Fantasy v Reality

Well it is that time of year again when I hear from those who have fallen head over heels, met their one true love and are looking at moving (or perhaps have already moved) to Türkiye to live the fantasy with their beloved.

Holiday romance

This is the epic love story isn’t it?  This is the love story that The Bard wrote about centuries before, a love more powerful than Napoleon and Josephine and a love that will last through eternity like Jack and Rose.  But just before you go packing your bags and dreaming of a new life in Türkiye with your true love let’s go over what you are getting yourself into – a little bit of a reality check shall we say.

For the sake of this post I am going to assume that you have met your true love in Marmaris or Fethiye or Bodrum (like me).  A holiday romance (like me).  And for the sake of this post I am going to assume that you are female (although no discrimination intended guys).  Finally for the sake of this post I am guessing that your man does not live permanently in Marmaris, Fethiye or Bodrum and instead comes from a small village some 18 hours away (or 12 hours or even 4 hours) where he will return to his family home for the winter months (again like me).

Right – let’s get started.

Can you imagine a life living in a quaint Turkish village?  Would you be happy living with your in-laws, his family, literally surrounded by hundreds of people and yet somehow being incredibly lonely?  Are you ready to immerse yourself entirely into a culture that is incredibly foreign and can be relentlessly unforgiving at times?

Take off the rose coloured glasses people.

Look again at that quaint village?  In daylight what it might really be is a bit of a dump.  If this place was back in your homeland you wouldn’t be caught dead living here.  Right?  Am I right?  I’m right.  Electricity comes and goes.  So does the water.  And speaking of water, is it safe to drink? Maybe.  And those people around you?  Are you merely a slave to wait on them or perhaps you are seen as nothing more than a yabancı and generally get ignored from morning to night.  I am not saying that they are going to treat you like that so don’t start losing your mind and writing me horrid messages, I am saying they might be.  It happens.  You, as the gelin, may be expected to do a lot of running around for the fam bam.  Be prepared for that possibility.

What about that lifestyle you were after?  Do you picture yourself spending your days on the farm, perhaps walking through the quaint village, arm and arm with your love, waving to your neighbours and having time to smell the roses?

That’s not roses you are smelling people – its horse shit, or cow shit, or goat shit, or … well you get the picture … and it is everywhere!

Are you designed to live on a farm or did you grow up in a wing at Buckingham Palace (or in my case Manly Beach).  Trust me when I say the sounds of chickens clucking and cock-a-doodle-dooing is like a jackhammer to my ears and I believe that meat should be purchased from a supermarket and not retrieved from your driveway after Baa Baa was slaughtered before your very eyes.

But you will make allowances after all you will be together with your love.  It will be wonderful.  A happy life.

*Cough, cough*

As long as you realise that he has been working away from home for over six months and, now that he has returned home, he will no doubt need to get another job to continue to support his family (and you) for the next six months until the summer season re-starts.  Work can be scarce for many here in Türkiye.  He will no doubt work extremely long hours leaving you at home with his family or maybe all by yourself.  Perhaps he will disappear for hours to the local cay ev for cards leaving you to stare at the four walls making you feel like your home is your prison cell.  Of course he will need to visit all of his extended family and you will be dragged from home to home like a show pony.  Are you ready for that?

Don’t get me wrong people, I love Türkiye but I arrived here in The Village with my eyes wide open.  I had travelled here every year for a decade before we made the decision to pack up our lives.  I knew what I was getting myself into and I still find it difficult.  Every single day.  Difficult.  If you think that this is going to be your very own Shirley Valentine or Eat, Pray, Love then do yourself a favour and unpack your bag right now, get on the telephone or on Skype or Whatsap and nut out some ground rules for you and your love.

He will need to support you 110%  I don’t mean financially, I mean emotionally.  You have moved here from your comfortable home, from a country that is your mother tongue and you have left your family and your friends behind.  He cannot get angry at you.  He must not get frustrated or ignore you.  You will have questions.  Hundreds of them.  I still do.

You will be lonely.  Thank God for Facebook (don’t diss me I mean it).  Find expats groups.  Find likeminded people.  I know this might be difficult in the small village (I’m the only one in our village) but look in the neighbouring towns.  Some from our expats group here in Mersin come from small villages in the mountains or even from neighbouring cities to spend the day with friends.  Offer to help at the local school.  Your English is a gift to the teachers here.

