The Oregon Booth at the JET World Festival 2019 and the 23rd Toyama Cup

Originally written for the Vol.12-No.5 edition (March 22, 2019) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

The Oregon Booth at the JET World Festival 2019

Every year, Toyama Prefecture Coordinators for International Relations organize the JET World Festival, a festival focusing on international exchange and multicultural understanding, with the help of Assistant Language Teachers working in the prefecture. For its 24th edition, this year’s festival was held on February 17th at the Toyama International Conference Center.

The festival featured a stage with cultural performances, and international café with tea and snacks, a kids’ corner, a multicultural experience workshop area, and most of all, the international booths, where volunteers introduced the diverse places they are from. This year’s international booths once again featured the Oregon booth, where Corvallis-native and 4th year ALT Anthony proudly showcased his home state to the over 700 visitors. This was the perfect opportunity to introduce Oregon, Toyama Prefecture’s sister state, to residents here.

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The families and students who came to the booth learned about how Toyama and Oregon both have active outdoor scenes and magnificent natural environments, with Anthony introducing many of the beautiful sights through pamphlets, maps, and the “Only Slightly Exaggerated” video from Travel Oregon. He also talked about the thriving craft beer industry in Oregon, and contrasted it with how that industry is growing here in Toyama.

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Anthony is one of the 5 ALTs from Oregon who are currently working in Toyama Prefecture through the JET Programme. Friendly relations with Oregon began in 1991 and since 1997, 42 JET Programme participants from Oregon have worked in schools and government around the prefecture.

Learn more about the Toyama JET World Festival here: https://toyamazing.wordpress.com/

The 23rd Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest

Every year, in cooperation with the Japan-America Society of Oregon, Toyama Prefecture holds the Toyama Cup, a speech contest for university students studying Japanese in Oregon and SW Washington. The winner of the highest level contest is awarded a week-long visit in Toyama by the prefectural government. Every year, Toyama Hot News publishes an issue about the winner’s stay in Toyama, and we will do the same this year! For more information about the Toyama Cup, please visit: http://jaso.org/toyama-cup-2/

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Graham Morris, Executive-Director of the Japan-America Society of Oregon, Visited Toyama Prefecture

Graham Morris, executive-director of the Japan-America Society of Oregon, paid a visit to Toyama on November 12th. In the morning, he gave a presentation about Oregon to the group of students from Kosugi High School who will be visiting their sister school, the International School of Beaverton. After that, he tasted some of the best sushi Japan has to offer: Toyama Bay Sushi.

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Following this amazing lunch, he had a meeting with Yasunori Yamazaki, the vice-governor of Toyama Prefecture, in presence of Mr. Yoneda, the chairman of the Japan-America Society of Toyama. All three reaffirmed the friendly ties that bind Toyama and Oregon and will work towards more cooperation and exchange in a multitude of fields, including education and industry between our two regions in the future.

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Later, Mr. Morris visited Hokusei Products, one of the companies from Toyama that is currently implanted in Oregon. The company brings Japanese lifestyle products to Oregon and is part of the many links between Oregon State and Toyama Prefecture. He finally took off using the Shinkansen bullet train for a smooth ride back to Tokyo in just over two hours. This completed a full day of exchange and friendship between Toyama and Oregon.

A word from JASO:

The Japan-America Society of Oregon is a Portland-based non-profit that works to strengthen the US-Japan relationship. As Oregon’s Sister State, working together with Toyama Prefecture is especially important to us. If you’d like to join us in our efforts to make a fuller, stronger friendship between Toyama and Oregon, please let us know at info@jaso.org. Thank you!

 

The winner of the 2018 Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest visited Toyama Prefecture!

Originally written for the Vol.12-No.3 edition (October 9, 2018) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

The Toyama Cup is a Japanese speech contest held every year in Portland in cooperation with JASO (the Japan-America Society of Oregon) to recognize the fruits of Oregon students’ Japanese studies. It first began in 1996, commemorating the 5th anniversary of the sister-state relationship between Toyama and Oregon. Jack Glenn from Willamette University won the Grand Prize for this year’s 22nd Toyama Cup, held on April 22nd. His prize included a week-long trip to Toyama where he visited the many sites that make our beautiful prefecture famous.

