The Studio Ghibli Museum, a Magical Journey

First off, let us tell you that getting tickets to the Ghibli museum is hard, so when we snagged some for our visit in April 2017, we were over-the-moon excited! We have wanted to visit the Ghibli Museum in Japan since our first trip to Tokyo in 2014 and as we arrived at the front gate of the museum the wave of happiness washed over us. It was a long time coming and now we have arrived.

Let’s bring it back to the question of “how” to get a ticket for the Ghibli Museum. Tickets are by reservation only and must be purchased ahead of time. No tickets are sold at the museum in person. There are three main ways to get tickets ahead of time.  

1. Lawson’s official online ticket store (english version) – At 10am, Japan time, on the 10th of the month, tickets for the the following month go on sale (i.e. on March 10th, tickets go on sale for April 1st – April 30th). These tickets are limited in number and sell out very quickly. We made sure we were up and online to secure our tickets. There was a lot of frustration as the website could not handle the volume of people who were trying to attain tickets. However, after 20 stressful minutes, we finally secured our tickets. COST: 1,000 JPY each ($9 USD)

2. Sales by the JTB sales offices located overseas – A limited number of tickets go on sale through these locations at the first of every month for the following 4 months. (i.e. on January 1st, tickets go on sale for the entire months of January, February, March, and April). We never had luck with this because the tickets were always sold out due to the limited number available through JTB.

3. When in Japan only, you can buy them at the Lawson convenient stores through a machine. We tried this back in 2014 and it was funny trying to figure it out. When we did figure it out, we realized they were sold out. Our advise is to buy them WAY ahead of time using method 1 or 2.  

There is one strict rule you MUST know before entering the museum. The person who purchased the tickets is required to be present with a print out of the ticket and a passport proving your identity. It MUST be a passport, because they match up your passport number with the number you provided to them when purchasing the tickets.   

With our passports in hand and our print outs checked, we could start entering the museum. As we entered, we were greeted by the nicest people at the front counter. They gave us our official tickets, which were cuts of film strips from a Studio Ghibli film, and reminded us that no photos were allowed once inside the museum, however photos could be taken in outside areas. The reason no photos are allowed inside is because they believe that the museum should be about transporting you into the magical world of Ghibli without distractions to yourself and to others.

Following the rules, we packed up our cameras after a quick photos of our tickets and transported ourselves into the wonderful world of Ghibli. Good thing there was no time limit to our visit, because we would spend the next few hours taking our time to immerse ourselves in the experience.

Stepping into the main atrium was magical. Everywhere you looked was made to put a smile on everyone’s face. From the stained-glass windows, donning characters from various Ghibli movies, to the bridge spanning across the second floor, the attention to detail was spectacular.

The first room on our tour was all about motion in films. The highlight in the room for us both was the live stop motion display where clay figured were posed on a wheel that spun very quickly while strobe lights flashed at a fast pace giving the figured that appearance of movement. Everything has already exceeded our wildest expectations.Stepping into the main atrium was magical. Everywhere you looked was made to put a smile on everyone’s face. From the stained-glass windows, donning characters from various Ghibli movies, to the bridge spanning across the second floor, the attention to detail was spectacular.

Included in the Ghibli museum ticket is admission to the museums animated short film. These shorts have been produced for and shown only at the museum. These films are rotated between throughout the year so there is always a good reason to come back and watch more. We were lucky enough to see “Water Spider Monmon.” We were oohing and aweing just like the all of the other kids and adults.

After the movie, we decided to head up to the rooftop to get whatever sunshine was left for the day since the rain was supposed to roll in soon. The way to the roof is via the third floor up an outdoor spiral staircase. The rooftop is one of the few places where photography is allowed and good thing because who wouldn’t want to take a photo with the Robot from “Castle in the Sky”.

After our fun on the roof we headed back to the second floor to continue looking through more of the most amazing permanent and special exhibitions. The special exhibition when we were there was “All Aboard! The Cat Bus to the Ghibli Forest.” It was incredible. We entered into the room and realized we were inside of the famous Cat Bus from “My Neighbor Totoro”. Other amazing features in the room was an eight-foot tall model of the mechanical castle from “Hal’s Movie Castle.” You could even peek right in the windows a see Calcifer burning in the chimney. 