Really, really do your research.  Find out where you will be living and what it means to live in that area.  If it is a teeny, tiny village you need to throw yourself into that lifestyle wholeheartedly.  Find out what allowances you will need to make – culturally that is.  Will you be living in a conservative area?  Can you do that or do you want to wear your cut-off shorts and to hell with them all?!  Perhaps you will be living with his family.  You will have no privacy.  They will come and re-arrange your drawers or walk into your room unannounced at all hours.  Boundaries.  Draw that line in the sand and make sure he (and his family) abides by it.

Finally a little bit of advice for your partner from me –

This lady is your true love.  She has moved here to be with you.  Don’t make her regret that decision.  Do the right thing.  Treat her with the respect that she deserves.  Treat her like a fecking princess!  She IS a fecking princess!! Spend time with her.  Don’t disappear for hours on end leaving her to your family to entertain.  Help her settle in to her new environment.  Please don’t get agitated at her when she is unsure of herself or of what is going on around her.  Understand the difficulties that she is having with the language barrier or the culture.  Most importantly don’t be a complete douche or you will lose her forever!

Now breathe … and go pack those bags!


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The Turk in Oz

I think being a yabanci, an expat or an immigrant (call it what you will) is extremely bloody hard.  I am not going to whinge and carry on today but rather tell the tale of when The Turk first arrived in Australia all those years ago.  Let me turn the table on my usual yabanci whinge-fest and tell you all about how The Turk coped when he was the yabanci arriving on foreign soil, a stranger in a hostile land, so to speak.

Life in Australia was good for me in 2002.  Daughter was a damn good baby.  I had a job that I loved and I lived in an apartment that was all mine.  I was content and having The Turk arrive should have made my life pretty much perfect.  Shouldn’t it?


Post 9/11 the Australian visa process was daunting but with perseverance and his sponsorship being guaranteed by an amazingly supportive friend, The Turk arrived in Sydney one sunny morning in December 2002.  Not wasting a moment The Turk hit the ground running and by the first week of January 2003 he had procured gainful employment as a storeman and packer.  He was good at his job because he wanted this job.  He didn’t love the work but he wanted this life in this strange new world to be a success.

My friends and family were welcoming and The Turk soon turned my friends into his friends although, as hard as he tried, he just wasn’t fitting in.  I knew it and he knew it.  No one spoke Turkish and Turkish people were as scarce as hen’s teeth where we lived (read that as non-existent).  No one understood what he was going through or where he was from and perhaps I was not as helpful as I could have been.  During those early years Australia was not an easy place for a Muslim and The Turk was racially discriminated against by strangers and even the police on more than one occasion.

The Turk began to drink and gamble.  I knew he liked a drink – still does – but the gambling was a problem as we did not have that much money to start with.  Was I as supportive as I could have been or help him deal with his obvious addictions?  No.  I turned on him and badmouthed him to whoever would listen.  The bright new world was slowly becoming jaded and life was becoming more difficult.

By 2006 The Turk had had enough.  This new home had beaten him and, while Turkey may not have all the bells and whistles that Australia has, he gave me an ultimatum.  Return to Turkey with him and forge a new life there.  I refused to leave and finally he packed his bags and returned to Turkey without us.

After six months in his homeland The Turk returned a new man.  Still gave me a migraine daily but at least he had fresh vigour about his life and what he hoped to achieve in Australia.  He got not just one new job but two, landscaping by day and a sous chef by night.  He was happy.  He was working his ass off, providing for his family and could hold his head up high.

He still had not made any friends however and we really had no family other than my father who had remarried.  The Turk brooded a lot and we fought a lot, until finally, after one particularly explosive argument, he broke down and told me the truth.  The real truth.

He had never really adjusted to his life in Sydney.  To Australia.  As much as he loves Australia and he loves his family and friends living in such a foreign environment was just too damn difficult.  He had no support.  He had no one who understood how he felt and Australia had slowly broken him.  Into tiny, little pieces.

