Monthly Archives: July 2011

Flowers and Sunset

Yesterday morning when I arrived at the house I took a look around the garden to take an assessment of what we will be doing with that area. The house has been empty for a long time and consequently the garden as well as the house, have not been taken care of. Fortunately, it rains a pretty fair amount where the house is located so the trees are thriving. It is absolutely gorgeous and I can’t wait to get it all cleaned up and put a fountain and table and chairs out there and enjoy a nice lunch or dinner.

There are only trees and weeds in the garden. Looking around I saw no flowers. Then over by the water spout I spotted a tiny bush with some little pink flowers on it. That was it. No other flowers existed in the sea of green that is the garden. I took a photo of them since they happen to be the only ones I own!

I am not a gardener. I love gardens, but I am one of those people who would gladly pay to have someone else take care of it. I will just enjoy the beauty of them every day, thank you very much. It isn’t the work of the garden that bothers me, it’s the fact that I can’t make anything grow. I just don’t have a green thumb. I know absolutely nothing about plants and flowers. They wither at the sight of me. My Christmas tree dies before Christmas, for goodness sake!

So, since this little area of flowers has managed to take care of itself for so long, I think we are gonna be best friends 🙂  I was singing “ Mary, Mary, quite contrary” for most of the day.

Towards evening time we got a lovely view of the sunset out of the kitchen window. It was the first one I had seen while in the house. Things were shaping up nicely. After all that we had been through with this house I was happy to have healthy flowers and a nice sunset!

As Dude and I started to leave for the night, I went down to the car to put our things away. In doing so I passed by my little flowers and guess what?? They were all shriveled up and dead! I couldn’t believe it! They had been here all this time minding their own business and then I came along and took a photo and they died! I swear I never touched them!

I called to Dude and told him about the flowers. I was really upset.

He came and took one look at them and said, “You’re a dork. They go to sleep and night and in the morning they will open up again, you’ll see.”  Said it just like that, he did. Then he went back into the house.

I said, “Are you sure? They look dead”, in my sad voice (cuz I REALLY was worried)

He yelled back, “Yes, I’m sure. Just wait and see.”

I followed after him and cried, “I don’t believe you. I think they’re dead”.

“NO THEY’RE NOT! Will you just wait until tomorrow?! You’ll see.”

Tomorrow morning…..

When we got to the house and opened the gate, guess what?? There they were. My cute little pink flowers looking exactly like they did yesterday morning and just like Dude had said. Boy was I relieved.

Like I said, I can’t make anything grow and I know nothing about plants or flowers. Good thing I got Dude (who is more like a dudette since he strangely knows about flowers that go to sleep at night). If he hadn’t had a clue, I would have had a sleepless night, I tell you.


My Photo Is Still Being Promoted :)

A big shout out to lifeoutofasuitcase for promoting my photo of the calanques on their blog! It was chosen as the Contribution Photo of the Week! Check out the photo at Please click the “like” button and share with your friends!! I am super excited and honored to have one of my pictures chosen.

Thanks Life Out of a Suitcase for the opportunity!

For more info on their site, please click on the link provided. You can also find them on my blog roll 🙂

Buying Our First House in France (Part 3)- Another AHHHHH!

So we had to decide whether we were going to be in deep *S* with the house we really wanted, or pay the sellers 22 000 Euros and walk away with nothing. We chose what was behind door #1. With our signing day only 6 days away, the bank lady said we needed to go that day to the post office and mail our loan papers. In France these papers can only be accepted by the bank if they are sent through the post office. So we walked two blocks over and personally handed them to the man behind the counter, watched him stamp it and put it in the bin for lift off. We figured that it would be at the bank by the next day. Wrong again. Do you know that by Friday the bank was telling me that they couldn’t find the documents! Seriously, it had been two days since we mailed them and there was only two blocks between the two entities! What is wrong with this place!

Well, we ended up get an email from our notaire saying that our 12 July signing has been cancelled due to the fact that the bank couldn’t find our paperwork. Dang. Now what?

The next day was Saturday and do you know what happened on that Saturday? The bank lady emails me and says she has everything and is all set to go. Well, what the heck? Why could she not have told me that yesterday?

So I emailed the notaire to let her know that all was good and to tell me when we could do the stupid final signing. On Tuesday she emails me back and says the next available date is 25 July. Two weeks away! Are you kidding me! Get your butts in there tomorrow people, that’s what I say. Well, I didn’t really say that to her, but I was thinking it. Again with the waiting! I am not amused.

