of walking every day. Then I logged on to the net to talk with Bjørn about our Easter holidays. He was booking place on a ferry from Sweden to Finland. We chose a ferry that goes in the evening and that will be in Turku on Sunday morning.

Three perfect days in a row. When did that last happen? There have been many enough horrid days in a row earlier, so I think I deserve it.

Saturday 17 March 2018

Visiting Jan

The original plan was to go out with Astri today. She has her birthday on the day my Easter holidays starts, so I wanted to treat her to a birthday dinner today. Unfortunately her dog became ill, and she told me on Wednesday that she might have to cancel. I had already prepared for an evening out, and did not want to go back on my promise to myself of being less of a hermit, so I sent a text message to Jan, asking him if he'd be in Oslo on Saturday in case I had the day available. Not only was he there, he also invited me for dinner, should I be able to come. His brother would also be there, and I had not seen him in half a life time.

On Friday, Astri told me she would not be able to make it because her poor little furball was still sick. So Jan it was. He suggested meeting me downtown to escort me, so I would not get lost on the way. I was looking for him at the Central Station when a sweet girl came up to me and asked me if I was looking for Jan. Though I had never seen her before, I understood right away that this had to be his daughter. He had unexpectedly had to take care of her for some hours. That was really nice, I have never met her before, though she is 7 years old now. She was a bright and cool girl, and we got along well from the start. Jan told me she could be shy and reserved, which I find hard to believe. She was on my lap a lot of the time, she insisted on showing me her dance moves, and we played boardgames and cards. After about five hours, Jan took her to her mum's place, and before they left, she ran to hug me and said she was glad she had got to know me. Quite a little charmer. It was also very nice to see Jan's brother again, it must have been 25 years or so since last time. We talked a lot throughout the evening. Meanwhile the cook was spending hours in the kitchen, and the result made it clear that it had been time well spent. It was an excellent lamb meal, served with my favourite wine. After dinner, nice conversation for some hours before I started on my way back to Ås. Was here at around 1am.

Two days of being with good people was good for me right now.

Friday 16 March 2018

Re-emerging from my cave life.

Left here at 10am to go to the hairdresser in Ørje. Over the last half year, I have suddenly become all grey. It will take me a couple of years to accept that, so in the meantime I will be whatever colour I choose.

Then to Bakergården cafeteria where Bjørn waited for me. We had brunch and then went for a drive. I had not seen him for ten days, and we spent four hours together. He dropped me off by my car, and I went to Anne. It was so very good to see her again. She served dinner, and we had six hours of non-stop talking. I really do appreciate her friendship. I was back here at around midnight, feeling that the decision to now start a life of being more social was the right one.

Thursday 15 March 2018

The usual

Plantar treatment (and oh my how that hurt this time) and work in Kolbotn. I really do like that class and the people in it.

Wednesday 14 March 2018

Pi day, and an end of what has been

After I moved into my brother's basement again, I have had a lot of time to do my own things. Reading, French, Go, walking. In general, I have had many days of doing nothing else than gathering strength and doing the things I like. And - being alone. It has been very good for me. But from tomorrow on, I will not really have any more of my quiet basement days. I will soon go back to my 140% work days, and it is also on time for me to be more social. That might be a good thing, because today I felt a little lonely and lost for the first time since I moved in here. Strangely enough, Pi day also brought the news of the death of Stephen Hawking.

I had a walk with Jazz again, and in the evening I sat up in my brother's living room, since he and Anja were both out, and someone should be there in case the kids woke up.

One very nice and good thing about today's walk was that there was a bit of sun. It did not give much warmth, but it was quite thrilling to see it again.

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Tuesday 13 March 2018

Work

Most of the day was spent at work. I went to Kolbotn quite early. Went to the mall there first and posted invitations for my mother's 75th birthday. Had lunch and a cup of coffee at the cafeteria there before I walked to work. Had a very nice evening with my wonderful evening class. Back here quite late since I was commuting by train and bus. I just did not have it in me to dig my car out of this week's snow today.

Monday 12 March 2018

Indoors good.

Went for a short walk today. Short because there was so much ice outside that it was impossible to walk fast enough to stay warm. So today was about staying warm, doing my usual stuff and talking with my family.

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Sunday 11 March 2018

A quiet Sunday

A day that was mostly spent int he basement. The usual activities: Reading, learning French, playing Go, taking care of my online pupils.... And despairing about the heavy snowfall.

In the early evening, I went for a walk with jazz. A short and cold walk, and I came home like a snowman. This winter...!

Saturday 10 March 2018

Finally visiting my mum

It has been so very long since I visited my mum. I was reminded of that when Per started by wishing me a happy New year. Almost three months since I was last there, I really should not let that much time pass. Anyway, it was good to see them both in good health and in a good mood. I was there for about 7 hours, and I will try not to let as much as three months pass between each time I go there. Just like everyone else, mum was quite fed up with all the cold and the snow. It is a heavu job for older people to spend hours shovelling snow before they can get out of the house and to the garage. It is a good thing that Per is still in good shape, and that he quite enjoys taking care of it.

Friday 9 March 2018

A slight change of plans

Had planned on going to Hurum to visit mum today. But shortly after I got out of bed this morning, I received a text message from Espen, where he asked if I could walk Jazz this afternoon, so that he and Anja could go buy furniture. I would not want to go to Hurum in the late afternoon, so I postpone till tomorrow so that I can go there in the morning. I started the day by going to another round of shock wave therapy, and then a long walk.

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