Autumn in Korea

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Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons – Jim Bishop

No truer words were spoken when talking about autumn in Korea. The trees burst into vibrant crimson and gold before winter takes over and ends the year’s cycle. The first time I saw the fall colors was during our trip to Seoul back in 2012 and several visits later, I still cannot get enough.

There are so many places in and around Seoul where you can stroll around and enjoy the place’s natural beauty. Honest to goodness, you don’t need a fancy camera or photo editing skills to get Instagram-worthy pics. If you’re planning a trip to Korea during the months of November to early December, here are some places you can visit, enjoy the season and feel like you’re in your own Korean drama show.

Olympic Park

This place is huge! The Olympic Park is home to the 1988 Seoul Olympics Arena which is biggest in the country. It took us a couple of hours to explore even on a bike so be sure to wear comfy shoes when you plan to visit. I strongly suggest mapping out the areas that you are most interested in so that you can go to the entrance closest to it. It’s very easy to get lost even with a map at hand so best to familiarize yourself with the different exits. The good news is that you’ll get lost with awesome views all around you.

Nami Island

Made famous by internationally acclaimed Kdrama, Winter Sonata, this crescent moon shaped island has become a top destination. Although the show was filmed during winter, this place is at its most beautiful during autumn.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit Nami Island during different seasons and fall is by far my favorite. Tourists come in droves especially on clear days to lounge around and have a relaxing picnic. I highly suggest renting a bike to explore the island more and get away from the crowd near the entrance of the island where the boats dock.

Everland

The biggest theme park in the country is not only a must for thrill seekers but nature lovers as well. It features year-round festivals celebrating the different seasons and occasions. It is also home to a massive wooden roller coaster, T-Express which my friends pressured me to ride. Definitely NOT for the faint of heart.

Everland’s ambiance and feel changes with the season. During Autumn, the park takes on a rustic feel to it giving you that nostalgia of curling by a fireplace with a hot chocolate drink in hand. Every inch of the gardens are covered with seasonal flowers and the roses in full-bloom are amazing to see.

Kyung Hee University

Kyung Hee University is considered as one of the most beautiful campuses in Seoul. The architecture of the buildings reminded me of those you would expect to see in Europe and not in Korea. The white structures of the Peace Hall and Administrative building backdropped by the colorful autumn leaves makes for captivating pictures.

I didn’t really know what to expect when we visited the campus and to say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. Even the students who frequent there could not resist to take a picture or two along the way. I probably would not miss a day of classes if I studied in a place as picturesque as this.

Haneul Park

Can you believe that this park used to be buried under 92 million tons of garbage? Haneul Park was a landfill before it was completely rehabilitated. 30,000 butterflies were reintroduced to the location and windmills were used to power the park’s buildings to make it an eco-friendly destination for everyone. Haneul Park is especially captivating during the Eulalia festival where visitors can enjoy the views of the city together with the thousands of silver grass that cover the vast area.

When I together with my mom and friend, Joel visited last 2016, the festival was over and there were fewer people coming to visit. The grass were no longer silver but the golden color it turned to after it’s peak was lovely to look at. The place was quiet and you can appreciate the views of the city better.

 

I hope you enjoyed my top autumn destination picks as much as I did! The “-ber” months have started and the leaves will soon be turning golden once more. If you haven’t booked that flight to South Korea yet, I suggest you do soon if you’d want to catch the best season of the year. Happy traveling!

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I understand that exfoliation is an important step to any skincare regimen but when I first heard about the Neogen Bio-peel Gauze, I have to admit that I was not ecstatic to try it out. The thought of using chemicals directly on my skin brought back bad memories of going through painful peeling procedures I used to get to rid of pimples. Chemical peels also remind me of the itchy feeling that makes me want to scratch my face off.  What eventually convinced me to give this product a shot is when I kept seeing some of the biggest skincare bloggers rave about it on IG and YouTube.

What is it?

Neogen Bio-peel Guaze is considered both a chemical and manual exfoliant. Each container has 30 pieces of single-use pads soaked in a gentle chemical formula that sloughs dead skin cells leaving your face smooth and feeling brand new! Unlike the harsh chemical peels of the past, this will not leave you with dry dead skin hanging on your face. It does the peeling while you’re using the product and washing your face. Magic!

Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze in Green Tea

There are three different variants you can choose from: wine (purple), green tea (green) and lemon (yellow). I’ve only had the chance to use wine and green tea to date and lemon is high on my list to try. I’m not sure if there is a difference between each one but based on my experience, they perform the same and only differ in how they smell.

Instructions

The pads are soaked in the formula together so make sure you have clean hands before reaching out for one.

1. After washing your face, slip your fingers in the pocket and use the gauze (rougher) side to gently massage your face. Do this in a circular motion but make sure to avoid your eyes and mouth area.

Gauze Side

2. Turn the pad around and use the cotton (softer) side to pick up the dirt and dead skin cells.

Cotton side

3. Wash your face with warm water and pat to dry. Suggested frequency is twice a week.

My Thoughts

Every time someone asks me what skincare I recommend to remedy dull skin or even out skintone, I always find myself suggesting the Neoge Bio-peel. The effects to me are instantaneous and you can reap the benefits from the get-go. This is also great to use on other body parts that have uneven skin such as the knees and elbows.

Overall, I love this product because not only is it convenient to use, it is very gentle and at the same time effective. It’s a great pick-me-up especially for days when you feel haggard and tired!

P.S. I highly suggest the wine variant… it smells so yummy I had to remind myself that it’s not edible.

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Simple Routine for Irritated Skin

I had another bout of skin rashes the other day and I have no idea what caused it. Being someone who tests a multitude of products at a time, the sudden onset of pimples and itchy rashes on my face has become an unwelcome but common undertaking.

The first time I experienced this, I got worried and consulted a dermatologist after several days with the rashes still flaring up. She gave me a couple of tips that worked for me and I still use to this day.

Tips Worthy of a Try

  1. Choose products that have natural calming ingredients that work for you. In my case, aloe vera and tea tree oil.
  2. Go back to basics! Establish a simple routine that you know works for you. Once you have a set of core products that you know do not irritate your skin, stick to it.
  3. Did you know that some active ingredients in your skincare products should NOT be used together? Before investing on a new product, research and make sure the ingredients go well with those you currently use. Retinol, for example, is a great anti-aging ingredient commonly seen in high-end products. It reduces fine lines and plumps skin helping you achieve that youthful glow but the downside to this is that it reacts negatively to Vitamin C, BHAs and AHAs. Using them together can lead to rashes and uneven skin texture.
  4. It is important to keep your face clean and free from germs but washing it too much especially with drying facial cleansers strip away natural protective oils from your skin making it dry and itchy. Apply moisturizer that is fragrance and paraben free right after washing to avoid this.
  5. If problem persists, consult a professional dermatologist. Self-medication could worsen the situation.

My MVPs

Here’s my current routine before I go to bed. I try more stuff on regular days but for when my skin needs a break, I find myself always coming back to what works. After a couple of days on this routine, my face significantly improves and my rashes all go away.

  1. Aritaum 91% No-Wash Cleansing Water – Makeup remover specifically designed for hypersensitive skin. Made up of 91% aloe vera, this product is free of parabens and mineral oils that can irritate the skin. 
  2. Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum –  A multi-functioning serum with black sugar extract that exfoliates, hydrates and soothes skin. 
  3. LeeJiham Tea Tree 90 Essence – Made up of 90% Tea tree extract, this essence is perfect for calming and reducing common skin issues such as pimples, hypersensitivity and large pores. A certified Kbeauty cult favorite!
  4. Physiogel Calming Relief Face Cream – Prescribed to me by my dermatologist and a product she uses personally. Like the others, it is paraben, fragrance and mineral oil free making it great for those with sensitive skin. Until now, I’ve tried a lot of moisturizers to find one that’s better but I end up coming back to this.

Results

On the road to skin recovery

Without fail, this routine has worked for me time and time again. I try to take products that have acids as active ingredients when my face is in recovery mode to calm down my skin and avoid further irritation. I know I can just stick to this routine but it’s become a joy of mine to try different products and having these to always come back to is a blessing!