The two week interim…..

So for the next two weeks, since we had to wait around some more, Dude started doing his research on how he is going to fix that large crack in our house because there was no way we were gonna pay the price of that quote. He began searching around the net for some threaded rod that was 12 meters long and 30M in diameter. He wasn’t playing around. Go for the big guns and do it right!

I swear he worked on this thing forever! He couldn’t find the threaded rod in the size he wanted or in the diameter he wanted. After 4 days of research he came up with nothing.

He even researched on getting 3 or 4 pieces that he could hold together with couplings and still no luck! The problem was the diameter of 30M. He could find it in a smaller diameter, but we really needed it in a larger size. What kind of country is this? There are cracks in people’s houses everywhere. They had to have gotten their threaded rod from somewhere?! He started to call companies in the US and Canada and was getting ready to even call China direct.

Day after day he sat around and worked on getting three dumb items to fix the crack. All we need was some threaded rod (the right size), hex couplings and some bolts. This task was proving much harder than we ever imagined and boy was he is the worst mood ever, cussing up a storm and all. This project was taking up all his time and it was only for three items! What was the fix up for the rest of the house going to be like?

After multiple calls to his brother in the states, multiple calls to companies in the states, me doing shout outs to people on my social networking site and him yelling at stupid sites in French that say they have what you want and then you look on their site and they really don’t, he finally found a company in the states that had just what he needed and they had a distributor in The Netherlands.

He got a quote from them, but we ran into another problem. The tax and shipping was going to be huge since the threaded rod was so big and heavy. This was going to be really expensive. Shot down again.

Then, he finally found what he was looking for and it was smack dap in France. We set out to order it and guess what, it worked! He was able to order 4 pieces of threaded rod and the bolts. Miraculously he was able to find the hex couplings through another vendor. We were all set and even found this really cool tie that will be going on the outside of the house. Real decorative and all. Here is it:

Woowee, and just in time for the RDV to sign for the house. It looked as if we were finally on our way.

All that time and energy mainly for this one item:

Next stop, 25 July. To be continued……



Video of the New House

Ok folks, I have been telling you all about the ridiculous things Dude and I have been going through in buying our first home in France. Well, I thought that before I finish the story, I would show you what this house looks like. Here is a video that I shot today while over at the house to commence with the huge remodeling project. The film is a little shaky at times since I filmed it with my Nokia phone and it didn’t come with a steady cam (stupid).

I think that you will get the gist of the place, though. I really do love it, but it has WORK stamped in big, red letters all over it!

Fair warning to all, I probably won’t get to the rest of my story until Monday. Sorry to all who hate cliff-hangers 😦 Here’s the thing, it’s the weekend and we are beginning the remodel project and it’s only Dude and myself doing the whole, ENTIRE project. Yes, that’s right. No contractors and no help, just us two. We have to work our little butt’s off as fast as we can since we have to have it ready (or I should say “habitable”) by 31 August. That is when we need to move out of our apartment.

Also, I do work a “regular” job 50+ hours work week, so I am fighting real fatigue. I promise to have the rest of the story out asap. It does have a happy ending……..I think.

Hope you enjoy the movie. Get your popcorn and Pepsi ready and then click….

Oh, one more thing. You’all better enjoy it since it took 3 hours to upload the dang thing on You Tube because my lame, French internet connection is so slow. Ok… that’s all…and I hope you like my show 🙂

My Photo Has Been Promoted!

A big shout out to lifeoutofasuitcase for promoting my photo of the calanques on their blog! It was chosen as the Contribution Photo of the Week! Check out the photo at I am super excited and honored to have one of my pictures chosen.

Thanks Life Out of a Suitcase for the opportunity!

For more info on their site, please click on the link provided. You can also find them on my blog roll 🙂

Buying Our First House in France (Part 2)- Still AHHHHH!

Finally 6 June arrived and the fix it man met agent man out at the house.  Dude and I didn’t go that day because it was a Monday and that is one of my busiest work days. However, agent man said he would ensure everything was fine and get the quote over to us.

The day passed without issue and no one called to ask us anything or give us any answers to our questions. Again, we just waited.

After a week went by and still no sign of a quote, I contacted agent man. He said he would look into it and let me know. About 15 minutes later he let me know that fix it man had not finished his quote. What was the deal here? I am use to people giving me quotes within 48 hours. Wow! Quadruple that and you might be on target here. So we waited some more. I kept hearing the Jeopardy theme song in my head, only I just couldn’t guess when we were ever gone know how much this crack was going to cost us.