From the second floor we made our way out to the Straw Hat Cafe for a snack. As with any museum, the prices were slightly higher than eating at a cafe elsewhere, but we couldn’t say no to a chance to get the full Ghibli experience. The “Porco Rosso” sign outside let us know the menu for the day, good thing there was an english menu inside. We each ordered a coffee and a shared a piece of cake. The late had a super adorable hat sprinkled on it in cocoa and the cake was topped with a Totoro flag, sheer perfection! 

Our final room in the museum was Miyazaki Hayao’s studio, he is the director of the Studio Ghibli films. Every surface of these few rooms were filled to the brim with sketches, painted layers of favorite characters, fully realized designs, and much, much more. We were kids in a candy store. Our appreciation for the magic that is created by Studio Ghibli has grown so much. It is absolutely amazing how kids and adults can be transported into wonderful stories that teach us about ourselves and the world around. 

Before leaving the museum, we made our way up to the gift shop on the third floor to look around. We ended up buying a few little things we had not seen for sale anywhere else to commemorate our journey into the magical world of Studio Ghibli. This is an experience we will cherish forever. 

We are two en route for more magical moments.

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Angkor Wat in Detail

The Angkor temple complex is massive. To be exact, it is the largest religious complex in the world. When we first thought of Angkor, we only thought of the quintessential image of Angkor Wat, but to our surprise, there was so much more. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest religious monument in the world and easily provides 2-3 days of exploring!

We wanted to share some of our favorite spots from our couple of days exploring the Ancient City of Angkor.

1. Angkor Wat

This is the quintessential image when you think of Angkor Wat, which makes sense because this is the temple named Angkor. We got up at 4am in order to get the the temple for the sunrise. We were so excited to get a front row seat to see such a wonderful site. 

 Angkor at sunrise was picturesque.
Angkor at sunrise was picturesque.
 A lot of people show up to sunrise! We were so glad we got there early.
A lot of people show up to sunrise! We were so glad we got there early.
 We came back later in the afternoon. It was the perfect selfie lighting in front of the lake. 
We came back later in the afternoon. It was the perfect selfie lighting in front of the lake. 
 Beautiful details. 
Beautiful details. 
 We could look at the bas reliefs for hours.
We could look at the bas reliefs for hours.

2. Bayon

We call this the temple of faces. There are 54 towers around this temple, all with  4-sided bodhisattva faces as the tower top, representing the divine observation of Cambodia’s four directions. It was for sure a temple that got even more interesting as we took a closer look.

 From afar it's hard to tell there are 216 bodhisattva faces. 
From afar it’s hard to tell there are 216 bodhisattva faces. 
 Up close bodhisattva
Up close bodhisattva
 No matter where you stand, someone is looking at you.
No matter where you stand, someone is looking at you.

3. Ta Prohm

The ruins of Ta Prohm was one of our favorites. It is known as the “tree temple” because it is covered in Knia trees which have overtaken the temple ruins. This is what was so attractive to us. Everywhere we looked was a photo op we did not want to miss. We can see why parts of Tomb Raider was filmed here. 

 Knia tree growing over the temple.
Knia tree growing over the temple.
 Kevin between the Knia tree roots.
Kevin between the Knia tree roots.
 Is this a stegosaurus?  
Is this a stegosaurus?  
 This Knia tree was insane! 
This Knia tree was insane! 

4. East Mebon

Our tuk-tuk driver, Mr. Chee, called this the Elephant Temple. We loved it because #elephants! This temple is not very big, but the guardian elephants scattered throughout the temple are impressive and make it worth a look. Additionally, we noticed the stairs were huge and found out this is because ceremonies with elephants would happen here and elephants have a big step. 

 Khmer style symmetrical architecture.
Khmer style symmetrical architecture.
 Very large steps!
Very large steps!
 One of the guardian elephants.
One of the guardian elephants.

5. Neak Poan

Neak Poan was fascinating! First, we took a stroll across a huge lake to get to the Buddhist temple. The mirror lake was perfectly still and you could see every reflection. The clouds felt like there were all around us. Once you get across the lake, you get to see a quaint Buddhist temple sitting in the middle of a smaller mirror lake. Scerene indeed.