Fully recovered!

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My Skinteresting Story and Skincare Tips

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Hi, I’m Mau and I’m a self-confessed skincare addict. One of the most vivid memories I had as a child is sitting in front of my grandmother’s vanity table watching her massage Oil of Olay into her face regularly. You see, my grandmother had great skin up to her senior years– a gift that unfortunately,  was not passed down to me.

Growing up, I’ve suffered from a host of skin issues and although people told me it was only a “phase” that will soon pass, my troubles haunted me well into adulthood. My constant struggle with pimples, blemishes and uneven skin tone has ultimately led me into this road I am now on — skincare addiction.

Korean skincare and shopping capital, Myeongdong

It didn’t help any when a couple of years later, I first encountered  Korean beauty products while exploring the streets of Myeongdong, Seoul. I wasn’t that interested at first, to be honest because KBeauty hasn’t invaded the Philippines yet at that time and I didn’t know anything about it. But really… who could say no to all those cute stores giving lots of freebies? Not me, of course! The porcelain skin everyone seems to be sporting around Korea convinced me to give it a try.

Picture borrowed from Skinfood website

The Skinfood Platinum Grape Seed Toner

The first Korean beauty I bought was the Skinfood Platinum Grape Seed Toner. The packaging instantly pulled me in right away and the salesperson could not stop singing  praises for it. To sum up my thoughts on this product, it is as awesome as it is expensive! I do not remember the price but this definitely opened the gates to my KBeauty addiction.

What hooked me in further was when I started noticing the improvements to my skin. Not long after, people started noticing too and would usually ask me about my skincare routine. Don’t get me wrong, I still had pimples (and I still do now) but it greatly lessened and scars started to fade. From then on, I’ve tried one product after another and my routine grew from using only 1 product up to doing the full 10 steps.

My Skin Type and Troubles

My skin when it gets irritated

I have very sensitive, acne-prone, combination skin. My skin gets irritated very quickly and even my own sweat and hair have the tendency to leave rashes on my face. As for acne, I still get them quite regularly but not as bad a before. My love for trying out new products often leave me with bad rashes that takes a couple of weeks before it calms down completely.

On top of my usual skin issues, I recently noticed that wrinkles around my smile lines are becoming more prominent. I’m not young anymore and have accepted the fact that I would need skincare products that are formulated to combat the signs of aging.

Skincare Tips

  • Go back to what works! Get to know your skin and have a core routine you can keep coming back to. If you plan to try new products, do it one at a time to easily identify which one does not agree with your skin if you experience issues.

My forever go-to products

 

  • Invest some time in yourself. Just like having a great body, having beautiful skin needs time and dedication. Take a moment to pamper your skin by going to a spa to get facials or simply using a facial mask with nourishing ingredients. Your skin will thank you for it!

Koreans swear by using a facial mask everyday as the secret to having great skin

 

  • Make exfoliating a part of your regular routine but don’t overdo it! Too much exfoliation can lead to skin damage and hyper-pigmentation. Research and follow the advised instruction and frequency for optimal result.

Choose an exfoliant that’s gentle but effective

  • Enjoy the sun the best you can! Living in a tropical country, applying sunscreen is a must but a big misconception is that this is only needed when the sun is shining brightly and can be skipped on overcast days.  Over-exposure can lead to uneven skin tone, age spots and even cancer.

Enjoy the sun but don’t forget your sunblock

 

  • Clean makeup tools = better skin. Dirty makeup brushes and sponges are great breeding grounds for harmful bacteria. By simply ensuring all your tools are clean and free from germs, you are taking a step towards beautiful skin.

Clean tools is part of your skincare too

Be a SKINspiration

Happy masking!

As you explore and try different products, share what worked and what didn’t work for you. One thing that I enjoyed is talking to people about their personal journey. Things can get complicated very quickly with the sheer number of brands and options available out there that have a group or community to discuss these with will make things easier.

Above all else, beauty should not only be skin deep! The secret to being radiant isn’t just clear skin but positive attitude and a beaming smile. Be confident in who you are because you’re awesome! Don’t let a pimple or two make you think otherwise.

