A Travellerspoint blog

June 2012

June 10-24th: Wai Kru_Discipline_Screeching_Isan Festival+++



When I started the washing this morning it was nice and sunny and the prospects looked good. By the time I finished some threatening clouds were hovering over Sai Moon but in the event it stayed dry and I was safe.

I forgot to relate how I tried to change the date of my return ticket to London. The return date at the moment is 30th September but the ticket is valid a year so my last date option in January 18th, 2013. I found I was unable to do anything online so I rang Qantas’ Bangkok office who said I would have to pay a fee of £100 plus 3300 baht service fee (about £66) which sounded extortionate since changing a flight involved only a few keystrokes on a computer.

I then sent an online message to Asda Travel who I bought the ticket from and after a couple of days I got a reply saying that I would have to pay a £150 fee. So it looks like I’ll be contacting Qantas again pretty soon.


This afternoon a friend of mine came to visit me at school. He lives in Chiang Mai and he’s the friend I was going to buy the car from about a year ago until he changed his mind about selling it. Anyway, we had a good chat at school and later I went with him to guide him to a resort/guesthouse where can stay the night before heading back to Chiang Mai in the morning. Later still, we went for a drink and then something to eat and on the way I was introduced to another English person who runs a minimart about halfway between Kham Yai and Kranuan. He’s typical of several farangs I have met in the last couple of years who say they do not eat Thai food, or they only eat one or two dishes and nothing else. I admit there are some dishes – fish and bone-in chicken mostly – that I only eat if I am with other teachers or at an official lunch or something like that. But there are many other Thai dishes, not including all the farang favourites like red/green/yellow curry and phad Thai etc, that are delicious.

Mr Jasper has to go to the Teacher’s Council office in Bangkok after all to get his Temporary Permit to Teach which, together with the bundle of other documents he needs, will enable him to get a visa extension. A friend drove him to Khon Kaen where he got a bus to Bangkok.


I had to cover Mr Jasper’s English classes today which meant teaching four different all morning non-stop. For the M6 (18/19 y.o.) class I made a game out of doing some of the world’s capital cities – the all the S.E. Asian countries, some of the big European countries plus Australia, NZ, USA etc. Sadly, after nine years of schooling these students didn’t even know the capital of the countries adjoining Thailand such as Cambodia or Malaysia and they didn’t know what U.S.A. stands for. Some even said in all seriousness that the capital of France is New York!! Their heads are filled with Thai Buddhism, Thai culture, how to make ‘pan’ and how to decorate classrooms using coloured paper etc etc but not much else, which is so sad. What do you think ???

Mr Jasper rang me this evening on his way back from Bangkok. He’s reached Khon Kaen and was awaiting collection but the Teacher’s Clouncil had refused to give him a temporary permit to teach and said he must take a


Because I am covering Jasper’s classes I had to teach all four periods this morning though I was saved at the last one because a rehearsal was called for the Wai Kru ceremony tomorrow morning so I had some relief and could sit down and rest.

Most of this afternoon was devoted to the students making the special ‘pan’ for tomorrow. Each class made two pan with the younger classes making simpler versions while the older classes made more elaborate ones. There are photos in my gallery of them.

This evening all the teachers and the Director went into Kranuan to have dinner at a barbecue restaurant and there is a photo of this in my gallery.


To was Wai Kru Day when students pay respect to their teachers. The event took place in the ‘sala’ and it began with the usual opening ceremony when the Director lit the candles on the Buddhist altar and prayed and the National Anthem was sung. Then, students from each class brought their two ‘pan’ onto the stage where they were presented to the monk who was first in the line-up sitting on stage. The ‘pan’ were passed along the line which, in our case with a small stage, consisted of the aforementioned monk, the Director, and four teachers: Mr Noi, Ajarn Tuk and Ajarn Cat.

Then, class groups of student came up the steps to the side of the stage, knelt down and then moved forward on their knees to a position where each student was facing one of the those sitting on stage in order to present their small individual ‘pan’.

In the afternoon there was the annual election for the school Bataan, or head student. There were several candidates, male and female, up for election and on several occasions at assembly and at other times they had been given the chance to speak to the assembled students as to why they should be elected as Bataan.