Obviously we got past that dark time in our life and we stayed together.  Sure he drives me crazy but he is my Turk and I do love him.  Sometimes.

The point to my reminiscing is this – moving to a new country has so many hurdles to overcome.  There is a drama at every turn.  Renting an apartment, finding a job, obtaining your visa.  Bloody hell it is hard work.  Doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from this is a fact.

When I first arrived here in Mersin it was difficult and there were a lot of tears.  Two years later it is still difficult (and there are still tears).  So what do I do?  Do I give up?  Run home?

I can now honestly say I understand why The Turk left back in 2006.  I really do.  Mersin is no Sydney and life for me back in Australia would be so much easier.  I would have my friends.  I would return to my fantastic job working with people I adore.  Life would be grand.  So why don’t I run home?  Why is it that I am coping in this chaotic country while The Turk collapsed in the reasonable sanity that is Australia?  Simply put I have met a great group of people who I can truly call friends.  They understand just how crappy a crappy day can be here in Mersin and will laugh right along with me (or pull me back from the abyss if necessary).  This was what The Turk was missing in Australia.

To anyone who is taking the plunge in a foreign land or to those of you who have their partner moving to yours know this one thing.  Find a support system that works for you and surround yourself with people who will lift you up when needs be.  Of course social media makes finding these like-minded people that much easier (man how I wish there was FB back in 2001).  I can thank social media (and this blog) for finding my support network – they are my rock.  Yes!  You guys truly rock!

Cumhuriyet Bayrami

In Turkey 29 October is known as Cumhuriyet Bayrami (Republic Day).  This day commemorates Mustafa Kemal’s declaration that the Ottoman Empire would forevermore be known as the Republic of Turkey.  With that declaration a vote occurred in the Grand National Assembly and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Father of Turkey) was elected the first President of the Republic of Turkey.

Here are a few photos taken around Mersin today finishing our day with Ispanek Borek in Ataturk Parki.

29 Ekim 3

29 Ekim 2




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Kurban Bayram

Today marks the eve of Kurban Bayram and its 4.5 day celebration.  All the households are busy with preparation for the celebration.  I am frantically cleaning as I know there will be a constant flow of guests through the door.  Daughter is crazy excited as there is no school until next Wednesday and can currently be found downstairs with her cousins while trying to round up My Hurley Dog who appears to be chasing kittens around the garden.  The Turk’s sister is arriving tomorrow with her family as well which means a very full household for the next week.

All this plus a sneaky expat get together on Saturday night means I will probably not be around for the next few days.  For those of you who are unaware of Kurban Bayram I wrote a piece last year (link below) which sums up my thoughts on this celebration.

To all my readers I say Kurban Bayramin kutlu olsen and I will be back on board next week.kurban bayram

Incidentally I don’t think the sheep are really all that happy about Bayram.  Pretty sure about that actually.


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The Inquisition

I currently have a two tier problem here in Mersin.  My second problem stems from my first problem not being finalised.


When The Turk arrived in Mersin late last year we immediately lodged documentation pertaining to my citizenship application.  There was a lot of trips to various Government offices,  more perilous than trekking across the Sahara Desert or more difficult than reaching the summit of Everest.  There was a lot of paperwork including – current passport (easy), medical certificate (bir şey olmaz – no problem), 4 passport photos (heads up peeps you should always have at least a dozen passport photos on hand – you will go through them like tissues), completed application (done), marriage certificate (translated into Turkish of course), confirmation of residency (hello I am here thus I am a resident) and the doozy – Certificate of ability to speak Turkish (WHAT????).  That last one I thought we had gotten away with as The Turk and I had been called in for an interview at the Emniyet a couple of weeks after lodgment of the documents.  The interviewer asked a few very simple questions and I answered with a yes or no (evet / yok).  I was then fingerprinted, they did a police check (they never did find out about that international jewel heist I was involved with – shush) and they arrived unannounced at our home to ensure that The Turk and I were in a real relationship.  They found me sitting out the front on the road in my pajamas waiting for My Hurley Dog to do a poop.  You don’t get any more real than that folks!

Fast forward to last week and I began hassling The Turk that we should chase up my citizenship before he disappears to Sydney next month.  Good idea!  We arrived at the Emniyet to find that nothing had been done to move my application forward since last December!  WTF???  Which brings me to my next problem – the expiration of my residency visa but I am jumping ahead of myself here.  Bir dakika (one minute).