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Preparing and Applying for Your Family’s Japan Tourist Visa

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One of the biggest worries in traveling to international destinations is applying for a tourist visa. Coming from a third world country, this reason ranks high on why most Filipinos like me are hesitant to travel to countries that require a travel visa such as Japan. Now, imagine having to prepare your whole family’s visa application and this can get overwhelming very fast especially if no one is there to help you out.

Related article: 8-Days Itinerary in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe

This was one of the challenges we faced when we organized a trip for 17 people to Osaka last May 2017. I’ve applied for a tourist visa for Japan twice already and currently have a 5 year multiple entry but the same does not apply to the rest of my family. We had to take into consideration the different documents we had to prepare given each of us have different circumstances.

A quick profile of my family:

  • Employed
  • Self-employed
  • Housewives
  • Retirees
  • Children

We had to research on the net how best to provide all documents and requirements needed for a visa application because we wanted to avoid the additional cost of consulting with a professional travel agent. To help others going through the same difficulties we faced a couple of months ago, I’ll share our own experiences here. Please note that there is no way to guarantee that following what we did will grant you a visa. You may also consult the official page of the Japanese Embassy for more information.

Hard work to organize a trip for the whole family but definitely WORTH IT!

Visa Type

Japan offers different types of visa depending on your situation and what you need it for. So far, I have only experienced applying for single entry tourist visa and could only share based on my personal experience. The Japanese Embassy website has more information about the different visas you can avail and all the documents needed for each.

The whole family enjoying a magical meal at Three Broomsticks, USJ

First time tourist visa applicants who have been approved are typically given a single-entry visa that is valid for use within 3 months of issuance. The period of validity of the single-entry visa is 90 days and you are not allowed to take any form of employment in Japan while using this. On the other hand, people granted multiple-entry visas can enter the country any number of times during their period of validity.

In my experience, most people I know are given a multiple-entry pass that is good for 5 years on their second visa approval even if they only requested for a single-entry; All the more reason to keep coming back!

  • Is it possible to use a single-entry visa if I have not done so within the 3 months validity?
    • If you need to change your travel plans, it should only be within 3 months from the day your visa was approved. The duration of your visa’s validity will be indicated. If the trip will not happen within this period, you will need to apply for a new one.
  • Is it possible to request for a multiple-entry visa?
    • Yes. There are additional requirements for multiple-entry visa requests and you can find more details here. Unfortunately, I’ve not tried this process before.

Required Documents

This is probably the hardest part in the whole process as you will need to gather all required documents and make sure they are updated and correct. Submitting papers with wrong information can be considered a fraud and will result to rejection. All documents should be A4 in size only and should not be pasted or stapled together for quicker processing.

I based this list from what is on the Japan Embassy website on the time of writing (2017). I would suggest to check their page first before following my guide below to make sure no changes have been made in the requirements. The visa process is subject to change at any time and again, these tips are based on my and my family’s experience and will NOT guarantee approval.

With that said, let’s take a look at the required documents and some tips I have in preparing each of them.

1. Philippine Passport

As advised in the Japan Embassy webpage, damaged passports will not be accepted when applying for a visa. This includes torn pages, passports with water damage and missing covers to name a few. Your passports should also be valid more than 6 months before applying or flying to Japan. Given the difficulty in scheduling passport renewals, I suggest making sure the expiration date of your current passport is still some time away to avoid immigration issues. Another thing that most people miss is that you need to have a signature at the last page of the passport. Your application will not be accepted without it.

  • Do babies and infants need a passport?
    • Yes. Everybody who will enter Japan needs one including babies and infants.
  • My valid visa is in my old passport should I still get a new visa?
    • No need to get a new visa but make sure to bring your old passport with your new one when you go to Japan.
  • Should I get a new visa if my passport gets lost with a valid visa in it?
    • Contact the Japan Embassy to explain the situation. Note that you might need to apply for a visa again.

2. Visa Application Form

Make sure to fill in all fields correctly. If the question does not apply to you, put N/A as your answer. Some agencies do not accept application forms with blank items. Make sure that all application forms have signature at the back. My brother missed putting his signature on the form and the agency did not accept his application until he could sign it.

