Travels in Taiwan

Ashland University COBE in Taiwan

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Home is Where the Heart is

Home, home, home. I’m home! Have you heard?

Three cheers for being home!

It is now the time and place to share (morestories and (more) pictures (there really are more than just this blog), hold family and friends tight, sleep on the couch, watch TV, drink wine, eat SALADS and ICE CREAM (are you surprised that these foods are what I want the most of? You shouldn’t be), cuddle with my puppy, clean and organize, graduate, and prepare for the beginning of my next phase in life.

I am, without a doubt, taking my time to adjust to the American way of life. Even though I’ve done certain things one way for my entire life, the “Taiwanese Way” impacted me more than I thought, and I laugh every time I catch myself subconsciously performing a new behavior.

Surprisingly, certain behaviors that used to be second nature, now feel strange and forced. Believe it or not, I have to think about texting, and the screen looks so uncommon. I don’t even want to think about how weird it will feel to drive again.

More so than anything, I’m shocked that I am still speaking Chinese phrases (Nǐ hǎo, Xièxiè, Nǐ ne?, Duìbùqǐ, Zǎo ān!, Zhēn de ma?) and hope that this means I will be able to retain some of it/continue to learn if I use it every day.

Honestly, I feel overwhelmed with the entire readjustment process.  Thankfully, I did my research and accept this as “normal”.  Plus, it’s only been two days, give or take, since I stepped off that final plane stretch (BTW the flight from Detroit to Cleveland takes 16 minutes!) so there’s no need to worry. I’m just telling myself to breathe, trying to create some sense of a sleep schedule, and counting my blessings for having so many days until the gears of life start grinding again.

So that’s that! I’ll be happy to check back in with some update posts, but until much has happened, there’s not much to tell. Just for fun, I’ll say goodbye with a series of my favorite trip pictures (sorry if you don’t like pictures!) that didn’t make the cut the first-time around. I hope you enjoy, and thank you for following along with my adventures!

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Chung Tai Museum

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“Top of the Mountain” at Xitou

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Sunset #1

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Shopping in Taipei

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Sunburn from Taipei Zoo

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Taipei 101

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Outside of the hostel in Taipei

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Boatride in Taipei

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Group picture on Lover Bridge

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Harriet Potter, anyone?

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Penghu Islands

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COBE in Taiwan feature on the Ashland University website

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Last day of class!

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The artist at work

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Me with my portrait

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“Ashland University”—I painted this!

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Sunset #2

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Sunset #3

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“Breast Touch Alley”

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Our favorite milk store

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“Goodbye” picture with Greta

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Sunset #4

Days 39, 40, 41, & 42: Time to Come Home!

Good news! I’m writing this post from a gate in the Detroit Airport and will be home in just a few hours!

I can’t believe that we’re finally back in the states, and it is SO relieving to know that that horrible 12 hour flight is OVER. It’s also incredibly confusing to think that our group departed from Providence University exactly 24 hours ago…

Only a few hours have passed since I’ve officially been in the states, but I already feel the effects of reverse culture shock.

For example, I spent at least 40 seconds in the airplane bathroom looking for somewhere to throw away my used toilet paper. Thank goodness we can finally flush it again! And to make it even better, I can use ANY toilet stall in the bathroom, not just handicapped ones!

TMI? Don’t lie—you think it’s hilarious.

Anyway.

After our farewell party, we  just had time to kill until our flight yesterday/today. It was nice to just relax, hang out, get organized, buy some last minute gifts, enjoy our favorite foods for one last time, and soak in the environment while we still could.

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I have three favorite highlights from our last days in Taiwan:

1. Filming the recruitment video for AU COBE in Taiwan 2014

As a part of the internship credit that can be earned during this trip, we were required to film a video to recruit future participants for the COBE Taiwan program. We dedicated one afternoon to filming and interviewing, and I loved getting together with everyone to chat about our trip—from money spent and credits earned, to trip highs and trip lows, to pre-departure anxieties and post-trip favorites.

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2. Making our very own Harlem Shake video

We’re kind of behind on the times with this one, but our Taiwanese friends had never heard of the Harlem Shake before–and really, what’s more fun than shaking like crazy for the world to see? Email me if you want to see the video!

3. Exploring the town on our own

The title does not effectively communicate quite how independent and confident we felt in the days before departure. One day, a group of us took the bus to an area of town that we had been to before but couldn’t quite remember how to get there. Even still, we were confident that we could figure out our way and spend the afternoon shopping, even without directions or a translator.

Similarly, my roommate and I treated ourselves to a would-be favorite restaurant, if it weren’t for the fact that they had no english menus. All the same, we decided to take the risk last night and use our notes to translate what we knew we were looking for on the menu.  In a twist of events, it turns out that they actually do have an english menu, but for a good 15 minutes, we were totally going to be able to order food from a chinese menu on our own. And that felt pretty good.

