Category Archives: work

Japan, my future

I got a job in Japan. I’m leaving in less than two months. I’ll be there for a year.

Let’s blow right past the fact that I speak almost zero Japanese, which is really scary. Let’s ignore the reality that I’ve only been officially teaching for a month here in the U.S., and therefore feel pretty underqualified to teach in general. Let’s try not to think about how I’ll lose the vast majority of my Shinkendo skills while abroad, which kinda kills me.

Instead, let’s focus on the really devastating stuff: I’m moving away from the people I know and love (and love me back) so quickly that my memory of them makes a whistling noise as it whips past my ears. The way my father smells when he hugs me, how my mother wrings her hands when she’s been cooking with olive oil, my sister’s careless slouch, the sandpaper squeal of sinching himo, a friend’s gasping laughter, my bare feet’s gentle slap on the wooden stairs in the dark, the feel of his fingers sliding between mine, the familiar, easy everything. I’ve traveled the world, but lived in Los Angeles my whole life. A year is a long time.

When I voice my concerns, everyone says the same thing: “You’re going to have a great time.” They actually think what they’re feeling is envy, that they would relish having their lives torn up by the roots. They’re not doing me any favors by running away from the inevitable pain of leaving a good life behind for no reason other than to have an adventure, and do something that scares me simply because it scares me. They’re afraid to hear the hesitation in my voice, they look away as the anxiety creeps from one eyebrow to the next until they almost meet in the middle, and seals my mouth into a gently curved horizon of doubt.

And that’s the beauty of it: I don’t have any good reason to do this. I’m abandoning a loving boyfriend of six years, my family (who live within 20 minutes of me), my friends who are like a second family to me, my fellow Shinkendo-ka (my dojo family), a job I find rewarding and fun, and for what?

An adventure.

It’s odd that I should continue to learn about who I am by watching my actions rather than acting because of who I am. It’s like walking into a bedroom, then suddenly deciding you’re tired.

And yet I can say with confidence that I am ready.

Is this because I have to be? I wonder why I went after this at all. Naturally, Japan is a beautiful country that I’ve wanted to visit since I was a child listening to my father tell stories of his visits with his father, who helped with the rebuilding efforts after WWII. I’ve been reading manga, watching anime, enjoying little pieces of Japanese culture for years. And who doesn’t want to visit Japan? They’ve permeated American pop culture so thoroughly, I can’t think of anyone who would dare claim to dislike Japanese aesthetics. Japanese everything is chic.

But my country’s sudden obsession, my affinity for big-eyed cartoons and noodle soup, even my father’s stories cannot function as my motivation. Not long-term. They will not usher me through the quiet moments in my too-small apartment in Morioka while the snow falls impartially outside, and hundreds of nights just like this one stretch out before me in a seemingly endless line of solitude and the unfamiliar creaking settlings of a building I’m supposed to call home. “I chose this,” I’ll think to myself between tears. “You did this. You have no one to blame but yourself.” Where will I find comfort then? What mental nook will I tuck myself into like I did as a child on still Saturday mornings, dreading my waking hours, hiding in the cracks of the ceiling over my bed, slipping down the wall toward edible mountains and break-away tides?

And yet. I am ready.

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Too much good, not enough sleep

I’ve been kinda desperately looking for a job, ideally an ESL teaching job, but those are pretty few and far between, and the market is flooded with teachers with more experience (read: any).  So imagine my surprise when I was offered a teaching position at a school here in LA, not far from where I grew up on the Miracle Mile.  Unfortunately, the teacher I’m replacing dropped out in the middle of the term, so the time frame is pretty tight: interview Thursday, job offer Friday, orientation Monday, start teaching Tuesday (tomorrow).  I should be excited, terrified, anything.  But all I can think of is how busy I’ll be, and how much sleep I’ll lose writing lesson plans and correcting papers.  I’m insecure about my teaching abilities (which makes sense, since I’ve never had my own class), but I’m sure I’ll be fine.  I’ll figure it out like I do everything else new and intimidating.  But god.  I’m so tired.  I just want it all to stop.  And now I won’t be able to take any of the vacation time I have saved up at Office Job, and I might not be able to go to that academic conference I’ve already registered for (SO EXPENSIVE).  I need a break.  I’m not getting one anytime soon.

