Beijing, Beijing. Wo Ai Beijing!

The title of this post is taken straight from the Beijing Olympics closing song, I love Beijing. Take a look at the song if you are interested~ Anyways, yes, I have arrived safe and sound in the capital. It was a rough start (as always with me)…I woke up at 4:45am to finish showering and packing to check out at 6, I ended up checking out closer to 6:25 though because some other customer was annoyingly taking up the front desk’s time. I then made the walk to the subway station, but I had to go two stops out of my way to return Diana and my subway cards (each card is worth 20 RMB so I wanted that money!). The service desk guy was so rude about telling me they don’t start buying back subway cards until 9am, so annoying and a waste of time. By the time I got to the airport it was 8:25 (my flight is at 9:25), so I skeedaddle over to the Air China check-in counter, but the line was so long! I got to the person about 40/35 minutes before departure, a bad thing because they are technically supposed to stop checking in 45 minutes before, but she took pity on me and let me go. Of course, my bag had to be opened and inspected because my shaving cream seemed REALLY suspicious….don’t ask me why. I arrived in Beijing on time, and I had a person waiting outside with my name on a sign, pretty cool. I met Matilda from Sweden and Maja from Poland along the way. The van made a stop at another terminal and picked up about 10 more students, two of whom were tall, hot guys….you know I was on it! haha. So the Irish guy, named Fiarchra, sat next to me…the Irish accent is soooo hot and he looks exactly like the actor James Franco, I’m not kidding refer to my photos in a moment. He’s really funny and nice, so he’s a part of my crowd now~ Other cool people I met the first day include people from Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, Argentina (they all hang out together and shout spanish songs and whatnot of course), Norway (he was one of the two hot guys at the airport, Russia (this cute, little red-headed girl who takes amazing photos and will give them to us all), and Croatia (I will explain about him soon). Everyone has very different Chinese levels, some have been studying Chinese for 5 years or more and it shows (like the Japanese guys), and others have only been studying for 5 months, shocking but they come from small countries where winning apparently isn’t that hard?  Once I mentioned I was the American runner-up some people mentioned I must be good, I guess America has a reputation for stiff competition?

So anyways, Fiarchra decided right away that he wants to break our 11 o’clock curfew and go bar-hopping/clubbing. He thought I wouldn’t be down (do I seem like a teacher’s pet?!), but of course I was so I helped organize people. There were about 15 of us gathered in the lobby, and to get things started cheaply I first downed two bottles of beer. There was a German guy in our group who may have been hitting on me, but I can’t remember and it’s unimportant, haha. Anyways we arrived at a bar (can’t remember the name), and I was so amazed at the cheap prices, living in Shanghai is WAY too expensive, the shots were only 20 RMB a piece, so I had two to get looser. The Croatian, Ivan, brought me another shot and I thought that was sweet of him, also he’s tall, dark, and cute so I decided to dance with him. In actuality, the dancing was mediocre at best, but I seemed to have rocked his world. Because in the cab, while going to an official club around midnight, I was laying my head on his shoulder and he was telling the Romanian guy that I was a sexy, hot black girl who dances like a hurricane. I don’t mind compliments! But he also was talking about being faithful to this girl back home, but they aren’t dating, because he cheated on her and she broke up with him a few months ago. That’s sweet, but I mean come on, we aren’t going to be making babies, who cares? But anyways I’m not going to push it or anything. I wanted to dance with Fiarchra but disappointingly he was all up on one of the Russian girls, I think they kissed but I was too into dancing myself to be sure. Regardless, she seemed nice, but they didn’t talk today.

Getting up this morning, I had a killer hangover, but for some reason I got up at 7:45am, so I decided to go with the group to the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. I won’t get many more free chances to go to these places so why not? It was fun hanging out with my group, and getting to know each other more. It was my second time to the wall, but fun nonetheless…and hot! I was carrying an umbrella to get SOME reprieve. We climbed for about 1 hour and a half, then turned around to go back down. Funny enough, I’m really really scared of heights. So when I would walk down, my knees started shaking. But Ivan and Fiarchra were so sweet, they both walked in front of me and alternated letting me hold their shoulders as we went down. With them blocking the view down below I was as scared as I could have been. After that was a buffet lunch, and then we got to walk around the Tiananmen Square area for two hours. I thought I would die of heat stroke but I’m so glad to have done it again this year. At 6:30pm we went to a famous Beijing Duck restaurant in the area and had an amazing feast. If my instincts are right, Ivan was pretty flirty today, but alas it’s a dead-end that may not be worth following, but I do love having fun 🙂

*Photos will be posted soon!!