 

Jack’s stay in Toyama lasted from July 22nd to July 29th and he visited the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, the Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design, as well as the Historic Villages of Gokayama World Heritage Site.

Courtesy Call

On July 23rd, Jack visited the Prefectural Government Office and paid a courtesy visit to Mr. Kurahori, Director-General of the General Policy Bureau. We hope that he will use his experience here in Toyama to become a bridge between Toyama and Oregon, as well as between Japan and the United States. As a symbol of this hope, Director-General Kurahori conferred Jack the title of “Toyama Honorary Friendly Envoy.”

Kurobe Dam

After his stay in Toyama, Jack said that he would never forget the spectacular scenery of the Tateyama mountain range and the Kurobe Dam, and that the Toyama Bay Sushi was the best tasting seafood he had ever had in his life. According to him, Toyama has many experiences that simply cannot be had in Tokyo or Osaka, and since it is packed with all of the things that make Japan great, everyone should visit Toyama at least once in their lifetime.

Gokayama Washi

We hope that Jack’s experience will drive exchange between Toyama and Oregon, and we look forward to welcoming the next speech contest winner!

For more information, please visit http://jaso.org/toyama-cup-2/

Photo Source: Toyama Speech Contest Winners

The 2018 Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest

Originally written for the Vol.12-No.2 edition (June 18, 2018) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

The Toyama Cup is a Japanese speech contest held every year in Portland in cooperation with JASO (the Japan-America Society of Oregon) to recognize the fruits of Oregon students’ Japanese studies. It first began in 1996, commemorating the 5th anniversary of the sister-state relationship between Toyama and Oregon. Jack Glenn from Willamette University won the Grand Prize for this year’s 22nd Toyama Cup, held on April 22nd. His prize includes a week-long trip to Toyama where he will visit the many sites that make our beautiful prefecture famous. Jack will be coming in July, and join the many other Grand Prize winners who have made the trip from Oregon to Toyama over the years, continuing to build the bridge of friendship between our two regions. We look for new participants every year so if you happen to know someone who would be interested, encourage them to apply next year! For more information, please visit the JASO website here.

Visit to Mizuhashi High School

IMG_1680This blog entry forms part of the “Toyama-Oregon Friendship Project”, in conjunction with the series of outreach lectures conducted by Abram Leon, Coordinator for International Relations with the International Affairs Division of Toyama Prefecture. The primary goal of the lectures is to raise awareness about the Toyama-Oregon sister state relationship by introducing information about Oregon and the history of exchange to students of Toyama Prefecture.

The blog entries aim to encourage students and members of the community in Toyama and Oregon to become more personally involved in the relationship. After each school visit, I will write an entry and encourage students and other readers to leave their questions and thoughts in the comment section, as well as respond to the questions and comments of others. In this way, I hope to get a new generation interested in cross-cultural communication and the wonderful friendship between Toyama and Oregon.

Visit to Mizuhashi High School

On Tuesday, December 8th, I made the short trip over to Mizuhashi High School to speak with 1st and 2nd year students about Oregon and the sister-state relationship. It was a beautiful day, and during the 25-minute drive from Toyama City, I enjoyed some stunningly clear views of the mountains. The previous month, Mr. Goto, one of my co-workers in the International Affairs Division of Toyama Prefecture, had told me that Mizuhashi was his alma mater. I had learned that Mizuhashi was well known for its strong sports programs, and many students come to pursue athletics in addition to academics. Mr. Goto had also been part of the sports course, on the baseball team. Talking about the school on our drive over, my supervisor and I decided to ask the teachers if they remembered him!