The process is followed quite seriously: first, all the students had to sign a voting register and then they came up to another desk where they signed for a voting form; then, they went into a voting booth to place their cross against their preferred candidate’s name; then they had to fold the paper carefully – two students were assigned to watch this and make sure voting slips were properly placed in the box.

The count was done once everyone had voted. Each voting slip was removed from the box and the vote was read out and another student placed a line against the name of the candidate voted for. In the end, one of the female students won the vote with a clear lead. There are photos of the election in my gallery.


This afternoon there was an electricity power cut but after a while with no juice it returned intermittently for the rest of the afternoon and evening. At the teacher’s house lights would come on for 30 seconds or so and then go off again and again and again. By chance yesterday, after the ceremonies were over and the sala was being swept one of the students gave me a slim candle to take to the store. I put it in my camera bag and forgot about it was very handy in the blackout and the one candle lasted all evening.


Did some of my washing this morning though the sky looked very overcast.

Still no electricity this morning, or, rather, there was a trickle which enabled me to use my laptop but not enough juice to work


Finished my laundry and worked on my laptop for the rest of the morning until lunch.


I felt very tired all morning though I have no idea why. I had M2 this morning and my class followed Mr Yor’s class and the students were still doing the work he left them with when I arrived. I waited about five minutes for them to settle down and get their English books out but, annoyingly, some continued to do their Thai work so I told them in my sternest voice, and not for the first time, that if I found anyone doing Thai I would take their books and thrown them out of the window. That did the trick to start with but about ten minutes later one of the students had reopened his Thai book and was writing in his exercise book so I took them off him and threw them out of the window.

In case you’re wondering, there is a wide ledge about three feet below the window which students run along from time to time so the books didn’t go far.

Later this morning I had M5, or rather, I didn’t because Mr Noi had taken the students to plant some banana trees. I wish fellow teachers would forewarn one as a courtesy that they are taking students away for something so one doesn’t have to wait and wait at their classroom for students who will not be coming. But, as I have discovered, Thais generally don’t think like that.

Mr Jasper has got himself into a fix about the Permission to Teach document that he needs from the Teacher’s Council of Thailand in Bangkok. Before he can get this document he needs to take a TOIEC test (English proficiency test for non native English speakers) also in Bangkok. Then, with these two documents, and a large bunch of others which he already has, he has to go to the immigration office in the next province north of Kalasin to get a visa extension. Meanwhile....his visa expired a few days ago and every day he ‘overstays’ he will be fined 500 baht, about £10. The total of fines and test fees etc amount to about 7000 baht (about 140) but he doesn’t have the money and neither does the school so the Director suggested that Jasper ask me to help him. I’d be happier to help if I felt confident Jasper can repay me sooner rather than later.


The last few mornings have been overcast and cooler than usual which has been nice for me but it often heats up during the day and becomes very sticky by mid-afternoon. It hasn’t rained for a number of days now either.

After lunch and with a free period in the offing I finally got around to doing something I have been meaning to do for ages which is to record the loud screeching noise that certain insects produce at about the same time – 6.15pm - every evening not only around the teacher’s house but in the village and further afield too. To make the recording I made a short 1.29 minute video for you which you can see on youtube.com at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0ByfN6pCic
The video is a 360 degree turn in front of my teacher’s house where I live and you can clearly hear three times the noise these insects make. Any idea what insects they might be ??


At the end of assembly the Director had one of his informal teacher’s meetings at which he unexpectedly announced that he and all the teachers would be going to Roi Et this afternoon for the opening of the Isan Schools Festival. We left at 2pm with some teachers driving their own cars and others travelling as passengers. Two hours later we were there.

Roi Et is an attractive small city as you will see in the photos. The Festival consisted of displays and stands showing off the best of each of the provinces in Isan. Most of the stands had leaflets about their province as well as photos and craftware displays and some also sold snack food items renowned within their province.

Today was the big opening day – Thais place great store by appearance. Things must look good even though there is often little substance, and so it was today. School Directors from across Isan were present and there was a large elaborately decorated stage, a school brass band, some traditional instruments and the presentation of plaques to various Directors. Often, these opening ceremonies last forever, but this hardly took any time at all.

I found myself wandering around the stands with the Deputy Director who is a great one for photo opps, that is, opportunities for her photo to be taken posing with students or in front of the ASEAN stand etc.