Reflections About Shanghai

Tomorrow I am hopping on an airplane to Beijing to film for another TV show, Chinese Bridge Competition. I am only going to be a part of this show from July 30th until August 10th, but I am looking forward to days of paid hotels and food! (Yes, I am truly cheap and enjoy the free things in life!) The Chinese Bridge is an international Chinese language proficiency competition, for non-natives only of course. So the premise is, each country sends one or two college students to compete in China and the top 6 contestants receive three years scholarship to study in China. I had prepared for this show for about 6 months, I went through a preliminary contest for the state of Florida, got first place, and then went to Texas to compete for first place in the Southern Region. I tried my hardest, and up until the last contestant I was a shoe-in for first place, which would mean I would get to compete from the beginning and have a chance to have my parents fly over for free, but the last contestant was a white girl who half-way grew up in China…what were the chances right?! She was a really sweet girl though, and her Chinese was obviously amazing, so I had no hard feelings. I won second place though and therefore am getting a free trip to Beijing. It would’ve been a free round-trip from the States, but I’m already here 😦

Anyways, Shanghai is a mix of the modern and old, the area of our hotel is in an area famed for having buildings dating back to the early 1900s, and you can really tell. Last week, Diana, Luke, and I even went to the hotel that used to be a Gentleman’s Club, one that Ulysses S Grant spent time in… yes, the Civil War’s Ulysses S Grant (If you don’t know, now you know~). There are sections where it was obviously built during the British occupation of Shanghai, and others that are beautifully lit by modern lights and architecture. Really interesting, but to be honest there are more cons then pros, I have heard stereotypes about the south before but now I guess I get to confirm some (These are all based from my own personal experiences!). It is true, men really ARE tiny here! At least twenty times a day Diana and I scream at the height or waist size of a passing “man”, from the back some of them look like pre-teens. I feel bad saying this but it’s true. Back when I had only been in Northern China, whenever my American friends would ask me, “Aren’t all of the guys super short there?” I would always respond with, “Surprisingly, no there are some shorter than me, and some taller, just like in America. Now I know why the national height average is so low, no offense, but the southern guys are bringing them all down! Another stereotype about people from Shanghai is that they are superficial, at least compared to northern China, and it’s true as well. Girls here wear more short shorts, high heels, and tank tops than I’ve ever seen before. Also, everywhere you go in Shanghai is a shopping mall…I’m not joking, we go to the People’s Square and find that it’s a mall, go to a garden, turns out to be a mall, go to a park and it turns out to be the biggest mall I’ve ever seen in my life! Literally, 2 basement floors and nine stories above ground, about the size of a football field, not to mention the world’s longest commercial street is right here in Shanghai. Great for all you shopaholics out there, but not so fun for us on a college budget. Stereotype number three? That people from Shanghai are less friendly, I can definitely see the credence in this stereotype. I think Shanghai people remind me greatly of New Yorkers, it’s not that they are rude, but that they are more into themselves or what they are doing. So there were not many conversations with taxi drivers or random new friendships like I get in Shandong Province. I had a great time, but I can honestly say I prefer Beijing and Qingdao a lot more.

Like Going Home

Going back to Qingdao is the closest I can get here in China to achieving that “I’m back home!” relief. Not that I had been openly missing Qingdao, but on a sub-conscious level, I always compare the new cities to my good, old familiar “home”. So going back to film the TV show was great.

