Welcome to 2022, everyone! Hopefully it’ll mark a much easier year for folks to actually get into Japan than the rest of the 2020s so far. This is the last entry for this set, but considering we still have folks due to arrive who were delayed by the Omicron shutdown, I’m sure there’ll be another set of Unbeaten Paths published before the end of the year.
Anyway, on to our beloved rural southern third, Nanyo! As with before, we also have some introductions from new JETs in the last Unbeaten Paths, located here. On to the new folks!
Monica Hand (Uwajima)
My name is Monica and I’m from Texas in the United States. I grew up in a small town but had been living in Austin (the capital of Texas) for seven years before JET. There I was working at a health and fitness lifestyle magazine as a writer, editor, and content director while also freelancing on the side. It was a great gig, and I will miss Austin, Texas greatly, but nothing compares to the new adventures ahead as an ALT in JET.
I have wanted to teach English abroad since I was a little girl and have always loved learning about the Japanese culture. My great aunt is originally from Okinawa and when I was growing up she was what showed me that there was a world much grander outside the small town Texas I knew. Still, I can’t quite explain how I’ve made it this far and successfully gotten into the program. But even so, I could not be more excited. I have already met some amazing people at my school and in my area (you guys!) and cannot wait to grow those relationships and experiences.
I am lucky enough to be able to call Uwajima Minami my home school where I am teaching both junior and senior high school students. While I will still be freelance writing and working at AJET CONNECT Magazine as the assistant head editor, I hope to spend my free time exploring the region, studying the language and culture, hiking all of the trails, and eating all the sweets I can find!
So, if you’re ever in Uwajima or just want to stop by, please shoot me a message on FaceBook. I would absolutely love to chat and get to know you over a beer and a bowl of tai-meshi!
Le Lin (Ozu)
你好, こんにちは, Bonjour, Hello. My name is Le (pronouns: he/they). I am a transgender Teochew-Canadian artist/designer based from Montréal, Canada. I love expanding and finding new ways to create art through tattooing, ceramics, printmaking, bookmaking, graphic-design, web-design, woodworking, and anything that allows me to physically use my hands. I have many hobbies including: various outdoor sports, neo-soul guitar, watching indie films, and cooking/eating. So please, if we ever cross paths, don’t hesitate to invite/ask me to go on an adventure with you.
And… the biggest question of all: Why Japan?
3 years ago, I wanted to study abroad. I decided by spinning a globe, and my finger landed on the opposite side of the world. I thought it was a great opportunity for me to revisit my Asian roots, and immerse myself in Japanese art and design. I lived in Hirakata-shi from 2018-2019, and had the chance to take many interesting courses. Of course I took Japanese, which I am very proud of myself for, pushing myself really hard from 0 Japanese when I first got there, to now being able to communicate casually, sing the Evangelion theme song at karaoke, and use keigo at work. I took a yokai class (Japanese Monsters), about how history and societal vulnerabilities are placed within superstition and fictitious monsters, and how that has developed through time. I took a few film classes, design classes, history classes, a Manga class where we made an entire manga by hand (Character design, Name, Ink, Screentone). And I found a new interest in ceramics. I thought maybe I could spend the rest of my life as a farm boy and build a design studio in the middle of the mountains, grow my hair out, and eat farm food. Funny enough that is where I am right now.
So why JET?
I wanted to leave Montreal and move to Asia for the longest time. My goal was to find a way to grow my roots in Asia, and somehow make a living being an artist here. I considered artist residency hopping, or being a tattoo artist in Tokyo, but during the grim days of COVID last year, many of the travel art grants were cancelled, and getting a working holiday visa to Japan was not possible. So I thought, why not apply for JET as well, and see if the borders will open the following year. Luck of the draw, I got accepted and the borders did loosen up, and I MADE IT HERE!
How it’s going…
2 months in so far, I’m enjoying my middle of nowhere inaka life. I love my 5 schools so much (2 small mountain schools, an aquarium school, a farm school, and my main school). I love my teachers and students, everyone is so kind and accepting of me being LGBTQ+ and I feel fulfilled in teaching and making meaningful connections with baby queers and creating a space where they can feel comfortable expressing themselves.