hey look, it’s me at work today

I’ve been working the Renaissance Faire every weekend for the past three weeks, and its starting to wear me down.  My feet are sore and my voice is hoarse from standing and hawking food all weekend.  If I don’t quit that job, I’ll be working seven days a week for the next month.  I gave up on my standing desk at Office Job this morning; sitting feels like a luxury.  I woke up this morning with a stomach ache, and it hasn’t gone away.  I look in the mirror every morning wondering when the bags under my eyes will go away (hint: never, apparently).  I’m always tired.  Always.  Plus, if I get any of the substitute teaching classes at the ESL school where I’ve been volunteering, that’ll be four jobs.  Plus Shinkendo.  Plus the Japanese class on Thursday evenings (which I’ve already paid for).

Something’s gotta give, and I’m sad to say it might be the Ren Faire gig.  I just can’t do it all.  I need my weekends back if I’m working all day, every day during the week.  They’re already short staffed, and they really like me and my smartass mouth, so I’ll feel bad leaving, but I might have to be selfish and just drop it.  It’s $8/hr plus tips.  All my coworkers are high school or early college students.  It’s fun, but exhausting, and I just don’t have the time.

Even as I type this, I’m not sure I’ll quit that job.  Let’s analyze why that is for a minute, because it’s insane:
-I don’t want to let these people down (but I don’t know them well, they’re average bosses).
-I don’t want to give up my access to the Faire (which I’m not enjoying as a spectator because I spend all my time there working).
-They’re already short-staffed (not my fault).
-I don’t want to add extra work to my coworkers (who I don’t know that well, and they’ll likely take the extra hours without complaint).
-I don’t want to burn bridges (this is the one that’s getting me, but are these bridges that I’ll want to cross again in the future?  Will I want to work for these people again?  Even if I wanted to work the Faire again, I have a friend who works beverage there, too, who would love for me to work with her, so I’ll still have access to a Faire job that way).

So.  What’s holding me back?  I’ve always wanted to work the Faire, so it’s the romantic quality I’ve attributed to being an insider at the Faire.  I like the insider status, and I don’t like ditching people when they need me.  But things are lining up to make it impossible to hang on to this thing I’ve wanted for years that has turned out to be as much fun as I expected, minus the feeling of camaraderie I expected the Faire folk to share.  A lot of the people there are just working a job, and not having much fun.  So maybe it’s time I take the good times and bug the fuck out before I grind myself into a fine powder in an attempt to live the dream/not let people down.  At the end of the day there’s just too much good, not enough sleep.  I have to let go of some of the good.

I had similar times in grad school, and Shinkendo fell by the wayside then.  That was hard, because I knew my skills would suffer.  Here, though, what am I missing?  Lousy pay, sore feet, and no weekends?  Maybe it’s time to call it quits, kid.

I had a good conversation with Hollywood Coworker, who is now officially my supervisor, about my schedule.  If I’m teaching in the morning, and working Office Job in the afternoons, I won’t be able to attend several events where I’m needed.  “You’ll have to make a choice, and it’s up to you,” she said.  Meaning: Attendance at these events is mandatory, and if I can’t make it, I can’t stay.  Time to quit the job that pays well and doesn’t work me hard to pursue a career that will do the opposite.

Shit.

But she’s right, I suppose.  Today is orientation, so I’ll know more about my schedule then.  Terms go for a month each, and I would imagine I’ll be expected to teach them all.  I wonder if I’d have to take a full term off to get long vacation?  I’m not excited about the prospect of losing all the vacation days I’ve earned at Office Job.  Time to start cashing those in, lol.

And then, when I’d inevitably be forced to quit Office Job, I’d start hunting for another part-time position I could work in the afternoons.

*sigh*

I could use a break.

 


The post-grad school work update

I applied to a company called AEON to teach English in Japan for a year, and was asked to come in for a group info session/interview.  There were three of us there for the interview, plus two recruiters, and the whole thing went for about five hours (1130am-430pm).  Yikes.  I was shocked when they didn’t provide a snack, or time to go find one.  It consisted of hearing a shitload about the company: sounds like the teachers are worked to the bone, but are given all the tools they need to do so, and are provided a pretty normal salary for their trouble, plus what is essentially a stipend for rent, and the benefit of living and working in Japan.  Then we had the chance to teach about five minutes worth of a lesson plan each of us had brought (which I rocked), then we took a short quiz on our language skills, and were handed letters on our way out to determine whether we would be asked back.  I was, woot!