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❤ So happy to be back in the U.S.! See you all in person soon!

Day 38: Farewell Dinner

Wednesday, July 31

After all the classes were over, and when it was just about time to head home, our hosts at Providence University treated us to a farewell dinner at the Windsor Hotel near downtown Taichung. We had a wonderful buffet meal before spending a few hours taking pretty pictures together, expressing the sincerest of gratitude and exchanging gifts to remember each other by. Thank you all for a wonderful summer, and I’ll see you in the future! 

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Learning Partner, Alice

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Greta!

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Language teacher, Norah

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AU teacher, Carol

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Learning Partner, Jill

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Language teacher, Prudencia

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Carol and her AU students

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The whole group

Day 37: Lukang Historical District

Our trip to Lukang was originally scheduled for the third week but was shifted back so that we could rearrange plans because of the Typhoon.

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I’m so thankful that we were able to squeeze in the time for this little town.

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Taiwanese temples, Japanese temples, hidden narrow alleyways leading back to secret market streets packed with artists and family stores…

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All of it is overwhelmed by the most beautiful, intricate details.

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Although one could argue that the lucky New Year dragon masks (worth NT$50,000) stole the show for a minute or two.
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Just a little 🙂

Days 35(ish) & 36: Chinese Painting

Monday, July 29

After taking time to recover from the shock of witnessing I’ve Sweets Factory being smashed to pieces with a hammer, my mind was in desperate need of some art therapy. Thankfully, Chinese Calligraphy culture class was next on the schedule for the day!

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Class began with demonstrations from our teacher for each basic brush stroke, and then we were given time to practice these strokes on our own.

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This all built up to writing a character meaning forever love.

Then we progressed to Level II Calligraphy! Our instructor had created her own “masterpiece” of a famous poem called Up the Stork Tower, which she allowed us to trace for practice.  After demonstrations of each individual character (there is a precise order and direction for drawing each stroke of a character), we carefully learned to create this 16 character story.

Once complete, we progressed to Level III Calligraphy: making our very own “masterpieces.”

The process is long, yet satisfying, and I’m very proud of my poem.

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By the hills the sun loses its glow

Into the sea the yellow river flows

To gain one thousand mile view

Keep climbing up a floor or few

Tuesday, July 30

Last day of school! Last day of school! Tuesday was my last official class required to earn my undergraduate degree.  Going out with a bang!

Part 1: 3-5 minute speech presented in Chinese

Although I’m sure my accent is horrible, and I definitely need a lot of work on my tones, my Chinese has come a long way since that day way back in January at Ashland University.

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“I am a 22 year-old, hospitality management major, in my fourth year. I speak English and little Chinese. In the future, I want to work in business. I like coffee, french fries, chocolate, apples, the color red, listening to music, and my dog.”

“Wǒ jīnnián ÈrshíÈr suì, shì guānguāng xì sìniánjí de xuéshēng. Wǒ huì shuō yīngwén hàn yīdiǎn zhōngwén. Jiānglái, wǒ yào dàng shāngrén.  Wǒ xǐhuan kāfēi, shǔtiáo, qiǎokèlì, píngguǒ, hóngsè, tīng yīnyuè, hàn wǒ de gǒu.”

Part 2: Dumpling Making

AKA let’s cook lunch. Yes please!!!! I love dumplings.

I’ll even let you in on a little secret…. these were pork! Sssssshh! 

Actually there’s very, very, very little filling in dumplings, and the filling contains pork, sauce, and vegetables, so I probably had the equivalent of one tablespoon. And I didn’t get sick! Worth it.

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Part 3: Chinese Painting

The beginning of class was very similar to our calligraphy class. We practiced writing four chinese characters, which translate to

To wish you luck as all your dreams come true

Once ready, we dissembled our craft fans (which are actually the sturdiest and prettiest fans I’ve yet to see) and then painted this phrase on the back.

Signature included, of course

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Then we learned some techniques for actual chinese painting. Similarly to the way our teacher demonstrated the strokes of chinese characters, she broke down some basic approaches to painting koi, lotus flowers, and pandas.

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Three hours later, we reassembled, glued the edges together, and had beautiful Chinese fans with a personal touch.

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Just like I said. Going out with a bang.

I guess technically it’s more like I’m going out with a gust.

of wind…

from the fan.

Bad jokes? What are this?

Last Week Link-Up!

The general consensus between myself and the rest of my classmates is that while we love Taiwan and will miss it so much, we also simply can not wait to finally be home! 

Pretty much since June 24, I’ve been trolling the internet, keeping up to date with all of my favorite blogs, and saving those special recipes that ignite your senses and make your taste buds scream to hurry up and get home because you have to make this!