Nothing is perfect though, as much as I post photos of ~dreamy~ Japan, there are many flaws with Japanese culture / JET culture. I’ve been through uncomfortable situations, and there are times where I feel like even if I speak up about it, nothing will change. I’m still settling, don’t have wi-fi yet, need a car, and need to fix my monster washing machine. Still need to find a good balance in my life, but so far I’m having a blast.
Goals and dreams…
Over the next few years, I hope to pass JLPT N2, join/open a designer maker space in Osaka/Tokyo (with other creatives), move to Taipei to do language school. Or… as you know me already, I might try something completely random and different. Whatever unbeaten path we’re on, even if we’re lost the whole way, as long as we find the little joys in our everyday, that’s what makes the journey worth it.
Kody McCormick (Yawatahama)
Hello, I am Kody from Brisbane, Australia and if you asked me even 3 years ago what I would be doing, working as an ALT in Japan wouldn’t have even crossed my mind.
It was my final semester at the University of Queensland (2019), writing one of my final essays on Ethics within the Translation and Interpretation industry. I was a budding translator, I had completed my short internship, and was about to graduate with my extended major in Japanese, what more could I need? As I did further research for my paper, I began to question my own place in the industry. Did I have the adequate ability to succeed? Would I simply be a part of the problems the industry is facing? Unfortunately my greatest fears came to fruition as I was finishing my by-line. The profession isn’t for me, for now at least. So now what? I asked myself for weeks.
I looked around and saw the JET Programme’s deadline was coming up in just under a month, so don’t ask me how I did it, but I managed to get my application in on the final day. Yay. As a 2020 JET the constant anticipation was killing me, but imagine my surprise when after a year of waiting, I finally received my placement – Yawatahama, Ehime … as someone with multiple different mikan related allergies. (I’m fine, but have had a few spicy encounters). If anything it’s a fun little conversation starter and icebreaker.
Anyways, a little about me. I started learning Japanese in primary school and continued through to University where I studied for a couple years before quitting and did some soul searching. I dabbled in hairdressing, fashion and merchandising, sewing, cosplay, even joined a travelling circus for a short stint, and many other experiences in-between. But after about 4 years I decided to move to the city and apply to a new university. I was accepted in 2016, graduated in 2019 and here we are. I never saw myself as a teacher, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
It’s been a fun ride so far and I’m looking forward to seeing where this current adventure in Japan will take me.
Hello! My name is Steven Bradford and I’m a ALT that made it to Ehime in November 2021. I was born outside of Cleveland, Ohio but grew up mostly in eastern Virginia and Maryland. I graduated with a bachelor’s in Information Technology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2012.
My interest in Japan started out in the same vein as so many others. Shows like Dragonball and Digimon found me during formative years, my favorite video games were titles that came from Japan (Sonic, Pokemon & the occasional favorite JRPG (Chrono Trigger in my case)), and my friend had introduced me to my first J-Pop song (Utada Hikaru’s “Drama”) during the days of Napster & AudioGalaxy, and I never looked back. From there, it was as though everything connected back to Japan and as a teenager, I had made the decision that I would someday go.
I got to college and was able to take my first Japanese class. I wanted to learn Japanese so that I could have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the things I enjoyed so much. This was around the time I had heard of JET from my professor as a means of a goal our studies could lead us to. Unfortunately, the classes for my degree took priority and my attempt at learning Japanese in college ended after 1 semester. Some years later, I finally visited Japan in spring of 2016 with my best friend and we spent 3 weeks going from Tokyo all the way down to Kumamoto, stopping everywhere in between. That reignited my desire to learn Japanese, this time at the Japan America of Washington D.C., a place that fosters Japanese culture in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area.
Around that time, I began volunteering for TutorMate, an organization that aims to improve reading literacy for 1st graders in underserved communities. So once a week, I would read with a 1st grader for 30 minutes and it ended up being the best part of my week. Talking to her about her weekend, helping her sound out words, watching her confidence grow, was, as cliche as it sounds, life changing. It was the feelings that it gave me, my love for learning Japanese language and culture, and a lot of self reflection time that lead me to JET. So after working my job for nearly 12 years, I quit and came to teach elementary and junior high schoolers. And it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.
