My Inspiration

Sunrise is my favourite time of day.  I am definitely a morning person and am usually pretty knackered and ready for bed and a good book quite early in the evening.  I take a photo of the sunrise from the terrace most mornings.  I don’t know why.  I guess seeing Mother Nature using her colour palette always amazes me.  She brings all variations of pink, blue, orange and yellow to the early morning. I can sit back and watch the village begin its day in peace and quiet.  Looking at the sky I can guess that it will probably be warm again.  Winter has gone bye-bye and it’s already starting to heat up.  No snow on the mountains behind me either so I’m guessing it’s going be a long, hot summer.  Again.

sunrise

My Istanbul posts are still brewing and I’ve been busy editing the first few chapters of Salep and Ginger in an effort to get it out before summer and can I just say … editing is awful, fecking awful. I mean don’t get me wrong my editor is great and really supportive but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of writing it’s not just me typing whatever comes into my head anymore its punctuation and grammar and consistency.  Sentence structure, story structure.  The rhythm of the story.  Even the font and spacing.  All of it matters.  And I am glad.  I want my manuscript to be the best that it can be.  So now I have to think!  God forbid!!

Time to jump to it … before real life catches up. If you are thinking of visiting Turkey this summer why not grab a travel book to give you some inspiration


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Starry, Starry Night

Anyone who has driven down into Mersin on Akbelen Boulevard has no doubt seen Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” or Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” painted onto one of the old buildings along the street.  If like me, you wondered who did these paintings, I can now give you the answer as I recently had a chance to connect with the artist Ertuğrul Çavuşoğlu.

Toroslar 7

Originally from Van, Ertuğrul is a self-taught artist that has been employed by the Toroslar municipality, along with Nazife Bilgin Hazar, to beautify the area and I think they are doing a splendid job, don’t you?

They have completed ten buildings but they are hopeful that their work will continue well into 2018.  They have chosen a range of famous works by Turkish and Arabic artists as well as the European masters mentioned above.

Toroslar 3

Ertuğrul is hoping that his work will inspire younger people into wanting to learn more about the famous paintings that he has replicated and the artists behind the work.  He wants his adopted city to know that art is important.  Art makes you feel and art can take you places you have never imagined.  Art is fundamentally the same all over the world and is a common language which (for me at least) still allows us to all enjoy the work together.

I love this last photo.

Toroslar photos

All photos are courtesy of Milliyet with Ertuğrul’s full approval.

You can follow Ertuğrul’s progress on his Instagram – ertugrul1828 – here.

 

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How about a colouring book from Amazon so you can make your own masterpieces –

No Winter Blues

When we lived in Oz we always arranged our holiday to Mersin during September.  It was still deliciously warm but there was that cool breeze that soothed the rocking hell-fire that usually descends on the province during August (which has been known to send even me a little deli).  Winters, on the other hand, were a non-starter, no way I was skipping my summer in Sydney for the grey backdrop that would no doubt be Mersin during December or January.

Now that I live here I realise that that was my loss because while Mersin in the heat of summer no doubt rocks, it’s also got some pretty cool moves in the dead of winter as well.

Mersin snow

Falling temperatures sprinkle new magic on the small villages in the mountains and the medieval kalesi (castles) along the Mersin coastline and although I have not done much in the way of exploring thanks to my bung knee this winter I can say that over the years the chill brings a moody new perspective to the province.

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Daughter and I did zip up into the mountains a few times this winter and while the city of Mersin or our little village may be grey the Toros Mountains were gloriously sunshiny.  We took My Hurley Dog for a doggy snow day as Daughter had recently seen a video with dogs having a sensational time frolicking in white stuff but, of course, our asshole dog hated every moment of it.  He did, however, manage to find the carcass of some poor animal in the snow and try to drag it back to the car – I swear that dog disgusts me sometimes.

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With a smattering of snow the traditional Turkish villages are so enticing that a trek through the lower hills of the mountain range is something not to be missed.  Oh and for those of you who actually want to attach those silly wooden planks to your feet Kayseri is only 3 hours away with 8 lifts and no doubt more than enough apres-ski nightlife to suit everyone.