The followup interview was the very next day, and I feel like I pretty much nailed that, too.  Having a motormouth, plus the ability to structure my thoughts well ahead of voicing them is SO FUCKING USEFUL, omg thank you Mother for my quick mouth and Father for my debating skills (and both of them for my Philosophy degree).  Now I wait while they get back to me sometime within the next three weeks.

Meanwhile, at office job, I got an email from the new boss asking Hollywood Coworker and me if we could meet “so we can discuss the structure” of our office, which appears to be on the out (we don’t have a budget for next year, nothing from the main university website links to our office’s website anymore, we are being ignored on a pretty epic scale, etc.).  So we’re anticipating hearing that basically there will be no Office (and therefore potentially no Office Job) within the coming year.  UPDATE: I’m not fired, and he gave no indication that the office would be dissolved within a year.  Restructured, yes.  Disappeared, no.  So.  We shall see.

UPDATE: March 25, 2014
Didn’t get the AEON job.  Ugh.  Laaaaaaaaaaaaame.


The past two months

I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since I posted.  Unacceptable.  “Marjorie, pull yourself together!”

Things have been moving very quickly over the last few months.  I’ve started my last semester of grad school, which is bittersweet.  I’m ready to be done with school, but sad I won’t be able to tell people I’m a grad student, which I’v fantasized about doing since I was just a kid.  I’ll be done with classes in about six weeks, and I’ll walk at the graduation ceremony in early May.  My parents will be so proud, which makes me very happy.

give me a life in the country

I’ve applied to the JET program, which, if I’m accepted, will take me to Japan for a year to teach English.  I’ll essentially get paid to do accent reduction as a TA and live in the countryside, which sounds like a fucking dream.  I probably should’ve asked Boyfriend what he thought of that idea before I applied, but I didn’t because I want to go to Japan, and that’s that.  Turns out he’s totally into it, and will come visit/live with me for short stints if it works out.  Very exciting 🙂  I’m signed up for weekly, 2-hour Japanese classes; they start next Thursday.
UPDATE: 1/21/14
I just found out that I didn’t get into the JET program.  I’m totally crushed.  I can’t think of why they wouldn’t take me.  I didn’t even get an interview.  Ugh.  Ouch.
END OF UPDATE

taught my Master Tatsu. no, really.

I’ve taken up Shinkendo, which is very challenging but rewarding (and I passed my first test!  Woot!).  We’ve started learning bō, my favorite weapon, and I could not be more excited.  Bō speaks to me in a way the sword does not, it’s like having a dance partner; it does what it wants, all I can do is give suggestions.  We form an agreement (most of the time), and communicate well.  Perhaps more importantly, I’ve found some amazing people who have become good friends at the dojo, and I’ve had the chance to reconnect with an old friend from elementary school, and can’t wait to help that friendship grow.  I also started another blog, which is what I’ve been spending my time on instead of tigerlilytoph.com:

http://www.dojostuff.wordpress.com

It’s all about life in a martial arts studio, and how hilarious and stressful it can be.

Office Job is still pretty dull, but better since Little Mole Boss was removed from her position as my boss.  She was a good boss (maybe the best I’ve had), but it’s nice to work with my co-workers more directly and speak frankly when we exchange ideas without fear of stepping on anyone’s toes.  I’m taking a more active role in the upcoming events our office is planning, which feels good.

I’ll upload a photo of our bees’ honey soon!

The bees are doing just swimmingly, and we might actually harvest some honey this season!  Soon!  We did a minor inspection and found a few bars dedicated to honey and nothing else.  I held up the comb in front of the setting sun, and it glowed amber and gold.  The comb broke open when I pulled it out (the bees built two bars of comb together, so it broke apart when I pulled one bar out), and the honey dripped out of the cells.  We tasted it right off the top of the hive.  It had a clean, light taste, ultra sweet and just beautiful to look at (surprisingly light in color).  I can’t wait to see what it looks like once we harvest a little bit.