IMG_1675My class was scheduled to start at 3 p.m., after the school day had finished. We arrived a couple of minutes early, and I was greeted by Ms. Nakasai, the teacher I had been in contact with regarding the class. We proceeded on to the computer lab, so that I could hook up my laptop and make sure that everything was working correctly. I arrived to find the students ready and waiting, their faces partially hidden behind the computer monitors at each seat on the table. As I prepared, some students moved their seats out from behind the tables, and came right up to the front so they could see. I was in a playful mood, so I walked around and shook everyone’s hand before starting, and tried to get everyone involved right away, asking questions and encouraging them to react. I switched back and forth between using Japanese and English as I introduced information about the sister-state relationship and Oregon’s geography, people and food. During a quiz section, I asked students to answer multiple choice questions about the year that Oregon became a U.S. state, and Oregon’s area and population. Some students responded that they didn’t know, and I jokingly told them that it cannot hurt to guess; there is no penalty for a wrong answer! I got the feeling that some students were not accustomed the interactive style, so I explained that there is no problem with not knowing, but that the lecture would be more interesting if they tried to participate. Later on, I saw that the students became more interested as I showed pictures of Oregon food. Everyone seemed to get involved when I put up pictures of Voodoo Doughnuts and Blue Star Donuts, and asked them which one they would rather try. Food is a powerful motivator!!

IMG_1671By the end of the class, I felt that students had opened up more. I certainly have a lot of respect for them, considering that they stayed after school to listen to my class as an extra activity. I hope that by using this lecture as a chance to interact with me and each other, they could have fun with the learning process. Thank you to everyone for listening! I hope that all of you will be able to go and experience Oregon for yourselves!

 

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IMG_1683このブログは、富山県国際課の国際交流員アブラム・リオンによる出前講座とともに、「富山オレゴンFriendship Project」の一部となります。講座の目的は主に、富山県とオレゴン州の友好関係についての認知度を上げるため、オレゴン州の情報や友好関係の歴史、交流に貢献している人たちを紹介することです。

また、ブログの目的は、富山県とオレゴン州の学生や一般の方を個人レベルで交流に関わるように促すことです。各出前講座の後、ブログで写真や学生・先生のコメントを含む学校の紹介を行います。そして、学生たちに質問や感想を記事のコメント欄に書いてもらい、オレゴンの学生たちや一般の人に、そのコメントに返事をしてもらいます。こうして、新しい世代が富山県とオレゴン州の素晴らしい関係をもっと深く知ることを期待しています。

水橋高等学校へ

IMG_168212月8日(火)、水橋高等学校の1・2年生を対象に富山とオレゴンの姉妹関係について講座を行いました。天気の良い日で、富山市から学校へ向かう25分間は、山々の素晴らしい景色を楽しみました。水橋高校は、国際課で私の同僚である後藤さんの母校です。また、スポーツコースが強いことで知られており、後藤さんも野球部に所属していたと聞いたので、学校の先生に後藤さんのことを覚えているかを聞いてみることにしました。

講座は、学校が終わったあと3時から始まる予定でした。講座を担当されている中斉先生にコンピュータ室へ案内していただき、さっそくパソコンやプロジェクターの準備を始めました。コンピュータモニターの後ろに顔が半分隠れている生徒たちは、静かに待っていました。後ろに座っていた生徒の何人はスライドが見えるように、椅子を移動しながら前へ近づいてきました。はじめに私は機嫌よく、一人ひとりと握手し挨拶をしました。日本語と英語を交えながら、姉妹関係やオレゴンの地理、人、食事などについて説明し、生徒たちに質問したり、意見を聞いたりして、コミュニケーションを取ろうとしました。クイズで、オレゴンの州立記念日や面積、人口について選択問題を出しましたが、「わからない」という生徒がいました。正解が分からなくてもいいから当ててみて、と冗談っぽく言いました。講座に参加することがあまり慣れていない生徒もいたようでしたが、自分のためにも、参加してみたほうがいいと私は伝えました。間違えても、怒られるわけではありませんし、ただ座って話を聞くより、質問をするほうが楽しいと思います。

講座を続けていくと、皆が興味をもって聞いたのはオレゴンの食べ物の話でした!特に、ブーデゥー・ドーナツと、ブルースター・ドーナツ、どちらを食べてみたいかを聞いたところ、皆参加してくれました。食べ物はモチベーションにつながりますね!