The coastline takes on a new role as well.  The beaches are still pristine but now they are empty.  Surprisingly the water isn’t icy either.  I mean I wouldn’t swim to Cyprus or anything but a paddle is pleasant enough.

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One of the bonuses during winter is it is much easier to visit the ruins (without self-combusting in the heat) although my most recent visit to Kizkalesi was a bust when there was no transfer to the castle nor where any restaurants open – at all.  Regardless I love the ruins and I have been known to lose myself for hours while exploring the many antiquities that dot the coastline and winter allows me to continue my exploration without breaking a sweat.

Winter also has salep, which is a mix of hot mastic milk, sugar, and flour made from orchid tubers served with cinnamon.  Sold from street carts in the old part of the city you can enjoy your salep alongside a paper bag stuffed with kestane kebap (freshly roasted chestnuts), also purchased from street carts.

Today The Turk and I are off to Sarniç, a village 15 minutes outside of the city.  I’ve visited there so many times that he is beginning to question whether I’m having an affair with a local goat herder so today we will go together for lunch to celebrate our wedding anniversary (see we still adore each other – sometimes).  There is a fantastic lokanta on the main road that serves traditional Turkish food (the sucuk hummus is to die for) while you warm your weary bones by a roaring fire.  Yet another great reason to visit Mersin in winter I think.

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I mean if you really need another reason that is …

Disclaimer: my expat friend who lives up in the Yayla would not agree with anything said in this post.  She has had enough of the snow.  She (and her recently Home Alone kedi) wishes that the snow would feck off!

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Playing Catch Up

I just typed “May is finally here” into my Google search engine and it suggested to me to finish that sentence with “and dogs are finally celebrating”.  I have to wonder why dogs are celebrating.  Do they have a full social calendar in May?  Is there some doggy get together I know nothing about where they are free to pee on trees, sniff each other’s butts and drink too much doggy vino from toilet bowls?  Bilmiyorum.

As expected this post has started waayyyy off track so in order to bring it back to Mersin and Türkiye I will start again.

white rainbow

May is finally here in Mersin and the weather has begun to resemble an ‘80’s mix tape.  Those of you who are old enough *cough, cough* to remember the mix tape will no doubt have fond memories of hours sitting by their radio/cassette player waiting patiently for their favourite songs to come on.  For me it was Rick Astley, Toni Basil and, of course, Wham!  *hangs head in shame* so a Janey mix tape would give you a pretty crazy mix of music and that is what the weather is like right now (which was the analogy I was attempting at the outset of this post).  Oh and for you younger generation who are scratching their head at my ridiculous analogy think of an ’80’s mix tape as the equivalent of your iPod on shuffle.  Up to speed?  Okay!

It is deliciously warm though.  Not hot enough to say we’ve finally hit summer but definitely hot enough to hit the beach, well if you are yabancı anyway.  And hitting the beach is great right now because they are practically empty except for that one random Türk who you can never seem to get rid of.  He will infiltrate your group, drink your beer and play with your children before stripping off to his not so tightey whiteys and practically flash his soggy old Johnson in your face.

swimmer

But, like an ‘80’s mix tape or a shuffling iPod (yes like a dealer I am still pushing that old analogy), you just don’t know what’s coming up next and, in the blink of an eye, your sunshiny beach days are gone and you find yourself running for cover and hoping that a freaking house doesn’t fall on you and some smarmly little brunette runs off with your ruby slippers!