Thanksgiving this year was good, but boozy for the cousins.  I love them, but omg they are annoying drunks, and they drink a lot, lol.  I’m such a lightweight, maybe I’m jealous? (hint: NOPE)  Next year we’ll have to divvy up the apartments by temulency rather than gender.  Diminutive Friend came up for Thanksgiving day to hang out and eat with the family.  She seemed grateful to have people to spend the holiday with since she couldn’t spend it with her family in New Orleans.  I love her so much.

Dad told me a while back that he’s unhappy at work, and since he’s unreceptive to changing jobs, I told him I expect him to find some way to change his attitude toward his job.  Instead of taking his job personally (and constantly checking his damn email), he’ll have to find a way to let it go.  We’ll see how that goes.  It strikes me that I’ve chosen a good path: teaching English as a foreign language is a job I will enjoy (assuming I can find one).  Frankly teaching just about anything at all would make me happy, and I’m lucky to have discovered this as early has I did.

My folks gave Boyfriend a subscription to Bon Apetit magazine for Xmas, which I’ve already reaped the benefits of with a delicious rosemary chicken and a butter-basted halibut.  He is an amazing person.  We’ve been together over 5.5 years, since April of 2008.  I find the idea of marrying him very, very intimidating, even though I would love to have him as a life partner, and he clearly feels the same.  Luckily, neither of us is in any rush to make it official, and I’ve never had a burning desire to wear diamonds.

I spent this past weekend at GameHaus with friends, and, like every Sunday, doing Shinkendo and enjoying my dojo family’s company.

I am so lucky.


You! Stop laughing! This is a place of work!

Last Friday, I came to work to find a large, flat box stored next to my work area (nearly blocking the door to another coworker’s office).  Some quick investigation uncovered its origins: the box held a white board that another office had ordered, but the person who ordered it very cleverly did so just before going on vacation.  I discovered that he assumed someone else would, in his absence, haul it across campus where it belongs.  Naturally, that didn’t happen because no one should be expected to carry around someone else’s crap.  Nor is my work space a storage area for other people’s poorly planned deliveries.  What to do?

As the only member of my division without a personal office (I have a cubicle), I try to make the best out of weird situations that arise from having a desk with only three walls.  Like when the area around my desk is used for storage.  For large, flat boxes, for example.  So I did what I thought just about anyone would do: I made a fourth wall so I could have a damn office, too.

the white poster board has a sign that says "please knock"

the white poster board has a sign that says “please knock”

Fridays are quiet in this office.  The students are sleeping in/hung over.  People dress more casually.  The TGIF is strong with this office, and the boss was out of the office that day (unbeknownst to me).  So I’m  finding it hard to believe that propping up a cardboard box for less than an hour as a joke prompted several (if Little Mole Boss is to be believed) of my coworkers from other departments to complain to LMB that I was behaving “unprofessionally” (because the people in charge of the students have nothing but professional conversations to and about said students in within earshot of anyone who might pass through… ahem) and “antisocially” (because people from other divisions come talk to me all the time when I’m not “unprofessionally” putting up cardboard boxes with post-its that read “please knock”).  In fact, MORE people approached me for a quick, friendly chat specifically because of the cardboard box than ever had.

Now, I’d be the last person to say that placing a cardboard box across your cubicle should be filed under “professional behavior,” but I’m having trouble picturing the conversation that happens about this that includes words like “antisocial” and “offended.”  Why was that box even there in the first place?  It was out of sight, out of mind as far as those who should have taken care of it were concerned, even if that means putting it in someone else’s way.  Once I’d had my fun, someone thought to move it into the office responsible for it, so why wasn’t it put there in the first place?  This has taught me that I need to use harmless shenanigans to keep people from abusing my desk area, and that the only result is a stern talking-to from my boss (who emphasized, again, that the division is being reorganized, and that we can’t do stuff like this: we’re being watched!), plus one other thing…

She pulled me into her office Monday morning and asked, “So… what happened Friday?”  I was clueless that there had been any negative reactions to said shenanigans, given that I had only heard positive responses (and frankly, I had forgotten all about it).  Once she felt she had impressed upon me the severity of my offense (and reminded me of it), she asked how we should go about fixing it.  I sat, dumbfounded, and finally offered, “Well… I could write an apologetic email to the offended departments…”  She said I should write one to the entire division.