 Kevin in front of the mirror lake.
Kevin in front of the mirror lake.
 Stump and cloud reflections.
Stump and cloud reflections.
 Buddhist temple in the central pond.
Buddhist temple in the central pond.

6. Preah Khan

Because Preah Khan is located at the far end of the Angkor complex there were almost no tourists when we were there. This nearly forgotten temple is tucked away in the jungle and reminded us a lot of Ta Prohm. We took our time and got up close and personal with this temple.

 Overgrown knia tree
Overgrown knia tree
 Brad through the window.
Brad through the window.
 Kevin exploring the small corridors. 
Kevin exploring the small corridors. 

7. Terrace of the Elephants & Leper King

When the Khmer armies came back from battle victorious, the terrace of the elephants was where the celebration would happen. The large scale carvings of elephants were unreal. Just past the elephant terrace we came to the Terrace of the Leper King. It is said this is where the king’s concubines lived. What was impressive to us was the entire structure, both inside and out, donned intricate carvings, mostly of women. 

 Terrace of the Elephants.
Terrace of the Elephants.
 Terrace of the Leper King
Terrace of the Leper King
 Terrace of the Leper King carvings.
Terrace of the Leper King carvings.

8. Ta Som

The far end of Ta Som was the East gate. From the front it looks like a normal ruined gate, but one we passed through to the other side, we noticed it was completely covered in a knia tree. Tucked underneath the tree roots was such a wonderful carving. 

 Run-down looking gate.
Run-down looking gate.
 Carvings hiding under the knia tree.
Carvings hiding under the knia tree.
 Knia covering the entire gate. 
Knia covering the entire gate. 

9. Royal Palace of Phimeanakas

The Royal Palace was another part of Angkor that seems to be overlooked by most tourists. It was the perfect spot for a rest. The palace is not overly impressive compared to many of the other more notable spots in Angkor, but once we made it to the top and looked down, we appreciated what the Royal Palace was in its hay-day. 

 The doorways at the top.
The doorways at the top.
 Column remnants.
Column remnants.
 Corridors around the Royal Palace.
Corridors around the Royal Palace.

There were so many more structures, temples, and ruins around the Angkor temple complex than shown in this post. It would be nearly impossible to write one post covering every nook and cranny. Angkor was full of surprises at every turn and we are so happy to have encountered this ancient Khmer civilization up close. 

We are two en route for more detailed travel encounters.

 At the end of days of exploring, our feet were rightfully filthy! 
At the end of days of exploring, our feet were rightfully filthy! 

The Faces of Holi

Holi is a vibrant festival of colour celebrating the victory of good over evil. It is a time to lift up love and mend broken relationships. This Hindu religious festival is celebrated all over the world but no location is known better than India for observing the colorful festivities. Attending Holi was on our must-do list when we left home to experience the world and when we arrived in New Delhi we could not have been more excited!  

We had been looking forward to Holi for months and hit the jackpot with our Airbnb host. He was hosting a Holi party on his rooftop where a group of his friends and their guests came over for a good time. As soon as his friends started to show up, the color came out and we began to play Holi by rubbing color on each other’s hair and face saying “Happy Holi.”

After about an hour, Brad and I decided to leave the safety of our rooftop and venture out into the neighborhood. It immediately felt like we were in the movie Purge Anarchy. We were constantly looking over our shoulders for people who were throwing water balloons at us and shooting super soakers full of colored water. It got our blood pumping. After only two blocks we already had so much more color on us.

We continued to explore the neighborhood, quickly becoming the target of everyone. It turns out that the locals love to bombard foreigners even more then each other. It is definitely a game for them, but we didn’t mind because it meant more color. At one point one guy basically attached Kevin’s face with green color, turning him into the jolly green giant.

When we got back to the roof, the dyes were still flying and everyone was drinking bhang, an intoxicating drink consumed during Holi. Everyone was in a good mood and it was, full-on, Holi magic.

Our next stop was at our host’s brother’s home. As we arrived, more Holi was played, adding shades of pink to the mix of other color. It was great to have some much-needed snacks and moments of uncontrollable laughter.