Though I started learning Japanese to explore more anime and manga, I’ve found myself spending more time enjoying the linguistic nuances of the language. But I still enjoy reading and watching many series, both old & new. When I’m not juggling (entirely too many) language apps, I like traveling and watching movies. Though I’m athletically challenged and don’t play sports, I do like going to watch games with friends (especially baseball!). And while I like to think of myself as an introvert, there’s an extroverted version of me that likes to have a good time (especially at karaoke). Though I usually only get a few hours into games before jumping ship to another, I do like gaming. And I’m excited to discover Nanyo A, Ehime, Japan and what the world has to offer. I’m not sure what life has in store for me but I’d like to think I can spend my next few years here building and fostering life long friendships while I prepare for whatever comes next.
I’m Bethany. I was born in Calgary, Canada, and then lived in a few cities in the US: Minneapolis, New York, and Seattle. I’ve been working as a commercial interior designer for the past several years, but am happy to be following through on my childhood dreams of teaching English in Japan. When I’m not teaching, I look forward to learning more about Japanese arts and craft work such as indigo dying, washi paper making, ikebana, calligraphy and weaving. I enjoy studying Japanese and hope to become fluent one day. My current challenge is healthy food meal-prep using foods local to my region. A highlight has been sweet potatoes roasted in foil.
I work at two Junior High schools in Ikata. I love the scenery, the students and my coworkers. I feel very comfortable in Japan. I appreciate the feeling of safety and easy access to national healthcare. Maybe I’m still in the honeymoon phase, but so far, my time on JET feels too good to be true.
If you like scenic drives, I recommend visiting Ikata! The terraced hills are dripping with mikans. You can see windmills at Setokazenooka Park, eat shirasu-don at Sadamisaki Hanahana while watching ferries arrive from Kyushuu, and do an easy hike to the Sadamisaki Lighthouse, which is the western-most point in Shikoku. Be warned that the drive to the lighthouse is narrow and windy. Drive with caution. On the way back from my visit there, I saw a total of seven wild boars on the road. It is a lovely memory.
See you around!
Hello everyone, my name is Cora Showers and I’m from Minnesota, USA. I have lived most of my life in the same small town in Minnesota, so coming to Japan has been an exciting, and at times nerve racking, experience! I am an ALT at two elementary schools in Ikata-chou (very southern tip of Ehime) and slowly but surely I’m getting the hang of things. The kids teach me new things every day, so I can only hope that I’m doing the same for them!
I have always been interested in foreign languages (although I’m adamant that I’m not good at them, I just don’t give up on them as fast as I do other things), so teaching abroad was something that I had considered since high school. In college I majored in Spanish, but on a whim I decided to try something new my freshmen year and so I took an intro Japanese course. Like many JETs, I fell in love with the language and kept taking classes, which ultimately led to a deeper appreciation for Japan and its people. Through some fellow college senpai I learned about the JET program and well, the rest is history. Although originally part of the 2020 group and, like many, felt the setbacks from the departure delays, I can say that I’m overall thankful for the extra year that I had to spend time with family and to mature more—I hope to continue this process while in Japan.
When not at school I’ve enjoyed finding new routines (I love me my routines). I like to meal prep, play piano, blog, listen to audiobooks, and exercise. If I’m to be honest, not all has been easygoing. Homesickness inevitably has set in and the frustrations felt going about daily tasks have been challenging for me. However, at the end of the day I’m thankful for the help that everyone gives me, and, at the very least, it has taught me a lot of patience and humility! I hope to eventually settle in but likewise never grow tired of the daily life around me. If ever anybody makes the trek down to the Sadamisaki Peninsula, please feel free to look me up.
Hi there! My name is Amy and I’m from the glorious South East of London in the UK! I’m a new JET based in Uwajima, Ehime and I can’t wait to get started!
My love for Japan began in 2006 when I started 6th Form. In my school we had to take extra curricular classes at the end of the day. I had the option of Badminton or Japanese and as I struggle to stay balanced standing still, I thought it would be more fun (and safe) to learn Japanese. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I made! I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the course and really fell in love with Japanese culture. I love learning languages, while it’s such a tough process it’s so rewarding when you start to understand. After 6th form I continued to teach myself Japanese at my own pace and one of my best friends who was in the class with me even went on to the JET programme herself, based in Hokkaido, and she loved every minute of it!