Diana and I found our way to Shanghai Pudong airport by using the subway system, it took about 1 hour and 30 minutes, but saving money is ALWAYS worth it! Instead of a 100+ RMB taxi, it was only 7 RMB. Also, I always have the tendency to pack as if my life is starting anew at the next destination point, so this time I intentionally only brought a small carry-on and my back pack, traveling without worrying about being overweight makes flying almost fun…almost. Anyways, we landed without a hitch, I called Dr. Shepherd and he told us to book a hotel for two nights, and we would see him for practice later. To be honest, I hadn’t really studied the story he wanted us to perform, I had memorized half before jetting off to Shanghai, but promptly forgot about learning the other half when I thought my vacation had started, haha. So crammed and miraculously got it down. It helped that we all would be saying the Kuaiban story as a group (Diana, 4 Tier II students, and I). Unfortunately, I was put front and center of the formation, so I felt the pressure regardless. Diana and I went to the Tier II student’s dorms and practiced with them until our 8:00 pm appointment to perform in front of Dr. Shepherd. It was kind of a train wreck (what with everyone clapping the beat, while trying to remember the words on said beat, while also trying to remember body movements), but after more practice and a few adjustments it turned out pretty good.

The next morning, Diana and I got up early to meet up with the other students, Dr. Shepherd, and his performing arts teacher to get more practice in. We made slight alterations and practiced for 2 hours, then headed to the TV station. After a wait in the lobby, we were escorted into the studio and got seats at the side of the stage. The set and stage were very colorful, I love getting to see the “behind the scenes” look at things, the cameramen, producers, and lights. I realized that the show we were filming for is one of my favorite Chinese shows, Yu Le Gang (娱乐港); I would describe it as a more laid-back version of Mad TV, so the show is focused mostly on hilarious skits performed on stage. There was a skit about a couple going through counseling before a divorce, a family with a spoiled son, lax mother, and almost abusive father, a cheating husband in a hospital and a thief, and an idiot (it was a man dressed as a woman) trying to fill out forms at a bank. This show is filmed before a live audience, so everyone else got really nervous, but I didn’t. I’m a bit of a contradiction, I LOVE being on stage and leading things (Diva since the crib), but I hate being on camera, so with the audience there, I just pretended the cameras weren’t there and was able to have a good time. After the story, instead of escaping off stage, the MCs kept us there for a quick question and answer session that I had to speak in, of course I was also forced to sing an American song. When put on the spot like that I can NEVER think of any song, so instead I sang a Chinese one, Cyndi Wang’s 《我会好好的》. The crowd loved it, but we shall see how that turned out, haha.

Dr. Shepherd performed a few stories of his own, and then we all got on stage to film a “Happy Chinese New Year/Happy Year of the Dragon” message for them to use later….much later, as in February when it actually is Chinese New Year. Diana, Jessie, Gloria, and I went off to find a restaurant to eat, right when we were about to step in the doors, luckily Dr. Shepherd gave me a call to ask if we had eaten yet. I hate to take advantage because he ALWAYS pays for the meal, but free food and good conversation is always at the top off my list. After our lunch, Dr. Shepherd reimbursed us for our plane tickets and hotel room; I made the purchases with my visa card so it was technically paid in USD, but Dr. Shepherd could only pay me the equivalent in Chinese dollars, haha. Diana and I scrambled over to the large night market, Tai Dong 台东, to buy many last minute presents for family, I love the Chinese system in which almost no price is set, and haggling is practically a hobby. We got really good prices and also bought Diana a new suitcase, since her other one broke (AGAIN). We took a taxi to the Tier II students’ dorms so I could say goodbye, at the dorm gate we ran into a pack of Americans all dressed up and ready to party. There was this white boy there hitting on me and trying to convince me to go to Ye Chao…I was so shocked by this sign of fate, because Diana and I had been debating the whole night whether or not to go to YeChao (my favorite club in Qingdao). We hurried back to our hotel, changed….and I changed my mind on the last minute. I didn’t want to pay for a cab there and back, I had to be at an official forum thing in the morning, and also I wasn’t sure if my employee friend (the one who gives us the free table) would be working or was even still my friend; he hadn’t replied to my text the week before and I didn’t want to take the chance.  