Our final stop of the day was to the Holi Moo (formally Holi Cow) festival. The festival is where locals and foreigners alike get together for food, song, dance, and playing Holi. With four music stages, we were would not get bored.

Kevin jumped head first into the crowd of dancers, feeling the music, and had a great time. The energy of the festival was rich and full of life. Everyone got involved and no one was left out. It was awesome to see a man in a wheel chair getting the opportunity to crowd surf!

After a few hours of up-beat, heart-pounding music, we decided to find the stage with the jazz and funk music and chill out. 

As the sun started to go down, we left the festival and headed home for the night. Looking back through our photos, it’s so fun to see how our faces changed throughout the day like the horse of many colors from The Wizard of Oz. 

Getting in touch with Indian culture was fantastic and we will never forget our Holi experience.

We are two en route for a more colorful life.

25 of Our Favorite Great Barrier Reef Photos

One of the natural wonders of the world is the Great Barrier Reef. This 2400-kilometer (1400 mile) beauty stretched from Australia’s east coast to the southern coast of Papua New Guinea. It has some of the most diverse and unique sea life in the world. It comes as no surprise that feasting our eyes on this natural wonder was on our “must see list” before we took off on our world tour. Armed with our GoPro Hero+ (classic), we dove in and explored the reef. Here are 25 of our favorite photos.   

 Us starting our snorkel adventures!
Us starting our snorkel adventures!
 All the beautiful color of the corals
All the beautiful color of the corals
 We found Nemo! 
We found Nemo! 
 Kevin with a Jelly 
Kevin with a Jelly 
 Loving all the unique corals
Loving all the unique corals
 One of our fish friends
One of our fish friends
 Loved this guy. He was so cool. Reminds us of Little Shop of Horrors. 
Loved this guy. He was so cool. Reminds us of Little Shop of Horrors. 
 Our Sea Turtle buddy.
Our Sea Turtle buddy.
 Exploring the reef with fish 
Exploring the reef with fish 
 Great textures all around
Great textures all around
 I really cool long yellow fish
I really cool long yellow fish
 These coral moved with the currents. So memorizing!
These coral moved with the currents. So memorizing!
 Going to school with the fish.
Going to school with the fish.
 Free diving through these big caves in the reef was super cool
Free diving through these big caves in the reef was super cool
 More amazing textures under the sea
More amazing textures under the sea
 Another great school of fish in one of the reef caverns
Another great school of fish in one of the reef caverns
 The colors were WOW
The colors were WOW
 The lone fish who caught out eye
The lone fish who caught out eye
 Brad found a Jelly!
Brad found a Jelly!
 Quinessential coral
Quinessential coral
 Cool fish hanging out over the coral
Cool fish hanging out over the coral
 The reef went on forever!
The reef went on forever!
 Moody Blues on this coral
Moody Blues on this coral
 Kevin down in the reef. Thumbs up!
Kevin down in the reef. Thumbs up!
 The boat, the Ocean, the Great Barrier Reef... we couldn't have asked for anything else.
The boat, the Ocean, the Great Barrier Reef… we couldn’t have asked for anything else.

We are two en route for more photo fun

GUEST BLOG POST: My Gay Night out in Frankfurt by Viaja Bi!

Germany is one of the most advanced countries in Europe and one of the most outstanding about acceptance to LGBT, specially its capital, Berlin. But the gay night in Frankfurt, though much quieter than Berlin, offers its options.

Note that there are two cities called Frankfurt in Germany. A not so well known is Frankfurt an der Oder, which borders the city of Slubice (Poland), in north-eastern Germany, near Berlin. The most famous one is the other, Frankfurt am Main, also known only as Frankfurt, It’s in the central-western area of the country and it is the one I’ll talk about here today.

I visited the city at the very end of January 2015, with my father, in a backpack trip through the four countries bordering the Czech Republic (Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria) and paying a quick visit to Hungary! All in 15 days! 

 Happiness on day one of the backpacking trip in Frankfurt!
Happiness on day one of the backpacking trip in Frankfurt!