This morning The Turk got a call from the Polis requiring my immediate attendance at their office in Yumuktepe.  Incidentally I had been to the suburb of Yumuktepe before as there is a ruin mound there and as a lover of history I wanted to get a gander at it.  This mound reveals a Neolithic settlement which continued up to the Middle Ages.  Like the Gözlükule Tumulus in Tarsus this one is located in a park and there really is nota lot to see however it has 23 levels of occupation dating from 6300BC which, for the geek in me, is really interesting!  I know I have gotten off topic but as a history buff this is really interesting stuff!

Anyway The Turk and I jumped and after I directed the taksi driver as he had no clue where to go we made it to the meeting out of breath and sweating.  I assumed that this was the final formality to approve my citizenship.  I did not know what it would be but I bet it was going to be simple.  Nope.  It was THE INTERVIEW.

I think this post should actually be re-named The Interview From Hell because that is what it was.  I was seated in a room underneath the Polis station where I could clearly see straight into the cells.  As I waited for the interviewer to arrive I curiously scoped out the two people in the cells opposite.  There was the buxom blonde with waaayyy too much makeup directly opposite me as well as another man to her left who was babbling loudly in a language that was not Turkish but I could not tell you what language it was or even if it was a language.  The woman, we found out, was Russian and had overstayed her visa.  Gulp!

The Turk was asked to wait outside and the interviewer proceeded to ask me a butt load of questions – in Turkish – and then write copious amounts of notes when I could not answer the question correctly.  Tears!  I was welling up and had never wanted The Turk beside me more than I did at that moment.

For those of you who are going to go through this in the coming months the questions were pretty much the following:

Where do you live?  I don’t know the address but I know how to get there.  I know which dolmus.  I can explain it to a taksi driver but right now, with you staring at me like I should be in a cell next to the Russian I cannot answer you and certainly I cannot answer you in Turkish.

Where do you like to go in Mersin (insert your own city or town here)?  Ummm?  Ne???

How is your mother and father? ölü.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?  If so how many?  Do you like your brother or sister?  Jeeze how would I explain the crazy that is my family?  Is adoption even a word in Turkish?  Regardless I cannot answer with the Russian smiling a gummy smile at me through bright pink lips.  Pass.

Does your husband (or wife) have any brothers or sisters?  If so, how many?  Yes but I truly had no idea what you were saying.  Pass.

How is his mother and father?  Pass.  His father doesn’t like my cooking.  In English.

Do you like living in Mersin?  Evet.

How old are you?  44 (using my hands).

How long have you been married?  On iki yil (that one I had).

Do you have any children?  Evet.  Bir.  (I am acing this part of the interview).

How many bedrooms in your house?  Huh?  Oh yes I know this one – üç.

What is your address in (enter your place of birth or last known residence)?  I wrote this as he shook his head in mirth at my attempted answer.

Each of these questions were mixed up so he would ask me a question about my family and then asked how many bedrooms we had in our house.  My brain was still trying to translate the last answer when the next question was being shot at me.  It was horrendeous.  It was the Inquisition.  In fact that should be the name of this post The Inquisition!

I failed.  Miserably.

The interviewer was basically laughing.  The Russian visa over-stayer with too much makeup was watching me from her cell and she was laughing.  She said something in Turkish (much better than me of course) and the interviewer shushed her.  The other man in the cell opposite was giggling but I feel this was more in reply to the dust bunny in the corner of his cell.

This was a disaster.

The Interviewer called The Turk into the room and said that I would have another interview with the Vali (Governor) in 4 weeks.  Hold on!  The Turk is leaving for Australia in 3 weeks!  Can we have it before he leaves?  No.

Feck My Life!

In the interim my residency visa has now expired and I have a mere 15 days before I have to either renew or leave the country.  This was the second part of my problem.