In the meantime our fruit trees have started to bear fruit and we have nectarine, apricots and peach (please don’t call it piç) in abundance as well as buckets full of mulberries.  The mulberry tree actually belongs to our elderly neighbours (no not Crazy Eyes) who are not so steady on their feet so The Turk and I happily fill bucket after bucket of mulberries for them before wandering around the village offering the berries to anyone who is willing to take them off our hands.  I’m telling you this mulberry tree is a reincarnation of The Magic Pudding and gives a never ending supply!  The Turk and BIL carried 5 buckets of mulberries to the school yesterday and gave them to the kids there.  When I went to the school last night with My Hurley Dog for his evening constitutional there were squashed mulberries everywhere (and I bet many of the kiddies went home with stained mulberry shirts as well).  I suspect The Turk won’t be as welcome with the buckets of fruit next time.

fruit

Speaking of Crazy Eyes my nemesis has been neutralized.  In an operation that was more dangerous than “Neptune Spear” my nemesis was captured and was giving a full Viking funeral aka he became mangal.  Crazy Eyes didn’t really care either.  I think she was probably happy to have a decent night’s sleep too and if I can be honest her eyes seem less crazy today.  No, no, don’t thank me Crazy Eyes.  I’m happy to be of help.

Speaking of mangal The Turk took Vito’s Rottweiler for a walk the other day and they came across a goat herder tending his flock.  The Rottweiler went into launch mode and, well, let’s just say that money had to change hands to sweep this particular incident under the table and leave it at that … oh and we had mangal then as well!

I know I have been particularly slack with updating you on my weekly dramas.  I guess I have become immune to the chaos here now.  I don’t bat an eyelid at my foghorn SIL screaming from her window at someone – anyone – below and I just laugh when I witness what will no doubt become WWIII between The Turk and his brother or The Turk and the neighbours or the neighbours and some random or, well just about anyone and anything.

Until next time …

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Ho Ho Ho!

It’s just after midnight here in Mersin which means today is Christmas Eve.  Santa has already given me my Christmas present as on Wednesday I was given the all clear from the doctor and could get out of the house and frantically finish (read that as ‘start’) my Christmas shopping.

Thanks to social media I know that back home in Oz friends are indulging in some early celebrations with photos at packed beaches, parties on Sydney Harbour, leisurely lunches and generally having a merry old time.  They are frantically hitting the shops to buy their prawns and oysters, as well as mangoes and avocados all in readiness for their Christmas celebration whether it will be at the beach or by the pool or even a barbie in the backyard.  Ah Sydney – I can dream can’t I?

Christmas in Sydney

Here in Mersin, Christmas has been a pretty low key affair; in fact the last few years have been positively depressing.  On our actual first Christmas Day here I made a huge fuss and arranged a full Christmas lunch for the family with presents for everyone.  Unfortunately none of them came because, well, it was just Wednesday to them (plus most of them work and were unable to take a day off).  Having learned my lesson last year The Turk took Daughter and I out for lunch which was nice but not really special or Christmassy at all.

This year, however, I am excited at the prospect of Christmas Day as I have been invited to a friend’s house for lunch.  I am told, however, that calling tomorrow ‘Christmas lunch’ is not giving justice to the day or the meal for that matter.  This is no mere Christmas lunch; this will be a Christmas extravaganza.  There will be pork, and bacon (Eeekkk!).  There will be turkey (yes haha turkey in Turkey – hilarious).  There will be prawns.  There will be gravy and oodles of vegetables, and sugary biscuits and lots of Gluehwein.  There will be something called an Eton Mess and finally there will also be ox tongue (I’m not really sure what to say about that but it’s apparently a tradition).  This will not be a mere lunch either.  This is an all day, into the night and with the possibility of continuing into Boxing Day spectacular.  I am thinking of wearing my tracksuit pants as they are stretchy enough to sustain themselves throughout what will no doubt be a wonderful day full of great friends, lots of laughter and waaayyy too much food.

ChristmasDinner

To all of you who follow my ridiculous antics here in Mersin I say thank you and may all your Christmas wishes come true.

See you in 2016!  2016???  Crikey!