Ironically enough, the next morning around 8 am I got a text from the very same guy, asking how Shanghai is going and that he misses me….so mad! But all is well that ends well, I got to the forum in time, put in a good showing for Dr. Shepherd, and got back to our hotel to check out with Diana. Our flight didn’t leave until 3:30 pm, so Diana and I went to get lunch at our favorite restaurant in Qingdao; Taipei 1+1…the food was sooo delicious! We ordered too much of it, because all we could think of were the tiny portions and bad food awaiting us in the south. The plane ride was delayed but smooth, and thus ended our relaxing interlude back “home”~

Emergency Trip To Qingdao

So it turns out that despite my long, overdrawn farewell to Qingdao…I am going back tomorrow. Yeah it was sudden for me too, haha. My teacher, Dr. Shepherd called me yesterday afternoon and asked if I could come into Qingdao to help film another show Friday morning. Flying back and forth between Shanghai and Qingdao, though, does not fit within my college budget (somehow every post I talk about this budget, but money is important!), so they are paying to have me fly in Thursday afternoon and stay two nights in a hotel. I definitely didn’t want to leave Diana out though, so she has to learn a Kuaiban story and come along with me 🙂

This is really a coincidence, because both Diana and I wanted to go back to Qingdao anyways. Diana realized things were much cheaper in Qingdao, and she regretted not buying more presents for people in the large shopping street, Taidong (台东). I honestly miss the things I didn’t appreciate before (non-fashionable people, tall men, cheap prices, good food, and a dialect that is still close to standard Mandarin-unlike Shanghaiese), so we both pretty much miss Qingdao. Also, I am attending NanKai University in August, and they mailed all of my class paperwork to my old school in Qingdao. So things have worked out perfectly. I may even go back to my favorite club, YeChao, Friday night and (hopefully) get another free VIP table 🙂 If my favorite worker is working that night of course. Anyways, I have to go back to studying; I have to learn a new story and brush up on my other two Kuaiban stories…I really, really hate being on TV. Le sigh.

A Day In The Life

A few days ago, we got out relatively early (around 1pm…the heat usually keeps us inside until around 4 haha) to find more tourist sites. I saw Yuyuan Garden (豫园) on the map before, and it seemed to be really popular so we decided to go there. Not surprisingly, Yuyuan Garden turned out not to be a garden at all, but rather a shopping center. I’ve come to realize that EVERY tourist attraction in Shanghai is a shopping mall, center, or the longest commercial road in the world. After going to historically rich cities, Beijing and Xian, I took it for granted that every city would be the same. Despite the fact that it wasn’t what I expected, it was still immaculate and full of beautiful architecture. Walking through the buildings, a Chinese man stopped us to talk for a few moments before inviting us inside to view a gallery of calligraphy and paintings. There were three rooms of artwork and it was beautiful, but we had to make a speedy escape when he began bartering prices with us…Chinese art is not included in my college budget!) We also had the chance to visit another world famous Xiaolongbao restaurant, Nanxiang Dumplings. We chose to stand in the line outside (it was 10 RMB cheaper per person than going inside) to buy 16 xiaolongbao for only 20 RMB, the heat is oppressive but after a while you get used to it. I’m so glad that we ate xiaolongbao at Ding Tai Feng first, because even though the Nanxiang dumplings tasted ok, nothing could measure up to Ding Tai Feng’s.

After Yuyuan Garden, Luke, Diana, and I headed in a taxi to a mysterious location to meet a Chinese guy to eat. A few nights before, Diana met this guy, Fu Lei, at a club called True Love Club(真爱俱乐部), he seemed pretty nice, and we have been texting him since, so he wanted to take us out to eat. My policy is never turn down free food! He wanted to take Diana out obviously but they couldn’t go alone because that’s too forward in Chinese culture, so it was a group date if you will (with me as the translator at times haha). Fu Lei met us at a Xinjiang themed restaurant, eating food from different regions of China is amazing, from Province to Province it can seem like a different country. Xinjiang features many different versions of goat meat and goat milk, it was exotic, and there were three dance performances as well (including a belly dance….I want to take up belly-dancing now). Fu Lei brought presents for each of us and bought a bottle f wine for us to drink as well; he was pulling out all of the stops to impress Diana. She was pretty silent, actually, but Luke and I made up for this by asking him more questions. Afterwards, he drove us to TianZiFang to tour around. TianZiFang(田子防)is an area of some of the oldest buildings in Shanghai, they have been shelled out to make room for shops and no one lives there anymore, but it still has the old, quaint environment.  We had fun walking into different stores and seeing the interesting gifts you could buy, like a face that eats coins and makes munching noises, haha.