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Frankfurt was our first stop and at the very first night, a Saturday, I left my dad at the hostel where we were (read here the review) and went to check the city buzz.

My father wanted to go along with me, but as we had arrived that day, walked all day and it was cold outside, he preferred to stay at the hostel and have a well slept night.

My Gay Night in Frankfurt, Germany

“Let’s shake that ass, baby! Ohhh, please!!!”

With a quick research, I tried to list what seemed to be the best options of the gay night in Frankfurt. I got the addresses, put the map on my phone, and there I was facing the German cold with courage. The gay district of the city is the center (Innenstadt), close to the street Alte Gasse.

Despite being a Saturday, do not expect from Frankfurt a very hectic scene. My choice was a circuit near Zeil street, the famous and posh shopping street in town. There’s a block there that brings together several bars and clubs for LGBT between the Alte Gasse and Elenfantengasse streets.

I started at the Central Bar (check the map). The bar was very small and I got the feeling that the people who go there are regulars. I ordered a drink and stayed a while there even though it was a “half dead” environment. It felt super weird. Not the bar itself, but it felt weird to arrive alone in a bar or club in a city where I didn’t live, not knowing the customs, and it turns out to be full of the “regulars.” 

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Gay night in Frankfurt: Kaiserstraße, the street from my hostel

The second bar was, literally next door to the Central Bar, but I cannot remember its name, nor found it in the research. Sorry, honey! As soon as you enter, you go down a staircase and the club/bar is below street level. It was not my scene, so, of course, I would not recommend.

Third place I stopped is called Tangerine and was more like a pub and was, perhaps, the most enjoyable of the three, having a more relaxed atmosphere, not so posh, but not so underground. I remember the clerk to be super friendly and the public more relaxed, although not so full.

It was pretty strange for me that nowhere was busy on a Saturday night, but from what I learned talking to the people there, gay night Frankfurt is really calm. Good for you to know before going out in Frankfurt, I didn’t.

Because I was looking for more upbeat, I felt a bit frustrated. I thought about going to Gibson, a club at Zeil and the most famous the city. It is not totally gay, but has a LGBT night called Delicious. Since it happened to be that night, I said to myself, “let’s go!”… But I was barred at the door! 😮

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It turns out that in Germany, it is common that the security guards standing at the door assess whether or not you can enter the club. I was in jeans and T-shirt, but on a more tidy footprint, and the sweater was smart casual. But he said I was not well dressed enough! It was an outrage, you know, but will I discuss in German? Of course not! My 1 year and a half of German classes helped me to order in restaurants, but not to argue how my presence was renowned and I would brighten up the place. Then I went away, right? LOL

What I had for the night was turn back to the hostel and rest well because Frankfurt is an amazing city (that I loved and want to go back), and has a lot to do during the day. 

Other Frankfurt Gay Night Options

You can’t get to know everything in such a short time, but in addition to the options already mentioned, on my fabulous research I found some other points around the city you can test if you’re there for a longer time. Shall we?

Gay bars in Frankfurt

You can try the Zum Schwejk, which is super traditional, or Babylon Frankfurt, which has karaoke on Wednesday nights. Lucky’s has karaoke on Tuesdays and is known for low prices. Halo is open every day from 8pm and has shows, warming up the gay night of Frankfurt. If your style is more of a pub, worth trying the Birmingham Pub, which is popular with gay clients.

But the Switchboard, besides being a café bar, is also a support site on HIV/AIDS, providing care to the public. On Sunday evenings, the locals usually go for coffee and cake there. During the year, there are some events and lectures.

Gay clubs in Frankfurt

Club 78 plays songs of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s on two floors and is recommended in the gay night for those who like to party, that’s why they organized a gay cruise last September.

The party Atomic, which takes place on the second Friday of each month at the club Nachtleben, offers a more indie/pop party for a mostly younger audience. Admission is €5.

Delicious, in Gibson, mentioned before, only happens 3 times a year and is your highlight if you want to know the selected people from Frankfurt. Each party has a unique theme with spectacular shows and outstanding production! The dates are posted on the official website.