With only three full days left…

SIDENOTE: we leave Taiwan early Sunday morning, arrive in Tokyo MID afternoon Sunday, arrive in Detroit EARLY afternoon Sunday, and finally get home in the evening. Basically we’re implementing scientific theories developed by Rowling (1997-2007): two turns of a time-turner + disapparation. Obviously The Man is making us fly from Detroit to Cleveland so as to not disturb the general public’s perception of time and space and magic. Most pointless flight ever.

…I have reached that point where I need to start organizing my thoughts and creating my game plan for making each and every one of these delicious treats. 

And so, what does a college student studying abroad on the other side of the world miss most about American Food? 

Secretly healthy food that tastes like creamy delicious Alfredo sauce

Gourmet remakes of everyone’s favorite fireside dessert

In-home remakes of everyone’s favorite fireside dessert 

Backyard cookouts with a nutritious twist

Brownies, brownies, brownies, brownies, brownies, brownies, and more brownies

Sweet-and-salty everything that is chocolate and also I’d like some popcorn with it too

Freaking everything about hummus and vegetables please 

Chickpeas since all that hummus just won’t be enough 

Ice cream that tastes like ice cream and not ice+cream

& quinoa because it’s the best superfood out there

Plus, let’s not forget about the drinks! 

A white russian that has at least one reason to not feel guilty 

Smoothies with vegetables because why not?

This

And as much sangria as they let me have. Seriously

 

And, of course, something for a few weeks later
when I need something to remind me of Taiwan ❤ 

 

And what’s a plan for the future without some links that are actually useful for the future?

For example, reverse culture shock is a thing.

Uncertainty is scary, but it forces a lot of change, and change is good. Choose to change.

Rebuilding life in the states with GOOD habits is important. Knowing that I start a brand new job in a brand new city in just a few short weeks has caused me to mentally prepare for making new friends, volunteering, learning, sharing and reminiscing.

And my favorite advice of them all: take the time to process and reflect on everything you’ve done, how you’ve changed, and how this will affect the person that you want to become. 

 

 

And just because this is so awesomely inspiring:

Do more, and make sure that it counts.

Have a great day! 

 

Day 35: RIP I’ve Sweets Factory

I’ve officially been away of the U.S. for 35 days. It seems like forever, yet not very long at all. Thanks to easy access of technology and the abundance of computers and cellular devices throughout the states, I am able to contact my loved ones on a daily basis, if need be. I’m sure that this plays some role in my feeling of connectedness, even though so much can change over the course of nearly five weeks.  New lives are brought into this world, friends move to different states, new jobs begin, the radio plays different music, relationships are fostered, and you can even drive from one side of the country to the other with plenty of time to stop and smell the roses.

In fact, so much can change in even just a few days. You could leave one place on a Thursday, with no indications of change in sight, only to come back Sunday, to see it all demolished and essentially gone forever.

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Can you see the man smashing the glass?

RIP I’ve Sweets Factory. I feel somewhat lost without you. Like all that is right with Taichung has been warped by the twilight zone. If I had known that you only had a few days left with us, I would have depleted your supplies of pumpkin bread, for myself to eat every day—as well as to line my suitcases with. All that I can say is that I wish I could read the sign above your door, so that I might make some sense of this nonsensical world we live in. In times like these, we are completely powerless except to focus on the positive. So at least I figured out the final missing ingredient while I still had time.

In your memory, I will recreate pumpkin bread to introduce to Ohioans and Pennsylvanians alike,  bringing honor, glory, and the reputation of a really delicious-smelling kitchen to your name.

Gone but never forgotten…

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Days 33 & 34: Weekend Trip to Penghu Islands, Part 2

Day 33: Saturday, July 27

If Friday wasn’t enough tourism, then Saturday certainly did the trick. Though, I was thrilled to have a day full of absolutely zero boat rides! So basically that’s it: we just toured this island for a few hours.

My favorite stop was an old, preserved, coastal town. We got the chance to see what it used to be like to live there, when life was peaceful and simple, and before all of the crowds and tours.

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We all had another seafood lunch together before free time.

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A group of us decided there was nothing better to do than to park it on the beach! I had too much fun to take many pictures, but I’m pretty sure they would all just look like this anyway:

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Five hours later, we headed back and got dinner on our own. Greta helped us find a fun place with really unique dishes. I ordered a pasta bake with fruit.

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I really did. I honestly thought the translation just didn’t make sense–nope!  Literally, it was like eating pasta and cheese with pie fresh from the oven: apples, grapefruits, mangos, cactus fruit, and more!

Once we got back to the hotel, I noticed just how much sun I had soaked in throughout the day. I was really careful with applying sunscreen every 20-30 minutes, and wearing a sunhat all day. But when even that wasn’t enough, Eric brought us some Aloe. Not “Aloe Vera”; literally Aloe, like the plant. Just peel that skin off and lather generously.