You can find the latest visa application form in the Japan Embassy website and fill it in directly from there. Here’s the link to the document: http://www.ph.emb-japan.go.jp/files/000163096.pdf

They also provided a comprehensive guide on how to fill up all the fields correctly and you can download it from here: http://www.ph.emb-japan.go.jp/files/000163097.pdf

3. Photo

The photo must be recent and should have been taken less than 6 months prior to application. Specified dimension is 4.5cm x 4.5cm, with white background. Write your name and birthdate at the back of the photo before pasting it on the application. Do not staple the picture as this will not be accepted.

Inform the place where you will have your photo taken that this is for Japan visa application So that they know how best to take the picture. Most visas require applicants to look professional in the photo. It is best to wear a collared shirt or jacket.

4. Birth Certificate

The Japan Embassy website states that the birth certificate should be issued within one year from PSA Main Office/Serbilis Outlet Center (Nationwide) but based on our experience, some agencies ask us to get a birth certificate issued within 3 months of application. Only original and certified copies will be accepted.

I would suggest requesting from NSO online and the fee was P315.00 per piece including delivery charges (Metro Manila). The process was pain-free and the documents were delivered within the week. If there is a need to rush and get your birth certificate right away, the Makati City Hall released ours within 30 mins. I’m not sure if other city halls are able to do it as quickly.

5. Marriage Certificate (only required if married)

The same conditions apply to the marriage certificate document as with the birth certificate. The document should be original and released issued recently. I would suggest requesting it together with your birth certificate via NSO Online.

  • I’m married but don’t have a record with NSO yet. What should I do?
    • Submit a certificate of “Non-record” and include the marriage certificate from your local civil registrar. Feel free to call the NSO hotline (02) 737-1111 available 24/7 if you need help with your documents.

6. Itinerary in Japan

Be as detailed as you can. Include your accommodation/s, daily plans and contact information in Japan if any. Below is a sample of the itinerary we submitted for our Osaka trip. Here’s a sample of our itinerary document that we submitted as a VISA requirement: Japan Itinerary Sample

** Note: Number 7 and 8 are only needed if you will pay for your own trip. If someone else will be paying for you, proceed to 9.

7. Bank Certificate

This needs to be very recent and within 3 months before applying for the visa. There is no guideline given on how much should be in your bank account to get an approval. I know of people who were issued a visa with P50,000 in their bank account while I also know of a case where the person had a higher savings but was denied.

Ultimately, the money you have should cover the cost of your whole trips’ expenses including airfare, accommodations and pocket money. If you come up with an itinerary that shows you plan to visit for an extended period of time, going to different cities via the Shinkansen and checking-in to expensive hotels, the money in your bank account should be sufficient to cover all of these plus the trip of other people if you will be their guarantor. If you are not able to prepare for this, there is a high possibility that your application might get rejected.

  • I have more than 1 bank account should I include them all?
    • It’s your choice if you will include them all or just one but the more you can prove you are capable of financially supporting your trip the better chances of getting a visa.
  • If using a joint account is there a need to provide more than 1 copy when applying together?
    • It is best to be ready with a copy for each applicant.

8. Income Tax Return (form 2316)

This can be a printout of your 2316 form or a clear photocopy. Provide the latest you have. If you don’t have an ITR yet, you must provide a letter explaining why you cannot supply this.

My mom is a retiree and does not have an ITR ; to prove that she is capable of paying for her own trip, she furnished a letter from the company she receives a pension from as proof of income.

  • I’m a fresh graduate who just started work and have no ITR yet. What should I do?
    • Make a letter of explanation detailing your circumstances and why you can’t submit this requirement. It would also help to get a Certificate of Employment as evidence to support your claims.
  • I’m self-employed and have my own business. What should I do?
    • Request ITR form from the BIR directly. If you have an ITR for your company, make sure it indicates your position in the company. It will also help to make an explanation letter on your circumstances and why you could not furnish an individual ITR.

** Note: Number 9 onward are only needed if someone else will be paying the trip for you. Application for dependents such as your children, parents or other dependents will need these documents.