After this he dropped us off at a train station (did I mention he also has his own car? In China that must mean he has cash money!), we took it back to our hotel, and then took a cab over to his favorite club, Muse 2. The music sounded really good, but unfortunately it was 100 RMB per person to get in (with three drinks included…so in retrospect that’s not too bad a price, it’s usually 50 RMB for a drink everywhere) so we hopped next door to a bar/club called One Pub. Not to sound like an alcoholic, but I HATE going into clubs sober, when you’re not even tipsy it takes forever to feel comfortable enough to dance. So we ended up buying some of those expensive drinks anyway (one we bought for Fu Lei since he was so nice). After that we started dancing, and Chinese girls always love to dance with me, whenever I would look up, a Chinese girl would connect eyes with me, then next thing I know they are in front of me dancing. It was hilarious. Also, this was a good way to get in with a group at a table, I would dance with a girl, shout some conversation, then she would introduce me to her friends, and share their drinks. It worked three times~ Thinking back about the night, I might have gotten a few bi-curious girls or straight up lesbians, because some enjoyed dancing with me a bit too much, getting crazy. Luke even told me that the girl he was dancing with thought I was, “Sexy”…..oh gosh. Diana’s guy is nice, but she’s not to interested, so she’s deflected his further attempts to meet up, she’s weak against ignoring people though so I will see how long she lasts 😛

I’ve been to several clubs and bars here in Shanghai, my favorite so far is True Love Club, and every Wednesday is ladies night, so free open bar! Also the crowd seems a bit better than in other places. I don’t really like the overall feel of clubs here in Shanghai though; it’s always packed with horny westerners and gold-digging Chinese girls, to be honest. I’ve never seen so much making out in the club before…

The Hunt For Xiaolongbao

Ever since we first arrived here, the question I ask every native is, “What special dishes and foods should I try here in Shanghai?” Unfortunately though, their responses have all been negative, apparently Shanghai is a city that just has a fusion of every Chinese region and flavor. So you can try every kind of Chinese cuisine here, but nothing is really special or native to Shanghai. Despite this fact, there are two dishes that are most famous here in Shanghai, hairy crabs and xiao long bao. Xiao long bao (小笼包) are similar to Chinese meat buns (包子) but instead of just having meat within, there is also a broth.


Yesterday, Diana, Luke, and I went on a mission to try xiao long bao….they couldn’t be just from anywhere because we wanted to be sure we got the authentic taste; so I researched on Google for a long time. I found several places, but the New York Times and several reliable resources proclaimed Ding Tai Feng in Xintiandi to be the best xiao long bao restaurant in Shanghai. We took the subway to Xintiandi and discovered that it is a major tourist attraction, with many beautiful stores, malls, coffee shops, and restaurants. After looking through a large mall, we started asking the directions for Ding Tai Feng and finally found it. One look at the menu, though, and my wallet started yelling in pain! The cheapest xiao long baos were 58 RMB for 10 pieces….so of course (being college students on a budget) we just ordered two sets, one with pork and the other with chicken. Now I know what all of the hype is about, they were SOO delicious. You have to give them a minute to cool down, because the broth may burn otherwise, dip them in vinegar and eat, the soup within is amazing.

After this tease of a meal, though, we had to get out of there to stuff our faces somewhere affordable. So we got back on the subway and found what we were looking for, a stop titled JiaoTong University. After being a student in Qingdao for three years, I have learned that the cheapest shops and restaurants in China are around universities. They understand what the college budget is like over there, haha.

Can’t Trust Anyone

Okay, so I just got off of the phone with someone who (surprisingly) turns out to be a creeper …let me explain. I swear my life is like a TV show drama sometimes, the comedic kind.

The night before and the day that Diana and I got into Shanghai were very VERY rough days, bad luck all around. The night before, I went out to meet up with a bunch of friends to have my going away party. The terrible part of it, though, was getting there, it started raining the hardest I’ve ever seen, and I practically had to swim to get there. The streets literally looked like rivers! Then, Diana, myself, and another girl had to leave the party around 3am to go find a 24-hour ATM (we all had trains to catch in the early morning)….this was yet another dilemma. In China, the schools go on LOCK DOWN after 11 or 11:30pm; the students are all locked into dorms and all gates are closed with heavy, dramatic padlocks. This is a problem for people getting in, and out as we soon discovered. Our first obstacle: We had to wake the “Uncle” downstairs to let us go outside of the dorm, I felt guilty but as I said, we had a morning train ride and only dollar bills to our names. We slithered through a crack in the gate outside and walked to the east entrance of the school (we did a large circle, because the main gate of the school would obviously be locked). After the long voyage we ran into yet another locked gate, which was the first time in my life I had to climb a fence, but it was pretty easy because there was a wall to place our feet for lift-off. THEN we could literally see freedom when we ran into our last gate, it was larger and more intimidating than the last. We tried climbing but it was impossible, so once again I had to wake up the gate-keeper…but he was soo much meaner than the first and wearing only his underwear (awkward). He looked at me and refused to get up, after a few more minutes he opened his door to stare at me and ask (rudely) why we needed to be let out. After I pleaded my case to him he finally, reluctantly, opened the gate for us. By the time we went to the ATM and got back to our hotel it was about 4:30 in the morning, I set my alarm for 6:30am and called it a night.