Oh yes, there was a large ASEAN stand which had display boards for each member country but, confusingly, the background photo collage was the same for each board so, for example, Cambodia’s board, like the others, had the photo of the twin Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. A viewer not knowing the towers are in KL would be very confused indeed!

I have never mentioned parking in my blog before, but in passing it is worth a mention now because city police headquarters tend to be on a very large site with numerous outbuildings for different offices. There is also always a great deal of parking space and it is normal for people to simply drive in, as we did, to park their car within the police station site. I don’t think western police stations would like the public to park on their premises at all!!

We left the festival about 5pm and drove to a large open air buffet restaurant which not only had all the usual choices of meat and fish to ‘barbecue’ but also had chefs on hand to cook a pic ‘n mix selection too. We eventually got back to Sai Moon about 9.30pm and with great relief I was at last able to get out of my hot and sticky teaching clothes and city shoes.


After assembly this morning the students were re-grouped according to their number in the class register. In Thai schools, if there are, say, twenty-five students in a class they will be listed by name and alongside will be the numbers 1-25 and students keep their number throughout their six years at Sai Moon. So a student numbered 10 will always be number ten etc.

The re-grouping this morning meant that all the number ones lined up, all the number twos etc etc. So, with only six classes at Sai Moon, there were six 1s, six 2s and so on. The leader of each group became the student from M6, the most senior class of 18/19 year olds. The group leaders then drew lots to determine which province became their project topic which they had to research at Roi Et.

Money was issued to each leader – about 600 baht (£12) - for group snacks and drinks and by 9am the two double-deck coaches full of the students and teachers were on their way to Roi Et two hours away.

There were not as many students there as I had expected though perhaps many more came during the afternoon. Without the teeming student crowd it was very easy for the Sai Moon students to wander around, find the provincial display they had drawn and to do the research required. In fact, the whole area seemed quieter than the opening day yesterday which was a pity because somehow it lacked atmosphere and the students didn’t benefit from any buzz and excitement.

Once again, the Deputy Director beckoned me over to take her photo and we went from stand to stand buying little bags of this and that to eat. Surprisingly, students from one province had set up a pleasant little cafe where we could sit and snack and sip peacefully.

We all left at 1pm and the bus stopped at a gas station on the outskirts of Roi Et for lunch. Not long after we set off again the driver seems to have got lost and soon afterwards there was an acrid smell of burning brake linings and the bus stopped and we evacuated. We waited by the side of the road for ages and it was annoying to watch as the driver and his mate attempted to fix the problem or just stood by and looked at it. Mr Kay and Mr Noi both offered their opinions which may or may not have helped. Either way, it was hard to ascertain what really was wrong and what was being done about it. After a couple of hours I went to seek an answer from Mr Noi and Mr Kay who were sitting together in the shade of a tree. I was told there was a replacement bus on its way but a few minutes later a decision was taken to drive to a garage to get the problem fixed. I don’t think there ever was any replacement bus!

We drove slowly to two different garages. The first was one Mr Kay had been to before with his car but after looking at the problem they said they were unable to do anything so we drove to another garage where the brake was finally repaired and we were on our way again.

We eventually got back to Sai Moon at 8.15pm and the students had short briefing then dispersed in the school bus or on their motorbikes for their homes. I went to Kham Yai with Mr Kay for dinner and then returned to the teacher’s house.

Mr Jasper came back from Bangkok later this evening but he had already sent me a message to say he had passed his TOEIC English exam and as a result obtained the Permission to Teach document he needs to get his visa extension.


Mr Jasper came to my room as I was getting ready this morning to show me the his TOEIC score sheet for the four elements of the test: Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing but altogether he got 560 out of 1000 points which isn’t very high at all but just sufficient for a Pass.

Many students didn’t turn up for school this morning because of their ‘late’ arrival home last night or maybe it was just opportunism to stay away for a day. I am not sure which is right but I had to adapt my lessons accordingly for so few students.


I stayed at home most of the morning and at lunchtime I went into Kranuan with Mr Jasper in his car to go to the bank and visit Tesco Lotus. We had lunch at Khan Yai on the way back because the Thai restaurant we had planned to have lunch at was closed.