I graduated from the University of the Arts London with a degree in Animation back in 2016, I’ve always had a love for animation and art & design in general so it only seemed fitting that I studied something I loved so much. After graduating I worked as a creative assistant for a natural skincare brand under the Estée Lauder Companies. My job mainly included creating artwork for campaigns and editing any video content for the adverts, but on occasion we would be invited to National Trust sites around the UK to plant trees, something I absolutely loved! When I was asked in my JET interview where I’d like to be placed, I responded with ‘I have no preference’ when in reality I secretly hoped I’d be somewhere rural, preferably by the sea – seems like I got my wish!!
I love video games and the first game I ever owned was Pokémon Blue for the Gameboy (which might be showing my age a bit!). I was totally obsessed by it and ever since then I’ve always had some kind of console on hand and have quite the collection of old consoles back at home. I spent pretty much all of my free time during 2020/21 playing Animal Crossing (who wasn’t?) and genuinely feel like it kept my sanity in tact through the multiple lockdowns in the UK.
(Add me! SW-1734-3092-4429)
My interests include drawing, painting, scrapbooking, reading, walking and swimming. Before I left the UK I was learning to play the trumpet but I decided to leave that at home so that I wasn’t kicked out of my apartment for practicing, I also play the guitar and bass guitar. I love being outdoors and any opportunity to walk somewhere and I’ll take it! I love nothing more than a nice walk with a great playlist (and I’m always after song recommendations!) I’ll listen to any genre but I have fallen into the Kpop trap, doesn’t look like I’ll escape so I’m embracing it. I also desperately try to keep up with TV shows but I have a really bad habit of never getting to the end of the series.
One of my biggest loves in the world is a ‘nice cuppa’ – it’s true, a cup of tea will solve all of life’s issues. While I’m also a bit of a coffee addict, I absolutely cannot do without a cup of tea, as British as it sounds! I hope we can meet soon! 🙂
Hello everyone! My name is Lindsey, and I’m from the United States. I lived in a small wine town called Lodi in the Central Valley of California. The year before I came to Japan was rough, as you all can probably relate to, but I’m thankful for the time that I’ve had to grow and it wasn’t all bad. I got to be there for the birth of my first nephew, was able to see my little brother graduate from college, and strengthen the bond I had with the people I hold dear. Currently I’ve been working as a junior high school ALT in Uwajima for the past three months. Originally, I was scheduled to come to Japan in September of 2020, but am happy to finally be here and accomplish my goal of teaching in Japan.
In the summer of 2013, my family hosted a 20-year-old exchange student from Miyazaki, Japan, who was motivated to improve her English speaking skills. Every night, a person in my family picked a word for Reina and I to practice forming sentences. On the last night before she went back to Japan, we settled on the simple phrase, “It’s freezing outside, but the stars in the sky are very pretty.” After 15 minutes, we were eager to showcase her hard work to my family.
Although hesitant at first, Reina spoke the sentence with confidence and ease. She embraced me and said, “This is my English teacher.” While the phrase seemed inconsequential, it represented her personal growth in her English speaking ability, and it was this memory that stuck with me throughout my college years. As my first student, Reina became the driving factor that encouraged me to seek a career in teaching.
As a result of my experience with Reina, I started studying Japanese language and in 2017 traveled with a group of Sacramento State University students to Matsuyama, Japan. As the sister city to Sacramento, we were able to connect with Ehime University students and experience many different historical places in Ehime, such as Dogo Onsen. This was my first time traveling to Japan, but it was this trip that gave me the confidence to apply to the JET programme.
Before I started pursuing JET, a big part of my life centered around the pool. From the time I was 6 years old to when I graduated Delta Junior College in 2015, I competed in swimming competitions. It was also swimming that sparked my interest in playing water polo when I entered high school in 2008 and continued into my college years. While the days where I would spend 4 plus hours in a pool are behind me, swimming is something that is my go to to relax. My other hobbies include hiking, taking countless pictures, collecting disney pins, country music and on occasion line dancing.
Hello everyone! My name is Eoghan D’All (please, don’t worry about the pronunciation, I don’t expect you to get it right!). I’m from the UK, more specifically a city called Portsmouth on the south coast of England. In a lot of ways it’s pretty similar to my placement in Yawatahama, only much bigger and way more young people. I just arrived in Ehime about a month ago, so I’m still pretty new!