The residency requirements have changed in the past year.  Most people (including myself) was well aware of the changes but to be honest I did not think I would still be waiting for my citizenship 10 months down the track so did not look into the visa issue.  Now it was pressing and I am swiftly running out of time.  Needed for my residency application was the following – translated copy of passport (jeeze really?), valid health insurance for the length of my residency (1 year approximately 1000TL), five passport photos (told you to keep them handy), proof of address (more difficult than you would think as I do not have any correspondence that gives my address and the Nufus will not include me in their documents until I have a kimlik which of course I cannot get until I get citizenship – the epitome of a vicious circle), copy of your tapu or your residential agreement, bank statement ensuring that you have enough funds to cover your stay and your tax number.  Easy right?  Ummm . . .

I did not even have a Turkish bank account!  So after spending the next 3 days running around and not having a breakdown after the Spanish Inquisition took place today I hope to be applying for a further 12 month residency visa tomorrow.

If they give me any grief there is a small possibility that I will go postal.  Keep an eye out on your local news channel.  If they start talking about an Australian going crazy in Mersin, well, that will be me!

A 60 Second Political Update by Janey

As expected Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now the President-elect of this great country of Turkey picking up 52% of the vote.  Incidentally he had a crushing defeat the area that I live in Mersin.  But the battle for Erdogan has only just started with him now wanting to change the constitution that has stood in place since Ataturk was named Turkey’s first President on 30 May 1920.


So what does that mean? 

Simply put the role of President in Turkey is seen as more of a ceremonial post but Erdogan now wants to change that role to make it a more executive decision-maker as seen in the US. 

How would he affect the change?

For Erdogan to change the Constitution he is going to need two-thirds of the vote in Parliament and right now I cannot see him getting that many votes although I guess only time will tell.

Accepting his win he spoke about “old” Turkey no doubt putting in first seeds in people’s minds about the need to change the Constitution:

“Today is the day that we initiate a social reconciliation process.  Please leave aside the old discussions, old disputes, old tensions in the old Turkey. “

A nice speech but let’s remember this was the man who attempted (and for a period achieved his intention) of banning Twitter and Youtube (and for some strange reason the website Funny or Die is still blocked damn it!) as well as the recent corruption scandals and anti-Government protests.  Turkey’s economic growth has now peaked and to be honest I think the Government is going to have its work cut out for it over the coming years.

Conservative or Secular?

With Erdogan becoming President and wanting to make executive decisions I see a huge change coming in Turkey’s future.  A more conservative and religious future which will only polarise the more westernized secular Turkish person.  

What happens now?

On 28 August Erdogan will take an oath in front of Parliament in which he promises to abide by Turkey’s principle of secularism.  With his own Islamist leanings and his penchant for restricting rights such as freedom of speech may prove difficult for Erdogan to balance.

The result of the election was never in doubt but whether he will succeed as President and with his reforms still is.  In our little village, however, there was still fun to be had with one enterprising person putting himself up for vote with little placards placed around the village.  If only this vote counted.

I promise my next post will be a little brighter and giving you something more than political dribble. What is that old saying?  Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.  Some such nonsense anyway.


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Festival of Sweets

The month long fast of Ramazan concludes with a three day national holday of Ramazan Bayrami (Arabic – Eid al-Fitr) and is one of the Islamic calendar’s major holidays.  This three day holiday is full of family time, fun and food! 

Ramazan Bayrami is, of course, a religious celebration.  It is a festival to restore oneself after the fasting and growth of Ramazan.  It is also called Seker Bayrami (Festival of Sweets) and the number one thing that I have learnt is to have sweets on hand.  Lots and lots of sweets.  This is to fulfil the tradition of children going around the neighbourhood wishing people a happy bayram.  As a reward they receive a sweet, a lolly or even a coin. seker

We too would visit family members and in particular the older generation.  We kiss their hand and place it on our forehead as is custom to show respect.  We greet them with “Bayrammiz Kutlu”.  We also take time to visit those who are deceased and visit the cemetery as a sign of respect.

As it is a national holiday everyone in the family has been at home which means we have had a lot of BBQ’s and outings as a group.  These few days reminds me of how Christians would celebrate Christmas and I must say that Seker Bayrami is definitely high on my list of excellent fun in Turkey. 