It began to rain a bit in the afternoon and the rain continued for the rest of the day though it didn’t rain heavily, at least not at first. About 6.30 I was persuaded to go with some students into Nong Kung Sri to eat at a buffet/barbecue restaurant. It was raining a little but nothing to worry about. I was on my Scoopyi with a student passenger and set off and the others were to follow. I paused at a bus shelter just before entering Nong Kung Sri to wait for the others to catch up. While at the shelter the heavens opened and it poured down. When the other students arrived they were soaked. Luckily for me, Mr Jasper also came along in his car following along at the back and he arrived at this moment too. I climbed into his car and the students set off on the motorbikes to the restaurant. But, Thais being Thais, there were no moaning or whingeing about the rain. Everyone smiled and was laughing and joking and saying ‘Mai pen lai’ or never mind. It was a fun evening and, again luckily, it had stopped raining for the journey home.


It rained heavily all morning and it now seems that the rainy season is well under way. I was unable to do any laundry because there is no means to dry anything other than outdoors but I am ok for another two days and then I will have a clean teaching clothes problem. It has taken me almost all day to upload the latest photos, sad really!

Posted by talismanic 04:21 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

26th May-June 9th: Village Fest..Spag Bol..Bad Stdt..Laos...

rain 30 °C


I went into Kranuan with Cola, an ex-M6 student, for lunch and to visit Tesco Lotus to buy items for dinner this evening.

This afternoon saw the annual ‘fair’ – though that’s not really the right word but I can’t think of another more suitable – which opened with a procession around Ban Hat Sai Moon village. Rather than write lots about it I took some photos for you which are in my gallery.

But it is a fun occasion when everyone can’t ‘let go’ and be themselves and dance and enjoy themselves. I wanted to try and take a better video of proceedings than last year when I wasn’t sure what to expect. This year I was prepared and I knew the route the procession would take.

The only snag was the friendliness and generosity of local Thai people who invited me to their homes to eat or drink something, the latter usually a beer or whisky! I had to be careful because beer and making videos or taking photos don’t mix. On the other hand there were pauses in the progress of the procession which gave me time to visit a number of homes.

The day or morning before the festivities get going Thai families always buy or make some ‘bun’ (pronounced like a short version of ‘boon’) which is food specially for visitors. Don’t forget when Thais greet each other they always ask ‘Have you eaten yet?’ so food is always kept for visitors.

This evening I cooked a Bolognese sauce and some spaghetti which Cola had requested. It was actually very nice considering the key part of the Bol came out of a bottle which claimed on the label to contain tomatoes, garlic and oregano. The sauce could have done with a bit more oregano and would have been transformed with some unobtainable Parmesan.

I only had one gas ring to work with so I had a pay attention to the sequence of doing things. Cola liked the result and Jasper and I did too, but Cola’s parents and grandmother turned their noses up at it and wouldn’t taste more than a microscopic teaspoonful.

If I do this again I will use a different type of pasta and some salmon or tuna as Thais love fish.


Last year the Mor Lam and Ban Fai was on the Sunday but for some reason this year it is being put on tomorrow, a normal school day.

I stumbled across some amazing century old photos of Bangkok on the internet comparing them with the same photos taken today and you can see how the city has grown and developed since then. You can see the photos at


There were classes as normal this morning then all the students went home for lunch so they could take part or watch the Mor Lam and watch the Ban Fai rockets in the afternoon.

The Mor Lam is a kind of show with a singer who performs a certain type of song very popular in Isan which draws large crowds who dance in their own special way. I made a video which you can see on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-P2cD8GCRo

The only problem with events like Mor Lam is that Thais will let themselves go and have fun, often too much fun powered by rice whisky (which is like rocket fuel) and often a fight will disrupt a Mor Lam concert or halt it completely if it is too bad. Oh yes, the police usually have a presence but, as you can see in the video, they are not that effective.


There was a teacher’s meeting this afternoon when the budgets were approved for the various projects proposed by teachers. There was also a lot of discussion about discipline in school and one student in particular by the name of Panaphon. He is now in M4 but he rarely attended any of my classes last year and at those he did attend he would not do anything.

Panaphon is suspected of taking drugs, or has taken drugs at some time. I was told he has a brother who is a small time drug dealer but I have no idea about his family or their circumstances. But Panaphon has always seemed to me to be a loner and he doesn’t mix or play around with friends the way his classmates do and he never responds to my good morning or whatever. It is hard to know what to make of him but the other teachers see him as a real problem and want him out of the school.