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Weddings and Funerals

In my pre-village life I could count the number of weddings that I had been to on one hand (including my own).  I could also count the number of funerals that I had been to on my other hand (including both of my parents).  Now since our move to Türkiye our life is inundated with them both and honestly, enough is enough!

wedding

Thankfully this year’s düğün (wedding) season has started to slow now that we have moved into autumn although I did come home to find yet another invitation on my door step yesterday afternoon.  This one is for The Turk’s second cousin’s daughter (for feck’s sake), yet another person that I have never met in my entire life.  That’s fine although as the yabancı I am usually dragged around the room like a trophy.  Between you and me I think having the yabancı at your wedding is a sign that you have really made it.  A yabancı is a real drawcard.  Regardless a Turkish wedding reception is great fun, whether you know the wedding party or not and usually the whole village turns out for the event.

Here in the village it is not uncommon for a wedding to go for two or three days not including the nikah.  There is the kina gecesi (bridal henna party) where all the bride’s female family members, friends and neighbours get together on the night before the wedding to paint the thick ochre paste on her hands and feet.  Then you have the traditional village reception usually held in the school grounds or on the bride’s street where jeans and t-shirts are acceptable attire and, finally if finances allow, the salon reception where you will find yourself dressed up like a starlet on Oscar night with more sparkle, makeup and hairspray than you thought you could wear in a lifetime.  The latter two nights are jammed packed with earth rattling Turkish müzik coupled with pounding drums, all night dancing, fireworks and tribal yelling  – after all the more noise you make, the happier you are.  The only downside to a Turkish wedding is they are generally alcohol free.  The Turk and I have taken to hiding the little baby bottles of Angora and an opener in my Fossil handbag so if you ever see me lugging around a huge handbag at a wedding don’t shake it too much.  Desperate measures people.

cenaze-islemleri

Although most of the weddings are out of the way for the season a cenaze (funeral) can happen at any time of year; actually here in the Village they seem to happen all the time.  The first funeral I attended here was for my mother in law.  It was heartbreaking.  Since then, however, I seem to find myself constantly attending funerals from people in the village, again usually people that I have never met.  Of course I have to attend.  It is respectful to be seen by the side of The Turk at these events however personally I find funerals highly emotional and, even though I may not have known the person, I hide behind huge sunglasses teary eyed.  A funeral will also go on for days (7 days to be exact) and it is necessary to attend every single day, drink copious amounts of çay and, in my case anyway, burst into tears at every prayer.  Sadly I now know there is a funeral even before The Turk can open his mouth because I spot the dark blue jacket neatly hung over a chair ready to be slipped on.  At that point I usually blurt out, “Oh no!  Who’s died now!” because the dark blue jacket is his funeral jacket.

I’ve got to tell you, you run the whole gauntlet of emotions living here in the Village from the excitement of an over the top wedding, the comedy of a ridiculous family feud or the emotions of a neighbour’s death.  Even with all the drama that goes on around me I am incredibly happy with my life as it is right now – and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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Wok China Restaurant

Just how far would you go for a decent Chinese meal?  Is it across the street?  Maybe it’s a few blocks from home.  Nice eh?  Back in Sydney I wouldn’t have needed to go far at all but here in Mersin?   Here in Mersin you need to leave the city.  Yep despite living in a city with a population of 1.1 million people you need to get on your bike because nowhere in this city of 1.1 million can a person get a decent Chinese meal (and the first person who mentions Blush to me will be banned from my site).  So where does a person need to go?  Does it require airfare and a passport?  No just a car, some travelling companions and the willingness to travel to the city of Adana (85 kilometres east of Mersin) to hunt out the elusive Wok China Restaurant.

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Was it worth it?  Hell yeah!  Coupled with a good 4 hours spent shopping at M1 (seriously where does the time go?) and a quick drive through the city we arrived at Wok China Restaurant exhausted but totally psyched for our Chinese banquet.

[The following paragraph is going to make me sound like one of those pretentious prat restaurant reviewers!  I am not an asshole but you have been warned!]