生徒たちのフレンドリーな態度のおかげで、楽しい講座になりました。私の講座を聞くために学校が終わった後も、残ってくれて、皆さんは素晴らしいと思います!お互いに話し合うことができ、楽しかったです。この講座を機会に、オレゴン州に興味を持ち、いつか自分でオレゴンへ行けるといいですね!

Visit to Oyabe Kanda Junior High School

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This blog entry forms part of the “Toyama-Oregon Friendship Project”, in conjunction with the series of outreach lectures conducted by Abram Leon, Coordinator for International Relations with the International Affairs Division of Toyama Prefecture. The primary goal of the lectures is to raise awareness about the Toyama-Oregon sister state relationship by introducing information about Oregon and the history of exchange to students of Toyama Prefecture.

The blog entries aim to encourage students and members of the community in Toyama and Oregon to become more personally involved in the relationship. After each school visit, I will write an entry and encourage students and other readers to leave their questions and thoughts in the comment section, as well as respond to the questions and comments of others. In this way, I hope to get a new generation interested in communication across cultures and the wonderful friendship between Toyama and Oregon.

Visit to Oyabe Kanda Junior High School

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The cloudy morning of November 19th saw my supervisor Ms. Sanno and me heading out to Oyabe Kanda JHS to do the Toyama-Oregon outreach lecture with a group of 3rd year students. We had left the office with little time to spare, and navigating the country roads proved to be a little bit slower than expected, so I called ahead and let the school office know that we would be arriving just as the lecture was scheduled to start. The school sat upon a hill, overlooking the surrounding area; Ms. Sanno commented that it must be tough for the students to get to school, since most kids walk or go by bicycle.

IMG_1456After arriving, we were quickly led up to the lecture room by Kitano sensei. Walking up the stairs she apologized while explaining that she had subconsciously assumed I was a woman, because my last name is Leon and there is a girl in her class called Rion (the names are pronounced the same way in Japanese). She said that she realized at the last moment after looking at my profile, but had told the students earlier that I was a woman. I laughed it off – these sort of misunderstandings are common when dealing with unfamiliar names! After reaching the lecture room where the students were already seated on the floor waiting, I quickly prepared my laptop, and was able to get started just on time.

My initial impression was that the group of 38 students was a bit quieter than the group of 1st year junior high students I had seen earlier in the month. I wondered to myself if students are more self-conscious about speaking out in front of their peers by 3rd year. Since I had 80 minutes for the lecture this time, I was able to incorporate more discussion activities, and I noticed that students began to open up more as the class went on. By the end, I saw that students were much more comfortable asking questions and expressing their opinions. I was surprised and happy that when the class ended, a group of students approached me and began asking questions about Oregon, U.S. culture, and my life in Japan. I could tell that they were genuinely interested, and also excited to use English. I even met Rion, the girl who shares my name! We talked for about 10 minutes, discussing their interests, reasons for wanting to study abroad. It was the first time that students approached me in such a friendly way after giving a lecture, and I felt energized afterwards, thinking that my presentation left an impression on them. I want to say thank you to those students for taking an interest and speaking with me!

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このブログは、富山県国際課の国際交流員アブラム・リオンによる出前講座とともに、「富山オレゴンFriendship Project」の一部となります。講座の目的は主に、富山県とオレゴン州の友好関係についての認知度を上げるため、オレゴン州の情報や友好関係の歴史、交流に貢献している人たちを紹介することです。

また、ブログの目的は、富山県とオレゴン州の学生や一般の方を個人レベルで交流に関わるように促すことです。各出前講座の後、ブログで写真や学生・先生のコメントを含む学校の紹介を行います。そして、学生たちに質問や感想を記事のコメント欄に書いてもらい、オレゴンの学生たちや一般の人に、そのコメントに返事をしてもらいます。こうして、新しい世代が富山県とオレゴン州の素晴らしい関係をもっと深く知ることを期待しています。