This is actually my second time in Japan. A few years back I studied abroad at Ritsumeikan APU in Beppu, Oita Prefecture. There’s a direct ferry from my placement in Yawatahama to Beppu, so I’m planning to go there as often as possible – if anybody wants to explore Oita prefecture with me, hit me up!
I started learning Japanese on my year abroad, and it was the first foreign language I really engaged with. Now I can kind of get by with sort of… weird, Frankenstein-esque sentences and halting delivery. I came back to Japan to get out of that sort-of-able-to-talk-but-not-really zone, but I also came back for the food. Food is my life. If you know any good restaurants, I will literally come anywhere in the prefecture to eat there. Seriously.
Other than eating, my hobbies are hiking, writing, and gaming. I’m a little bit Pokémon-obsessed and always looking for people to do challenge runs with. I’m also very interested in trying out tabletop RPGs, so please contact me if there are any groups with open slots!
Hello to all! I’m Sydney Swinson. I’m from a really rural part of Georgia, USA. I’m living in Seiyo now, and I feel like there’s so much here to see and do. Apparently, that says a lot! I’ve been in Seiyo for about two months now, and it’s been a rollercoaster. This is my first time leaving the U.S., and my first time living alone without roommates. Each day brings something new. Coming from a very small town, I wanted a taste of adventure. And I’ve certainly got it!
Since I have your attention, let me talk about all the random stuff I like to do! I can fangirl with the best of them, so get ready. I love writing stories! Or at least coming up with them. I used to write all the time in high school and want to get back to that level of creativity. I’m a creative person and feel really tense when I don’t do anything crafty for a while. (Actually, I’m always tense. It’s a way of life). I also cross stitch. If you thought it was only for old ladies, you thought wrong! I really like highly-detailed Disney landscapes, but those patterns are hard to come by. I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned Disney until now. I prefer older Disney movies like Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. I like whimsical things, and I have a Disney calendar on my wall and a little fairy statue on a shelf. I love everything Peter Pan (the 2003 movie is the closest to capturing the themes of the book, in my opinion.) I’ve written essays and given presentations on the book. It’s a tragedy; don’t let anyone tell you differently!
If you’re into personality quizzes, which I totally am, I’m a Mediator, INFP-T. That “16 Personalities” quiz is so on point; it’s scary! You should try it. Oh, and video games! Oh boy! I suck at video games, but I love them! The only Zelda game I’ve managed to beat was Twilight Princess. I like the story in video games, so I usually just watch other people play. Stardew Valley is my jam though! I’ve spent way too much of my life on this game, but it’s time well spent. Recently, I’ve gotten into Genshin Impact. I just really like running around and jumping off stuff in the open world. I’ll spend like an hour just walking around. 😅 I recently discovered tabletop roleplaying games. I haven’t tried it myself; just watch people play on YouTube. I am intrigued and scared. I think the storytelling aspect really catches my attention, but then you have to play with other people which makes me nervous.
Anyway, that’s a bit about me. This intro might feel all over the place, but that is how my mind works. If we ever have a conversation, you’ll understand firsthand. I’ll either come off as shy and quiet or bubbly and excitable. There’s no in-between! It takes a while for me to warm up to people, but I hope to make some close friends here in Ehime. See you around!
My name is Patricia Lewis and I am 31 years old. I grew up in a meek village in south Trinidad named Barrackpore. I attended The University of the West Indies and studied Biology and Agribusiness.
I remember when I was about 15 years old thinking that the best life I could muster was having a 9-5 job and being able to afford housing and food. When I look back now, if 15-year-old me told my older self that I would graduate from University, land a great paying job and eventually be flying to Japan to work, share my culture and learn about Japan and all that Japan has to offer, I would have had a hard time comprehending what my younger self would have been saying to me. I know it is such a cliché to say that this opportunity is the best thing to have ever happened to me, but in my case, coming from where I have, this is the purest truth I can tell.
Trinidad and Tobago is a fusion of many different cultures from Indian to Creole to Chinese and even Indigenous folk. Our national anthem says “Every creed and race finds an equal place” and this is an accurate description of how we live as a nation. There is immense respect for each race, religion and culture and all peoples participate in each other’s culture and show respect for the variations in practices even if they don’t fully understand it.