However, at the meeting, Mr Noi said that Panaphon’s expulsion would cause problems for Sai Moon school though he didn’t elaborate. I hope I can get him to tell me more later.


I spoke with Mr Noi about Panaphon after assembly this morning and made the point that if the decision is made to exclude him from school then we as teachers have failed him and that another remedy should be considered. I said that if Panaphon leaves school today then he will not have his M3 certificate or his M6 certificate and will find it hard to get any kind of proper job although he could find local work on farms during the various cutting seasons for example but he will not have the opportunities that the other students will have. In my opinion, I said, Panaphon will most likely end up in prison.

I mentioned that in a western country it could be arranged for a student like Panaphon to get a shock by seeing what it is like in a notorious prison or even being locked up for a night so the shock of the experience sinks in.


I have been trying to help Mr Jasper regarding the paperwork required for his teaching visa. One of the supporting documents he requires is a Permit to Teach. When he told me that he had to go to Bangkok to obtain this document I immediately thought it was crazy to have to go so far for it. But Jasper is like the Thais in that he submits to everything and says oh never mind and doesn’t question anything. I said there must be a representative office of the Teaching Council of Thailand somewhere closer than Bangkok but I was unable to find any positive information on the internet and even the TCT doesn’t appear to have a website! We consulted the Deputy Director but she didn’t know anything and why would she as she’s Thai and doesn’t need the same documents as a foreigner.

Drinks with the Director in the evening during which he mentioned that the Administrative Office in Kalasin city have given him the budget for Mr Jasper’s and my salaries though the figure he mentioned seems to fall short of what has been promised but we will both have to wait until the first full month’s salary is paid at the end of June to see if the Director’s promise comes true.


Rained all morning and we had assembly in the sala. Panaphon is still in school so maybe the Thai teachers have relented or maybe Panaphon has promised to mend his ways.

A new fresh water cooling machine was installed this afternoon just outside my office which is very convenient.

I got this month’s salary today though it was 2,000 baht short which the Director explained would be paid next week as they hadn’t withdrawn quite enough money from the bank. The Director also reaffirmed the pay rise starting at the end of June.

The school was due to go the local temple around 3pm afternoon but the Director kindly said there was no need for me or Mr Jasper to attend so we set off in the car for Nam Phong where I caught a bus to Udon Thani where I plan to stay tonight and the next two nights and to visit Vientiane to get a new visa stamp in my passport.


One of the benefits of coming to Udon for a visa stamp is being able to get all my laundry done. Two hours away in Sai Moon it can get very humid and clothes that are hanging up feel damp and towels never seem to get dry. It has also rained a lot preventing me from doing any laundry for a while so it has piled up.

Almost as soon as I arrived in Udon I took my bag of clothes to the laundry and will collect it washed, dried and ironed on Monday even though it is a public holiday.


Another good thing about being in Udon this weekend was having access to the hotel’s fast internet which enabled me to watch the Jubilee Thames Pageant live on the BBC website. It was amazing to see it in real time and it was spectacular in every sense of the word and I am so happy everything went according to plan and that, for the most part, the rain stayed away.

At 11am I got a tuk tuk to take me to the makeshift bus station to catch a bus to Nong Khai and luckily there was one about to depart. An hour later I was in Nong Khai and I got another tuk tuk to take me to the immigration office on the Thai side of the Friendship Bridge. I exited Thailand with no problems and caught the shuttle bus to take me to the Lao side of the bridge where, as usual, I had to pay 1,500 baht (about £30) for a Lao visa. It was painless, apart from the fee and I was soon back in Thailand on a bus to Udon Thani.


I got a bus for the ninety minute journey back to Nam Phong after lunch and I arrived there at 3.15pm. I had arranged with Mr Jasper to collect me and I phoned him when I got on the bus at Udon to give him an estimated arrival time. When I got to Nam Phong Mr Jasper called me to say he had a problem with his car as the alternator was faulty and not charging the battery and he was unable to collect me.