小矢部市立蟹谷中学校へ

11月19日の朝、曇り空の中、担当者の参納さんと一緒に、3年生を対象とした富山オレゴン出前講座を行うため小矢部市立蟹谷中学校に向かいました。移動時間は思った以上に長く、ぎりぎりに到着するようだったため、学校に電話をかけ、遅刻するかもしれないと伝えました。学校は坂の上にあり周囲を見渡せるところにありました。自転車や徒歩で学校に通う生徒たちは大変だろうと、参納さんは話していました。

学校へ着くと、北野先生に講座を行う教室へ案内していただきました。階段を上りながら、北野先生が私に謝りました。私の名字はリオンで、担任しているクラスの中で「りおん」という女子生徒がいるため、女性だと勘違いしてしまい、プロフィールを見て、男性だと気がついたものの、すでに生徒たちに女性だと言ってしまったようでした。私は少し笑いながら、大丈夫だと言いました。慣れていない名前であれば、こういう誤解はよくあることです!教室へ着くと、生徒たちは床に座って待っていたので、すぐにパソコンの準備をし、何とか時間通りに講座を始めました。

38名の3年生を対象に講座を行いましたが、前回の中学校1年生と比べると静かだという第一印象でした。3年生になると恥ずかしくなり、あまり人前で発言したくないのではないかと思いました。しかし、80分の講座の間、ディスカッションやアクティビティなどを行っていくと、生徒たちは少しずつ慣れ、最後には自分の意見や質問を自由に話してくれました。講座が終わると、何人かの生徒が残り、話しかけてくれました。オレゴン州やアメリカの文化、日本での生活について質問をし、好奇心や英語への興味が伝わってきて、私は嬉しくなりました。私と同じ名前の「りおん」さんにも会いました!約10分間、勉強や留学、様々な話題について話しました。こうやって講座が終わった後、生徒たちがフレンドリーに話しかけてくれるのは、今回が初めてでした。おかげで講座をするやりがいを強く感じ、元気が出ました。興味を持ってプレゼンテーションを聞き、そして話しかけてくれて、ありがとうございました!

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Visit to Oyabe Otani Junior High School

IMG_1350This blog entry forms part of the “Toyama-Oregon Friendship Project”, in conjunction with the series of outreach lectures conducted by Abram Leon, Coordinator for International Relations with the International Affairs Division of Toyama Prefecture. The primary goal of the lectures is to raise awareness about the Toyama-Oregon sister state relationship by introducing information about Oregon and the history of exchange to students of Toyama Prefecture.

The blog entries aim to encourage students and members of the community in Toyama and Oregon to become more personally involved in the relationship. After each school visit, I will write an entry and encourage students and other readers to leave their questions and thoughts in the comment section, as well as respond to the questions and comments of others. In this way, I hope to get a new generation interested in communication across cultures and the wonderful friendship between Toyama and Oregon.

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Visit to Oyabe Otani Junior High School

On Tuesday, November 10th, I spoke about Oregon and the Toyama-Oregon sister state relationship in front of a group of 83 Oyabe Otani JHS 1st year students. While my supervisor Ms. Sanno and I drove out to Oyabe, I revised my presentation again on my laptop. Thinking about how to communicate with my youngest audience yet, I decided to try to make the slides less wordy and focus more on the interactive sections of the lecture. As we approached the school, I was surprised by its unique architecture: my first impression was that the school looked like something out of a European fairy tale. The huge gate and clock tower stood out against the surrounding fields, sharply contrasting with the Japanese-style farm houses nearby. Ms. Sanno explained that the entire area is actually famous for this architecture, and in fact, Oyabe is nicknamed the “Märchen town”, referring to the German word for fairy tale!

We entered the school to find a quite normal interior design, and were quickly greeted by the school principal and Ms. Matsuda, the teacher in charge of the organizing the lecture. As we walked through the school, and I was impressed by how outgoing the students were, greeting me as I walked past their classrooms. When we reached the lecture hall, I was surprised to find that it was a completely empty room with no place to sit, but Matsuda sensei informed me that students would be bringing their own chairs. As I waited for the kids to arrive, I put on some music and spoke a bit with Matsuda sensei about the kids and my ideas for the blog entries. I was also able to speak to ALT Tim Chakaodza, who had nothing but good things to say about the kids and the community. Motivated by his enthusiasm, I felt ready to get started!