Despite the fact that we had to wait for our alcoholic bevies (a sacrilege in my mind) the food was delivered with a flourish, freshly prepared and delicious.  Beginning with a plate of sushi (courtesy of the chef), followed by various stir fry’s including a pretty good Szechuan Beef and a fantastic Chilli Chicken our taste buds were definitely tempted and my waistline was definitely growing ever larger.  The thing to remember with Chinese food being cooked by a Turkish chef is that it is Chinese food prepared by a Turkish chef so the dishes may not be quite as authentic as they could be or perhaps should be.  Having said that every single dish served was distinctly Chinese – not a kebab in sight!  The effort was definitely there and the staff were all lovely so put aside your expectations as you walk through the door.  It may not be exactly what my memories conjure up when I recall my last Chinese banquet but it was definitely more than I had hoped for.

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Price wise, it was very, VERY reasonable.  We ordered 4 mains plus rice and noodles, a couple of rounds of drinks and 3 separate orders of takeaway (Daughter was desperate for me to bring home spring rolls) and we still spent much less than we would have here in Mersin.  Does this say anything about the prices of the high end restaurants in Mersin?  It sure does!  I have said before that the only people who can afford to eat at the high end restaurants here are international drug barons but of course we still go to them as there are no other western style restaurants to be found.

To those of you in Adana get over to Wok China and have an excellent feed.  To those of you in Mersin – let me know when you are going and I’ll tag along!

wok china

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Shake, Rattle and Boom

You guys might recall that I have the unique ability to not feel any earthquakes here at all.  Little or large, up until this point I have felt nada.  But last night … well last night was a doozy and at the time I was pretty sure it was right underfoot.

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Let me paint you a picture.

It was a hot and humid night.  Too hot to sleep.  I thought about putting on the klima but I hate that background droning in my ear so instead I tossed and turned in bed, so much so that The Turk went and slept on the terrace to capture the sea breezes (and no doubt to get away from me).  Midnight came and went.  1am crept past me and I was still listless, The Sandman had not visited and I was knackered.

Moments after the clocked ticked over to 1am an eerie silence immersed The Village.  The neighbourhood dogs, who are usually so vocal, stopped barking and even My Hurley Dog who was sleeping on my floor sat up and started whimpering.  Then it hit.  The wardrobe started banging.  My Hurley Dog looked at the wardrobe and I looked at him.  Outside I could hear the sound of objects falling.  I sat up and the bed started vibrating like one from a cheap Vegas hotel.  I laughed … I mean my bed hasn’t seen that much action since before The Turk’s heart attack … until I realised what it was.  “Shit.  Earthquake”.

I called for The Turk but he was having his own 30 second dance party on the terrace so I grabbed My Hurley Dog (who either wouldn’t or couldn’t move) and I ran clumsily down the corridor to the terrace. By the time I made it out there The Turk had lit a cigarette and mumbled, “Deprem”.  Uh huh.   We watched as the neighbours all came running outside and started babbling to each other.  Dead set you would think that John Cusack just drove past in a limo with the door ripped off.  People here go bat shit crazy!

Seriously though it was a 5.2 and it was in the sea between here and Adana.  It was felt down in Limonlu which is about 70 kilometres from here as well as in the mountains in Yenikoy.  As it was so close to Adana they really copped it with one friend saying her 14 storey building was swaying (and she’s on the top floor – yikes).  No damage at ours although the madanoz and nane boxes ready for delivery to restaurants tomorrow all fell over next door which caused a good 10 minutes of yelling and gesticulation before they were upright again.

I went and made a cup of tea and The Turk and I sat on the balcony for a few minutes watching the show when a slight breeze picked up.  I thought that perhaps it might cool down a bit but no, if anything, it was hotter.  I looked at our temperature gauge – 30.2 degrees and its 1.49am.  Lord!  And then it hit.

No not another quake but the electrical storm to end all electrical storms.  Mother Nature was throwing everything she had at us and within seconds our electric was cut and the entire village was thrown into darkness.  Blacker than black.  The rain started and The Turk started cursing (he had washed the car earlier in the day).  Again we watched another fox in the henhouse moment while all the neighbours went running back inside.  What’s worse to a Turkish person?  An earthquake or a little rain on your head?  Definitely the rain, after all you might get grip!  People probably went inside and put on a sweater or three!