I am East Indian and as such I was trained in traditional East Indian dance for over 10 years but I also dabbled in African dance, Karate and Jujitsu. I grew up with contributions from all the aforementioned cultural groups and consider myself well cultured but I never got the opportunity to learn about Japanese culture. Although, I have always loved Japanese culture and the Japanese way of life. So, when I heard about the Jet Programme and found out more about the chance to live, work and be immersed in Japanese culture there was no way I was going to pass up the possibility of that opportunity.
I applied to the JET Programme because I have a thirst for learning about other cultures and I enjoy making the learning process fun and memorable. Within the JET Programme I am able to share my Trinbagonian culture with the Japanese people, while drinking in Japanese culture and customs at the source. I see the JET Programme as such a huge stepping stone for me as I would gain immense experience in designing and executing lesson plans and lessons and gain a better understanding into how children at the Elementary and Junior High school level learn. I am ecstatic to explore my host town of Uchiko, meet my new community and share my culture and language with everyone. Ehime is such a scenic and nature based prefecture which is perfect for me as I am an avid hiker and someone who loves to go running and exploring. Ehime is also famous for its onsens which I intend to take full advantage of using. I am also eager to explore the parts of town that were preserved and remain a pillar of Ehime’s history. I am simply overjoyed and thrilled as I am about to embark on this new journey and adventure.
Hello, everyone. My name is Dillon Barnes, pronouns she/they, and I am living in Uchiko, which is a little town about half an hour away from Matsuyama. So far it seems like a very nice little town so I hope a bunch of you get a chance to visit.
Before coming to Japan I was living in America in the state of Colorado working at the Boulder Public Library in the Youth section. The year before leaving I graduated from Denver University with my Master’s in Library and Information Science. I have wanted to be a Youth Librarian for many years and I hope to do so again once I return to America. If you’re ever looking for a new book to read I’ve got plenty of suggestions. I actually lived in Japan before, in the spring of 2017 for half a semester on a study abroad program in Kyoto. I had loved the idea of Japan and the culture for years before coming, but truly felt connected to the country after my 6 month stay. Eventually I decided I wanted to come back as a resident of Japan again, which is what led me to the JET program.
I got married to Evangeline in June 2020 and we’re now waiting for the borders to open so she can join me here. We have two cats together, Kitsune and Dean, both of which I have many pictures of if you ever want to see them or need a pic me in the form of cat pics.
Like a classic weeb I’ve been watching anime and reading manga since I was a kid, which was probably what initially piqued my interest in Japan, but at this point there are many more things I love. If you have any anime recommendations I’d love to hear them and I’m sure I’ll get around to watching them eventually. There are so many places I want to visit while I’m in Japan and new things I want to try, for example I really want to visit the island of Yakushima, which is what the forest in Princess Mononoke was based on. I feel most connected to the spirituality of the country because I am Pagan and I feel Shintoism is very similar in a lot of ways to my religion, so I am looking forward to exploring those aspects of the culture. Most of all I am feeling very lucky to be so near the ocean because I love to swim and can’t wait for summer to roll around so that I can swim there once again.
I’m looking forward to meeting all of you in person and to our time together as JETs and foreigners living in Japan.
Hey, my name is Alex (he/him) and I’m a 1st year ALT in Uchiko. I’m from Manchester but have been based in London for the last six years. I studied Classics at uni. I’ve always loved mythology so I’m excited to explore the Japanese mythos. My big passion is cooking and eating, and I’m pretty into fitness too. I also enjoy playing video games when I find the time. I love a good hike so if anyone is up for one, give me a shout. I’m keen to check out the Shikoku pilgrimage, I’m thinking of trying to tackle a section once a month.
Editor’s note: I want to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to submit an intro to these most recent three self-intro pages. It’s one of my favourite projects to be involved with, and I find it a wonderful way for the community to get to know everyone, especially when there may not be a lot of inter-community communication in some places. Additionally, I would like to thank everyone who wanted to participate but just couldn’t find the time or the words for what they wanted to submit. There’s always another chance, and I look forward to organising the next Unbeaten Paths! Have a happy 2022 everyone!
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