When the kids came in carrying their chairs and smiling, I could tell that they were an energetic and fun group. They lined up their chairs in tight rows towards the front, their faces shining with excitement and expectation. As I went into my talk, I was happy to find that they were happy to participate, raising their hands, answering questions and even laughing at my jokes! I used English in certain parts, but also explained in Japanese in difficult sections – the students were very active and friendly, even helping to finish my sentences when I forgot words in Japanese. Near the end of class, when I asked them to work together and think of questions for people living in Oregon, they asked some of the most interesting questions of any group yet. Although I tried to answer a couple of their questions, I told them to actually ask people in Oregon. They responded with puzzled looks… “How can we talk to people in Oregon?” At that point I told them about the Toyama Hot News blog, and encouraged them to use resources like Facebook and online videos to search for information they are interested in.

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このブログは、富山県国際課の国際交流員アブラム・リオンによる出前講座とともに、「富山オレゴンFriendship Project」の一部となります。講座の目的は主に、富山県とオレゴン州の友好関係についての認知度を上げるため、オレゴン州の情報や友好関係の歴史、交流に貢献している人たちを紹介することです。

また、ブログの目的は、富山県とオレゴン州の学生や一般の方を個人レベルで交流に関わるように促すことです。各出前講座の後、ブログで写真や学生・先生のコメントを含む学校の紹介を行います。そして、学生たちに質問や感想を記事のコメント欄に書いてもらい、オレゴンの学生たちや一般の人に、そのコメントに返事をしてもらいます。こうして、新しい世代が富山県とオレゴン州の素晴らしい関係をもっと深く知ることを期待しています。

小矢部市立大谷中学校へ

11月10日(火)に、小矢部市立大谷中学校一年生83人の前でオレゴン州と富山県の姉妹関係について話しました。小矢部へ向かう車中、パソコンでプレゼンテーションの内容を再度確認しました。今回は今までで最も若いグループで、コミュニケーションをよくとれるようにスライドの文字を少なくし、アクティビティ中心の内容に調整しました。学校が見えてくると、まず校舎の姿に驚きました。大きな門や時計台が周囲の田んぼや農家と対照的で目立っていました。第一印象は、ヨーロッパの民話から出てきたもののようでした。一緒に行った担当者の参納さんの説明によると、小矢部の地域は「メルヘンのまち」として知られ、独特な建築があちこちにあるそうです。

学校へ入ると、校長先生と講座を担当されている松田先生が出迎えてくださいました。廊下を歩いている、教室に座っている生徒たちが元気な挨拶で迎えてくれました。講座を行うホールへ着くと、机や椅子が何一つなく、どうなるかと少し心配しましたが、自分たちの椅子を持ってくると教えてくださいました。生徒たちが来るのを待つ間、音楽を流し、松田先生とプレゼンテーションの内容について話しました。ALTのティム先生と話す機会もあり、子供たちと地域への熱意が十分伝わってきました。そのパッションが私にもうつり、ますますやる気が出ました。

学生たちが椅子を持ち入ってくると、皆好奇心と楽しみにあふれた笑顔でした。講座が始まると、生徒たちは積極的に手をあげ、質問に答えてくれ、私の冗談にも笑ってくれたので、とても楽しかったです。講座では英語を使い、難しいところは日本語で説明しましたが、わからない日本語を生徒たちが教えてくれることもあり、そのフレンドリーな態度に感動しました。講座の最後に、オレゴン州に住んでいる人たちへの質問について、今までで一番面白い質問がいくつか出ました。私も少し答えましたが、実際にオレゴンの人たちに聞いてみたらどうかと言ったところ、どうやってオレゴンの人たちと話せるのかと皆は戸惑っていました。そこで、この富山ホットニュースブログについて説明し、Facebookやビデオでの調べ方も紹介しました。

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