I waited for the occasional bus that runs between Kranauan and Khon Kaen and one arrived after about 45 minutes and luckily there was a seat as it is often full by the time it reaches Nam Phong. Another forty-five minutes later and I arrived at Kranuan bus station waiting for Mr Phong to come and collect me. After his car broke down Mr Jasper had phoned around to find someone to collect me and fortunately Mr Phong was already coming to Kranuan so I didn’t have to wait too long.

Mr Phong drove to school the back way down the lane by all the sugar cane fields and rubber trees. Just before reaching the school we spotted a bird I have mentioned a few times which I saw for the first time in Lamphun. It is about the size of a crow with a black body. It’s wings extend straight out like an eagle’s wings and they are a handsome tan colour. I have never had my camera to hand before and, in any case, these birds are very shy and dive for cover as soon as you spot them. But this one stood still so I hauled my camera out of the bag and got a couple of shots in before it hopped away and the results are in my gallery for you.

When I arrived back at the teacher’s house I discovered a new fresh cool drinking water dispenser had been fitted to the end of the blue water pipe which was laid to the house last week. It will certainly make it more convenient for us at the teacher’s house because, previously, fresh water had to be obtained from a similar machine at school.


There was a short teacher’s meeting after assembly this morning at which the Director announced the death of someone in the village who had some sort of past connection with Sai Moon and that he wanted all the teachers to attend the funeral this evening.

Surprisingly, the Deputy Director told Mr Jasper this morning that there is, in fact, a TCT representative office in Huai Mek and another in Kalasin city so Mr Jasper can now obtain his document very easily without having to travel to Bangkok.

I had M1 (12/13 y.o.) this morning and working from the textbook we did Ask and Answer. I asked them ‘What is this in English ?’ holding a pen or pointing to a ruler for example, and they had to answer ‘It is a....’ and I wrote It is a on the board for them but it was too much for most of them and they took a very long time to get the hang of it. I started at one end of the class asking the questions and one by one asked all the students the same question but pointing to different pictures, each with the English word below (pencil rules, eraser, bag etc), in the book. You’d think by the time I got to the last few students that they would by then have heard the phrase ‘It is a.....’ so often they would have it word perfect, but not so. Grrrrrrhh!!!


This morning the Director told me and the other teacher’s at a short meeting after assembly that he would like us all to attend the funeral this evening of someone in the village who has died who had some kind of former connection with Sai Moon.

I finally bit the bullet necessary to guarantee me internet access in my office. For some reason, the school’s internet doesn’t work in the office I use; perhaps there’s something in the fabric of the ceiling or walls that prevents access. To remedy this I went into Kranuan with Mr Jasper in his car and Mr Phong, one of the school’s computer teachers, to get a wireless router, cable and suitable connectors. It costs me 1,690 baht (about £33) for the router and about 250 baht for the other items.

The teachers were supposed to be ready to depart for the funeral about 6.30 and I showered and got changed and went down to the school about thirty minutes early only to find Mr Phong starting to connect everything up so I gave him a hand but after about 45 minutes failing light soon caused us to stop. There was no sign of any teachers waiting to go to the funeral so in the end both Mr Phong and I missed it.


I finally managed to get my bedding washed this morning which was long overdue but I have been stymied because of the wet weather.

Panaphon, the bad student, is still in school so I can only suppose he has promised to mend his ways. During the two periods for M4 that I had this week I have tried to be friendly and encourage him but he never speaks and only looks at you in a strange and off-putting way.

The new fresh water machine at the teacher’s house has been connected to the electricity supply but the only snag is that, at the moment, the water tastes of the pipe jointing compound which I suppose will disappear in time as water is drawn through the system.


There has been a certain amount of rearranging going on in the office I use and Mr Weang now occupies one of the spare desks and he has brought in a water boiler and cups so there is no coffee on tap.


To Kranuan and Tesco Lotus to get some more supplies. I couldn’t have lunch at the Pizza/Thai food restaurant because it has closed for three months. The lady owner has a Finnish boyfriend who lives in upcountry in Finland and she has just received her visa for the period. I had lunch instead at an ordinary local restaurant which at least has a menu offering a variety of dishes to choose from.

I was invited yesterday by Mr Noi to a barbecue in Kranuan but he seems to have forgotten as he didn’t come as expected to pick me up this evening so I watched a DVD from my mini film library.

Posted by talismanic 22:42 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

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