The next morning, my alarm didn’t go off (Diana knocked on my door at 7:15), so I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. The hotel printer wasn’t working, so I couldn’t print the confirmation that we paid for our hotel in Shanghai online, Diana’s suitcase handle broke, and I forgot to write down the address to our hotel. I opened my laptop up on the train ride, but my laptop is temperamental and wouldn’t connect to the wireless internet. Diana’s laptop was out of battery and her charger plug was a three-prong, the train and train station after we arrived only had two-prong outlets. With no other choice, I tried to call some friends back in Qingdao to go into my email and get the address for me. My friend was on her computer and everything, all I had to do was text her my password, all problems solved!…but my phone ran out of minutes and thus I couldn’t send or receive messages or calls (I’m just this lucky, I swear). I remembered the English name of the hotel and tried to go based off of this. After much struggle we found someone who claimed he knew which hotel and where it was, we hoped he did because it’s an hour taxi ride and would cost us 200 RMB. The driver was this nice, friendly, older guy- I think he’s around 35. During the drive, he kept me engaged in conversation the whole time, just with questions about school, America, China, etc. I also found out that he is the father of twins (that is like hitting the jackpot here in China, it’s a way to get around the one-child policy legally). The whole time, I’m thinking, “He’s a really nice guy”, he offered to show us some things in Shanghai. He was talking about a place with dancing; I assumed he meant a traditional Chinese dancing show, maybe at a teahouse or something. But then he mentioned music, and he was playing this techno song that sounded more like club music, Diana became suspicious but I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

I woke up this morning and saw that I had a missed call, I called back right away to see who it was, and surprise, it’s my new cab driver friend. Apparently he called because he was in the area of our hotel and wanted to see if we were in, he then asked me what we were going to do later and I said, “Nothing much” so he mentioned something about taking us out. I agree, and then mention it to Diana; we decided it would probably be safer to wait until our guy friend gets to Shanghai so we can go with him too. Two hours later the same cabbie called again, I picked up again and this is how the conversation went (translating from Chinese to English, of course):

Cabbie: Hey, where are you right now? At your hotel?

Me: Near Nanjing Road just relaxing (Actually we are watching TV at our hotel; I lied because why is he so anxious about me being at the hotel? Does he think he can come over?) What are you doing, aren’t you working?

Cabbie: No, I’m completely free, doing nothing.

Me: Oh, Ok…By the way, I meant to call you. My friend is coming in from Qingdao tonight and we have to go pick him up, so we won’t be free to hang out.

Cabbie: Oh is your friend a boy or a girl? (In Chinese saying he/she him/her is the same word, so he wasn’t able to tell)

Me: A boy (why do you care?!)

Cabbie: How about you send your sister to go pick him up, that way we can still hang out?

Me: Oh, uh, well she gets lost really easily so I couldn’t do that (OMG this guy is a creeper?! I thought he was safe since he’s married!)….

Cabbie: Well let’s meet up this afternoon then.

Me: (Panicking) Maybe next time! I am so busy right now, hey, I’ve got to go, talk to you later!

Diana tried to warn me, but I refused to think that this nice, married guy was truly a creep! After I hung up with him, I looked at the time he called yesterday, and tell me why it was at 10:30pm?! Why were you “in the area” and wanted to check if I was in my hotel at that late time?! Thank god I didn’t pick up….now I know my bad luck in life is complete. Now I have to worry about a stalker, creepy cab driver during my stay, I am going to avoid his calls like he is the plague from now on, scouts honor~

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