Be aware that during any national holiday most shops, banks and government offices are closed and leading up to Bayram the shopping centres and banks are overflowing with people stocking up on everything they will need over the coming festival days.  There is also a lot of people on the roads with family members travelling great distances to visit loved ones.  Intercity buses are packed and public transport operates on a holiday schedule so you may find yourself waiting some time for a dolmus (I know I did).  

Kurban Bayraminiz kutlu olsen!

Today is the first day of Kurban Bayrami (or Eid al-Adha) here in Turkey which is one of the most important holidays in the Islamic calendar and is best likened to Christmas to us heathens.  I actually had to do some research to fully understand Kurban Bayrami and why it is so important to Muslims around the world and why there has been a flurry of activity in my neighbour’s homes over the past few days.

Simply put Kurban means festival or holiday and is used to describe all national or religious holidays here.  There are two major religious holidays here in Turkiye Seker Bayram and the festival that we are celebrating now Kurban Bayram.

Kurban Bayram is a 4 1/2 day festival which takes place 70 days after Ramazan has ended.  It is known as the Festival of Sacrifice referring to the story of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his son Ismael at God’s bequest.  Pretty much the same deal as Abraham and Isaac if you are running in Christian circles.

The festival is all about charity and community.  Each family (who can afford to do so) will purchase an animal for the sacrifice and over the past few weeks there has been an abundance of animals to be found grazing on any spare parcel of land around the city.  After the animal has had its throat cut and the life-blood has drained away the meat is split into three – one third to your family, one third to your neighbour’s and one third to the poor.  It’s a lovely idea (well except for the sacrifice that is).  If you cannot afford to purchase an animal you can make a donation to an organization such as Türk Hava Kurumu and have animals slaughtered in your name. The organization will also make sure the food is correctly distributed to the poor.

I tried to find an image to add to my blog that reflected Kurban Bayram but to be honest most of the images made me a little sick and they were way too graphic for my PG brain so perhaps this cartoon will sum it up for you (although do not ask me to translate as the only thing I could understand was “Ipneye bak” which roughly means “Look at the asshole”).


My first experience of Kurban Bayrami was many years ago when Daughter was quite young.  I remember all the wonderful cooking and the many visitors and parties.  There was a lot of love and a lot of laughter coming from all the homes you visited.  I also remember the sacrifices being made in the local park or in our case the front garden *sigh*.  My brother in law had purchased a sheep and brought it home ready for sacrifice however Daughter saw it and thought it was a pet so placed a large pink bow around its neck.  Here the sheep stayed for two days being fed and loved by Daughter.  On the third day she ran downstairs to feed her “Baa Baa” only to find it had disappeared bringing tears and tantrums by the 3 year old.  I, of course, had to explain that her pet had gone to stay on a friend’s farm although I knew full well that the sheep was currently sitting in the refrigerator upstairs in easy to handle pieces ready for his wife to package for family and friends that evening.  A word of advice for those of you visiting family during Bayram – if you are squeamish don’t open the refrigerator!

So here we are again dressed in our finest clothes (not really), ready to celebrate Kurban Bayrami with The Turk’s family.  I reminded Daughter of “Baa Baa” last night and horrified she informed me that she is not eating any meat for the next week (or possibly ever again!).  Having heard this statement a number of times in the past I merely smiled and nodded in agreement after all I can hear the preparations that are underway for tonight’s feast.  Someone remind me to go for a run tomorrow as I know I am going to eat way too much tonight – and this is just Day 1.  They will need to roll me home after 4 days of this!

During Bayram there will also be a lot of music and dancing in the streets.  From early morning until late evening men will walk through the village banging away on their davul (drum) and playing their ney (wooden flute).  If they come to your door give them a few lira.  Don’t make the same mistake I did during my first Bayram and give 10TL because they will never leave!  Similarly the local children will also visit your door during Bayram and wish you “Iyi Bayramlar” in the hope of getting some sweets so have a bag of sweeties handy for them when they knock.

Be aware that during any national holiday here in Turkey most shops, banks and government offices are closed.  Leading up to Bayrami the shopping centres are overflowing with people stocking up on everything they will need over the coming festival days.  There is also a lot of people on the roads with family members travelling great distances to visit loved ones.  Intercity buses are packed, flights are sold out and public transport operates on a holiday schedule so you may find yourself waiting some time for a dolmus (I know I did).


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