OVERKILL

OVERKILL

I don’t even know where to start here.
-Why didn’t the offended parties discuss this with me?  It’s not sexual harassment, it’s a fucking CARDBOARD BOX.
-Why did my boss take this complaint seriously?  She wasn’t there to see it, and just assumed it was offensive.
-An apology to the entire division?  Really?  This was such a huge offense that every single member of my office and every other office that passes though here has to hear about something maybe a dozen people saw?  Really?

I’m torn.  Do I write this email, or just hope that LMB forgets about it?  I’m really, really not interested in writing it, mostly because all it will do is send the message that I’m at the mercy of people with no sense of humor, which is humiliating and demoralizing.  I want to work in an office where people treat each other like people.  Assuming I have to write this email, I’m tempted to go about it in one of two ways: take it WAY too seriously, thereby making the whole thing sound as ridiculous as it is, or point out gently that a sense of humor is necessary when working with students, and that the apparent necessity of apologizing for the offensiveness of a cardboard box is silly.

So.  I’m even closer to being fired now, and even less interested in trying to preserve my position.  Why would I want to work here if people are so easily offended but too childish to talk about it?  Also, my school load is brutal this month, the several-thousand person event we’re hosting is happening in just three weeks, I’m trying to get organized for the pumpkin carving I’m hosting at the end of the month, keeping up with Shinkendo classes is becoming nearly impossible, and the pain from the muscle spasm apparently gets markedly worse when I menstruate (THANKS, UTERUS).  And Kaiso’s 65th bday party is in a couple weeks, and it’ll be an $80 dinner.  So.  No pressure.


Job security: Gone like a fart in the wind

Yesterday was Wednesday. As it turns out, Wednesdays can be a bit of a roller coaster.

Tuesday I went to work, then physical therapy, then stopped by home for a quick liverwurst sammich (delicious omg) before zooming over to a repair shop Hollywood to pay the bill for Dad’s car and park it on the street nearby before they closed (dad works too late). I went into the office to find a woman verbally abusing one of the employees. I shot her a stern look which she completely missed as she continued on her cuss-filled rant. “I took a fucking day off to come here, y’know what I mean? Why the fuck am I here?” The employee she was harassing could not have been more professional, and frankly I was shocked by them both. I decided that if she raised her voice or did anything remotely signaling a physical demonstration of her totally unjustified fury (throwing a pen, poking him, etc.), I would step in and redirect her wrath away from this poor man.

pretty sure I could've taken her

pretty sure I could’ve taken her

It never reached that point, and after a few minutes of her throwing her little tantrum she walked out while our friend was mid-sentence, recommending another body shop no less.
She blew right past me on her way out the door. I turned to the man and said, “Woah. Woah! I cannot believe she felt comfortable talking to you like that, I’m so sorry. You didn’t deserve any of that. Holy crap.” Once again, he was super polite, so I stayed and chatted with him and the other employees in the room about how crazy she was and how they should never have to put up with that kind of attitude. To their credit, they didn’t tear her down at all, and just commiserated that some people are just angry and there’s no fixing it. What an excellent group of people.

I went home to do some reading for school and couldn’t keep my eyes open. I slept for about a half hour on the couch downstairs before Boyfriend woke me up to go to Shinkendo for an hour, during which I screwed everything up and got worn out some more. I got a curry bun with a couple of the guys from the dojo afterward (and a green tea mochi ice cream for free because I made buddies with the guys behind the counter at the mochi spot in Little Tokyo, they’re so nice!). Then it was back home to eat a bit before heading over to my folks’ place to have a sleepover (Boyfriend came too, and drove separately). We sat with Dad and watched a bit of the America’s Cup (which he just loves). He showed us some really cool clips at the start of the previous day’s race (especially the part where the American team was super clever and fucked up the kiwi team. He literally cackled a few times, it was really fun), and relayed how exciting this year’s race was: we were down 6-1 at one point, but had since come back to win seven races in a row to match the kiwis 8-8 in a competition to win 9 races. Wednesday’s race would decide it all! Boyfriend and I went to sleep in the beds Sister and I had slept in as children, which he decided felt like sleeping in a hotel. Overall a fun day.