Right now I could be controversial and suggest that building a nuclear power plant in Mersin (or in Türkiye for that matter) is a ridiculous idea what with all the earthquakes and shit but because I am trying to stay away from controversy so I don’t get blocked I am going to say this – unicorn and kittens!

But I must admit Mother Nature put on a hell of a show.  Both a matinee and a curtain.  Well done Madame for an eventful evening but I really need to get some sleep now.

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Just a Bit of an Anti-Climax

So for approximately 36 hours I was an outlaw.  I lived on the edge.  I fought the good fight.  I took the red pill and I got a glimpse as to just how far that rabbit hole actually went (sorry nerdy Matrix reference) but, well, now it is all just a little anti-climatic because I am back baby!

MatrixBluePillRedPill

After being locked out of blogger heaven the “powers that be” or the glitch police or the little internet gerbil allowed janeyinmersin.com to return to the web-o-sphere.  From what I can determine certain words send up alarm bells from websites run from within Türkiye and they automatically get blocked under Article 90 of the Constitution.  Obviously all my posts about dragons and wizards fall within that category.

For the foreseeable future, however, I will keep my blogging to stories about kittens and sunshine and unicorns.  That should make the “powers that be” happy.

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Headlines and News Bulletins

They can make a strong impression on us as tourists but where is the line between scaremongering and truth?

I try to keep away from the political side of things with my little blog because I am really not knowledgeable enough on any subject to give anything but a nonsense reply however I have received so many emails from you guys asking for advice about travelling to Türkiye, and in particular, to Mersin.

Turkiye

While it is not for me to give you advice what I will say to those who are thinking of cancelling their holidays to Antalya or Bodrum is this – the distances between these areas and the Syrian border is massive – like the distance between London to Germany.  That’s a couple of countries and even a little water in distance isn’t it?  Over 1000 kilometres or 20+ hours of driving in Türkiye.    To those of you visiting Mersin and its surrounds we are still 150 kilometres from the border with Syria however most of the issues with terrorists are happening in the far east, some 500+ kilometres from here.  If you are, however, travelling to Eastern Türkiye I would suggest that you check with your country’s Consulate before making any travel plans but remember people a terrorist attack can happen anywhere at any time.  America, the UK, Tunisia, India and even Australia.  Nowhere is really safe anymore in the world.  I guess the question you ask yourself is this –  “are you going to let them control your decision, your lives?”  Noone can decide that but you.

What is going on exactly?

The past few days has seen Türkiye launch strikes on several different fronts and you need to note the distinction between the different strikes that have been made.

Firstly Türkiye has launched attacks against ISIS targets inside Syria in retaliation to a bombing last week in the city of Suruc which killed 32 people and also the shooting of security officers at the border.  Simultaneously they launched attacks against the PKK (which has been designated a terrorist organisation by Türkiye) in Iraq.  These attacks were in retaliation to the deaths of two Turkish polis officers on Wednesday.   The Government also feels that the PKK is exploiting ISIS efforts.

Where do we go from here?

Türkiye has agreed to allow the US access to their air bases to co-ordinate strikes inside Syria and Iraq and has requested talks with NATO over the security of the area.  Well I am sure this will open up a can of whoop ass on someone.

Over the past few days Türkiye has also arrested over 850 terror suspects.  This is great news although I have to wonder why, if these terror suspects were already known to Türkiye, why where they not arrested earlier?  Am I wrong?  Did these 850 terror suspects suddenly appear out of nowhere?  Hardly.

The current operations underway is obviously an effort to destabilize the country which is at this time without a proper parliament.  Will the efforts succeed or will it bite the instigator on the ass?  Time will tell.

*Sigh*

Ultimately as a tourist visiting Türkiye, your personal safety is your utmost concern.  Keep a close eye on news reports.  Register your travel plans with your Consulate and remember you are the only one that can make an informed decision as to whether or not you should travel.

Turkey map

Be safe guys.  Türkiye is a beautiful country and I am sure you will have a wonderful holiday when you visit.

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