9.  Guarantee Letter

This document simply assures the embassy that the guarantor will pay for the trip. This is used when the guarantor is living in the Philippines and NOT in Japan. The document can be downloaded here: Japan Guarantee Letter (English)

  • My guarantor is in Japan and not residing in the Philippines. Will I follow the same process?
    • There are other types of visa for traveling to Japan that covers visiting relatives, friends or business partners there. Check the Japan Embassy website as these might better suit you. If you are still unsure, it might be best to inquire with the Japan Embassy directly or a professional travel agent.
  • I am a housewife and my spouse is paying for our family trip. Do I need a guarantee letter?
    • Yes.  A guarantee letter with your spouse’s signature, item number 10 and 11 (see below) will be needed as proof of financing. The same documents will be needed for your children or other dependents who will not be paying for their own trip.

10. Proof of Relationship

Establishing relationship between the guarantor and the guarantee is important to convince the consuls of your intent to be traveling as a family for tourism only purposes. Best documents to submit for this would be birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.

11. Bank Certificate and 2316 form of Guarantor

This should be fairly easy to furnish as these requirements are the same ones needed to prove that the guarantor has enough funds to pay for his own trip. A rule of thumb to follow here is to show through these documents that he has enough cash to cover the added expenses of another person’s vacation on top of his/her own (See number 7 above).

Visa Application Submission

You’re almost there! Just a little bit more…

Now that you’ve put all the documents you need to apply for a tourist visa togethe, it’s time to submit your application to an accredited travel agency. The price for processing visa applications vary between P800 – P1500 depending on which agency you choose. Check this page for Accredited List of Travel Agencies.

Lines in these travel agencies can be very long especially the ones inside malls and you can end up in line for almost the entire day. I experienced this firsthand when I went to Reli Tours and Travels in Megamall during a weekend. I was in line by 11:00 am and did not finish until around 5pm. On the other hand, I had my latest visa done with Discovery Tour Inc. in Salcedo Village, Makati and was in and out within 20 mins.

Processing time also varies but we got ours back in less than 1 week. You should get an 8-digit confirmation code from your travel agent which you can use to follow-up if you don’t hear anything from them in more than 7 working days. Once you’ve successfully submitted your application, there’s nothing else left to do but wait for the good news!

  • My flight date is fast approaching!Can I request for my application to be expedited?
    • No. All visa requests have the same expected time to be processed. It is possible for the embassy to get it out sooner but you cannot request to have yours prioritized over other applications. So, schedule this accordingly to avoid being pressed for time.
  • Is personal appearance necessary?
    • No. Someone else can submit your requirements for you. The same thing goes when claiming your passports as long as they have an authorization letter and the claim stub with them.
  • Is it better to submit our application as a group or individually?
    • It is better to submit with people who are going on the trip with you especially if you are a family or have a guarantor as advised in the Japan Embassy website.

Application Result

Enjoying our visit to the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine

If you’ve accomplished all required documents and proven your purpose of visit, CONGRATULATIONS! You will most likely receive your passport back with a Japanese visa attached to one of the pages. Review the details correctly to make sure there are no errors. If everything is in order, it’s time to celebrate and start planning for your family trip! Check out my previous blog entry 8-Days Itinerary in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe for ideas and inspiration.

Unfortunately, not everyone is granted a visa. The embassy does not state the reason why an application was rejected for security purposes and so, there is no exact way to pinpoint what went wrong. If your application was denied on first try, all is not lost because you can apply again after 6 months and fulfill that dream of yours to travel to Japan.

  • Is it possible to apply for a visa in less than 6 months after my application was rejected?
    • Re-application is possible if there is a humanitarian reason. I suggest contacting the embassy directly for more information on this.

The good news for everybody planning to apply for a visa is that Japan decided to relax their requirements to boost tourism in their country making the whole process easier for all of us. The whole process is daunting at first but once you start working on your documents, it becomes apparent that it is not as hard as it looks. Keep in mind that after you’ve successfully accomplished this, nothing is stopping you to enjoy that trip you’ve always dreamed of. I hope this helps and I wish you all the best of luck!

We’re cheering for you! Good luck!

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