Not totally gay but still fabulous

The Alte Oper Frankfurt is a historic building in Frankfurt. It is a venue used for musicals, concert and other posh events. Great for a sophisticated gay night out. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s very handsome! 😉 

 Alte Oper, Frankfurt, Germany
Alte Oper, Frankfurt, Germany

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And that’s not all! If you want to know more about the gay life and other attractions in Frankfurt, here is the translated version of what I told about Frankfurt at Viaja Bi!.

Hope I had helped you all and thank you guys for inviting me to write here! Loved it! See ya!

Rafael Leick is a Brazilian travel blogger at Viaja Bi! and Viagem Primata. Communication specialist and more than 30 years-old, have lived in London and São Paulo. Follow at Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.

Traveling with my “best friend”

Through the perspective of Kevin

 Seesaw fun at Hobbiton in New Zealand, 2016
Seesaw fun at Hobbiton in New Zealand, 2016

Brad and I are traveling to Marrakech, Morocco today and I am a bag of mixed emotions. The fact that we are going to Africa for the first time is a dream of mine. I can not wait to see the markets, mosques, and overall culture for Morocco. The food excites me. The weather excites me. The prospect of riding on a camel in the desert excites me. It’s hard to put into words how much I am looking forward to this so here is a picture to emote my feeling of elation.

 Having a great time in Tokyo, Japan. 2014
Having a great time in Tokyo, Japan. 2014

I can’t help but feel a little saddened that Brad and I will not be traveling as husbands. Starting in Morocco and following us for a lot of the next part of our journey around the world, Brad and I will have to travel as “best friends.” We have had to do this in the past when visiting countries where it was not legal to be gay. In some parts of the world if we traveled as husbands we could be arrested or persecuted because of this. However, we have to respect the laws and customs of the places we visit and adjust ourselves accordingly.

We are not a very PDA (public display of affection) couple to begin with, however, we have had to practice reeling in all of the little things that could be an easy give away. Anything from simply saying a quick “love you,” “hey babe,” or “muah” to gestures like a light touch on the back, talking with my hands, or having a fun moment when playing chess in the park.  

This is a reminder to all of our LGBTQ friends and straight allies that in the world today, we are not all equal. We are still persecuted by people who hate us because of who we love. We are still told by some friends, family, politicians and religion that they do not accept us because of who we love. We are reminded everyday that we have to take precautions and be careful.

 Copenhagen, Denmark. 2016 pride celebration
Copenhagen, Denmark. 2016 pride celebration

I am so thankful that Brad and I are getting to travel and experience the world together even in parts of the world that do not accept parts of who we are. I am lucky enough to have a best friend like Brad to travel the world with. I am hopeful that one day being gay will not have to be something to hide. With that being said, as with anywhere we travel to in the world, we will continue to be safe, respect the laws and customs of the country, and soak in every moment of the journey!

 Iceland 2016
Iceland 2016

Urban Art Around Europe

Urban art is fascinating to us. We love how it involves artists from the community to bring new life into the city. For the past three months we have been collecting pictures of some of our favorites from around Europe. Enjoy!

Reykjavik, Iceland

 Laugavegur Street. The main shopping street in Reykjavik, Iceland 2016
Laugavegur Street. The main shopping street in Reykjavik, Iceland 2016

Brussels, Belgium 

 Comic Strip wall art around Brussel, 2016
Comic Strip wall art around Brussel, 2016

Oslo, Norway

 Street art around the corner from the music venue Blå in Oslo, Norway 2016
Street art around the corner from the music venue Blå in Oslo, Norway 2016

Berlin, Germany

 East Side Gallery. Berlin, Germany, 2016
East Side Gallery. Berlin, Germany, 2016

Prague, Czech Republic

 Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic 2016
Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic 2016

Stockholm, Sweden

  Subway art  in Stockholm, Sweden 2016. Check out our blog about more  subway art in Stockholm
Subway art in Stockholm, Sweden 2016. Check out our blog about more subway art in Stockholm

Frankfurt, Germany

 Art across form Frankfurt's main rail station, Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. 2016
Art across form Frankfurt’s main rail station, Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. 2016

Paris, France

 One of our encounter with European Urban art. Paris, France next to the Pompidou Museum 2012
One of our encounter with European Urban art. Paris, France next to the Pompidou Museum 2012

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