But Wednesday.

that good feeling where you're feeling solidly employed...

that good feeling where you’re feeling solidly employed…

I woke up at 5 to take Dad and a couple of family friends to the airport across town. He and a friend are going car camping to see some ancient Native American ruins, and I could not be more jealous. I headed back to his place to drop off his SUV and pick up my little Fiat before heading home to make breakfast (hash browns and eggs with Cholula and ketchup, yum). Then it was straight out to work where I was disappointed, twice.

There’s a huge event coming up that we’re having catered, so the caterer set up a tasting of all the food they’ll be serving. I was not invited to this tasting because the office can’t afford to pay me just one extra hour of work (which wouldn’t even be overtime). This was planned weeks ago. It’s not fun to be excluded from something I’m an integral part of planning, especially since I was in charge of getting estimates from a bunch of other catering companies, but my boss went with the most expensive one instead out of convenience and habit (but a single hour of extra work is out of the question).

On Monday, Little Mole Boss emailed me and one other coworker asking for a job description. I kept it vague, not wanting to bore her, and was corrected yesterday: You need to flesh this out, she said. Someone else will be looking at what you write and you need to make yourself sound important and necessary. Why on earth is that, Little Mole Boss?
Well.  Apparently there was a clerical error that made my salary come out of the wrong budget. Now that that mistake has been discovered, the necessity of my position is being called into question by people with whom I have never interacted, and who are so clueless about what my job entails that they need me to map out what I do for them.

[To be fair, very few people at this job know what our office does. It’s not a commonly-understood area, but we provide an awesome set of services that I think are integral to having a solid experience.]

Regardless, I’m having trouble warming up to the idea of someone at some distant desk evaluating the past three years worth of my work and potentially coming to the conclusion that I could just as well have not been there at all. THAT’S demoralizing. I can see why people get depressed after getting fired.

So I went home and made a bunch of pumpkin pancakes and ate them all. Then I attended a makeup class for about an hour (totally pointless) and applied to seven jobs, mostly ESL teacher positions from craigslist. I texted a friend at the dojo and asked if he’ll be at class so we can organize some kind of pity party afterward. He was supportive but wasn’t sure if he could make class, so whatever.

I just need to stay focused and remember that this is not my dream job, and if I leave, all it will do is give me more time to find a teaching position, apply to teach-abroad programs, and load up my coworkers with even more work (unfortunately).

I’m observing an ESL class right now, and it’s great to have my career validated; every time I teach, I remember: This is my natural state. This is where I belong.

Also, I am the greatest earthbender in the world.

is there anyone better at overcoming obstacles by being awesome?  I think not.

is there anyone better at overcoming obstacles by being awesome? I think not.


Just say no to drama, gurl

wait... we have a kid?

wait… we have a kid?

I work with parents at Office Job, and over the course of the past year they’ve really been misbehaving.  As a direct result, their PTA has been disbanded by order of the school, which will effectively eliminate all the problems and ensure that the parents who really want to focus their efforts on the school and their students will have every chance to do so without all the selfish politicking and unproductive complaints.

You’d think this would chill out Hollywood Coworker, who dealt with a big chunk of the drama.  You’d think she’d be happy and relaxed now that our office can focus our efforts on helping parents feel connected to the university and all the other work we have to do (because dealing with the PTA isn’t even 10% of what we do, much to the surprise of the majority of the PTA).  You’d think she’d be just fucking jazzed about this change, and excited about taking the reins of an organization that has gone badly off-track.

And yet.

She approaches my desk at least once a week since the disbanding and says something like, “I just have this really bad feeling that there is plotting going on behind the scenes, in the shadows, y’know?”  “I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the problem people.”  “I just know the drama isn’t over.”

And I just look at her like:

Wash knows what's up

Wash knows what’s up

Because come on.  Seriously?  At this point she’s stressing about imaginary problems.  How am I supposed to commiserate?  I’m feeling really positive and optimistic about this coming year, and she’s dragging all this fucking baggage around from last year like, “Oh no, what will we do with all this fucking baggage?”  How about letting it go instead of proudly displaying it like a white-collar battle scar under the guise of preparing for the next impending (read: non-existent) disaster?  Cus… that might work.  So… maybe do that.

I realize she wants to feel useful and important, and dealing with drama can be addictive for some people, but it’s not healthy, and more importantly, IT’S OVER.

save it for the drama llama, gurl

save it for the drama llama, gurl


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