Day 34: Sunday, July 28

It’s always hard to say goodbye, especially to an island as beautiful as Penghu. Luckily, good byes are so much easier when you spend half of them on the beach. Again!

We got up bright and early to spend as much quality time as possible on the coast of the Taiwan Strait. I was happy to feel such healthy skin in the morning, thanks to the plant that I now want to have growing in my house year round.

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Two hours later, we all packed up, cleared the hotel, and headed back to the “boat from hell.” Thank gooooodness for local medicine because this time I wasn’t sick in the least and was able to force myself into sleep throughout the duration of the trip.

We got back to campus around 5 pm, and then I finally got to eat for the nearly the first time that day! Crackers + peanut butter, followed by Nu Pasta ❤.

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On an unrelated note, I finally found out what the magical missing ingredient in my bread is!!! Sweet cream. It’s “Taiwanese Sweet Cream“. *Cue the choir of angels*

You think I’m kidding when I say I love this stuff. 

What a wonderful weekend, followed by the loooong blog entry. Thanks for sticking in there with me. For more stories and pictures (as if this weren’t enough), make sure that you’re keeping with the AUCOBE Blog! I’ll be back often this week as we wrap up our cultural classes, present our speeches, and say farewell!

Days 31 & 32: Weekend Trip to Penghu Islands Part 1

Penghu, Penghu, Penghu!!!!

Where do I even begin?

Day 31: Thursday, July 25

It’s not hard to wake up bright and early when you know you’re headed to a tropical, Asian Island…

Step 1: Ride a tour bus southwest for 2+ hours

Step 2: Get on the boat from hell for 80 minutes/therestofforever

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Step 3: Place head between legs and meditate

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Step 4: Kiss the ground of Penghu’s Main Island

Step 5: Get on another boat????

Step 6: Stand outside, enjoy the fresh air, and start taking pictures!

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Step 7: Load all of our bags onto the back of a sketchy pick-up truck and hope for the best

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Not quite three simple steps, but it gets the job done.

And that, my family, is how I arrived in Chipei island of Penghu (which is technically an archipelago, in case you’re confused).

First things first: fill your belly, get settled into the hotel, change real quick, and head to the beach! For the next few hours, we enjoyed laying out on the Sand Tail, reading books, playing frisbee, tanning, and collecting broken pieces of coral.

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That evening, we congregated outside of the hotel for an outdoor seafood BBQ, KTV included, and then walked back to the beach for some nighttime explorations and firecrackers.

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Once we made our way back to our beach bungalow, we took full advantage of the small pocket of wifi available outside of main office building, while also just chatting and enjoying others’ company late into the night, making friends with neighbors and local residents alike.

Day 32: Friday, July 26

In case you thought we were relaxing too much, don’t worry. Only a few hours after calling it a night, we woke up again to pack everything up and travel to the main island, where we would be spending the rest of our weekend.

Activity #1: Hit up the “Breakfast Street”

Activity #2: Snorkeling!!!

How cool does that sound?? It really was a lot of fun, although not nearly as colorful as I expected. My favorite part was seeing a school of gray fish dancing in the currents.

Also I was really surprised by how our guides took us snorkeling. One guide per group held two different floating rings. Three people held on to the rings and then we made a human chain, so one person was holding onto the back of the person in front of them. Then we all stuck our faces in the water and got pulled around. I can’t wait to see some pictures of how goofy we all looked!

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After snorkeling, we got to change into clothes, have a quick lunch (shaved ice with local cactus fruit!) and tour the island of Chimei, stopping at all of the popular sites: the seven beauties, the fisherman’s waiting wife, little taiwan, the dragon and the tiger, and the double heart.

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The waves surrounding Chimei are incredibly rough. Eric told us that they are the worst out of all 64 islands in Penghu. Although the boat ride from the mainland to Chimei was not nearly as bad as the previous day’s (we were on a smaller boat, I sat outside, and took seasick medicine), I had a pretty rough time and was afraid to eat anything of substance throughout the day.

So when I survived the boat ride back to the main island, and Eric brought a bag full of “black jelly ice” for each of us to try, I scarfed it down…. plus an apple… and some leftover bread…

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Doesn’t that look crazy different?! I kept trying to find out exactly what.it.is but to no avail. As far as I figured out, the brown/black color is from brown sugar, and the toppings include various shapes of tapioca pearls, red beans, and sweet potatoes. I’m happy to say that I ate a truly authentic Taiwanese dessert.

Just a short time later, the group ventured to a seafood restaurant for more traditional island food.

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Then we spent the evening walking around town…

"Rainbow Bridge"

“Rainbow Bridge”

…and doing a little shopping at the most tourist-y tourist spot I’ve yet to see:

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Giant Cruise Ship on land, hollowed out and filled with gift shops!

And here are some safety suggestions to meditate on until “Penghu Part 2” is ready:

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