Finally, two weeks after fix it man and agent man met, our agent sent us the quote. The *S* hit the fan when Dude and I saw how much it was going to be. That dumb quote that we had waited all this time for was to the tune of 10 000 Euros and we were not singing, let me tell you. We were pissed! I was already at my out of pocket limit with the payment on the house, there was no way we could come up with another 10 Gs to get that fixed.

So Dude had an idea, we would contact the agent to see if we could split the cost with the seller. It was worth a shot, if you don’t ask, you don’t know. That is just what I did, only I couldn’t get a hold of the agent for 3 whole days! Now it’s 24 June and we are getting closer to the final signing. When I finally get a hold of him, do you know what he said? He said that he couldn’t do anything. That I had to tell my notaire, who had to contact the seller’s notaire, who had to contact the seller and then the answer would go the same route only backwards. Well, there goes another week down the drain!

So that night I emailed our notaire with the quote attached asking if the sellers could chip in and help a “sista” and “bro” out.  Again, we played the waiting game.

The following Tuesday was when we finally heard from the notaire. Here we were on the 28 June, with only two weeks to go for signing and we were still messing around. Well, she calls and says that the sellers said a big, fat NO to us. Of course, they had not obligation since it was not a condition that it be fixed before we would buy the house in the “compromis”. So there ya go, we weren’t too happy, but there wasn’t a whole lot we could do at this point. So, I called the bank to talk to our agent who was in charge of our loan and guess what? She wasn’t there. She was on vacation until Tuesday of the following week! I swear we have the rottenest luck of anyone I know. There is that Jeopardy theme song again. So we WAITED until the following week.

Finally, Tuesday 5 July rolls around. Yes, folks it is now July, and a month since fix it man went out to the house to give us a bid. Can you believe it?!  Time means nothing to these guys here. So first thing in the morning, Dude and I went down to the bank to see our agent. We stood around for a while and were told that she was too busy that day to see us. We would need to call her to make a RDV, but we couldn’t call her until after 4pm that day. Great, good, fine. Waiting, waiting.

It happened to be Tinki’s birthday that day so we had plans to be at the zoo. Off we went. Towards the end of the day (pretty much 4:01pm to be exact) I phone our agent at the bank to explain the situation and see what we could do about it. She said to come into the bank at 10am the next day to discuss.

We were there at 10am sharp ready for some answers on what we could do. Basically, due to our “compromis” there was nothing we could do (we had to wait a whole extra day to hear that?) We had already been approved for the loan and all was moving along for us to sign by next Tuesday, 12 July. Problem was, we hadn’t turned our loan papers into the bank because of this issue with the crack. Now, with only 6 days left for the signing, if we backed out we would have to pay the sellers 22 000 Euros and come away with NO house! What is this crazy place I am living in?!

Dude and I really wanted the house, that wasn’ t the problem. We just didn’t know where we were going to come up with the money to fix it.

To be continued…………..

Writing for

I would like to introduce you to the awesome people over at MyFrenchLife. They asked me a while back to be a monthly contributor to their site. Their moto is “Searching for the ‘French thread’: Connecting like-minded people in French & English globally”.

The site is chalked full of great info on life in France, culture, gastronomy, art and design, travel and a whole host of other things. You can also find them in my blogroll. Give’m a whirl and please let me know (and them!) what your favorite stories are. We would love to hear your comments.

Check my my “contributor page“, I’m pretty proud of it 🙂

Buying Our First House in France (Part 1)- AHHHHH!

This has been a whirlwind last couple of months (actually, since we arrived we have been in a whirlwind). Since April, the family has been working on buying our first house in Provence. We started looking around the end of February and, surprisingly, we saw a ton of houses. Between February and the first week of April, we just couldn’t seem to find exactly what we were looking for. Nothing struck our fancy.

Buying a house for me, is one of those things where when you see it, you know that it’s the one you want. You get that feeling (that oh je ne sais quoi) that it is calling your name. Well none of the houses we saw called my name. It wasn’t that they weren’t nice, it was more that something or some things didn’t quite fit right. We saw some that were all ready fixed up but had no land at all, some that had land but the house was in too bad a shape, and some that were just plain crappy.

Then one day, Dude spotted a village house on (this is the most awesome website for finding real estate in France). I was not into a village house since we had seen so many and I wanted land! He was convinced that we had to see it, though. Well, it just so happened that I had already contacted the agency already who was selling the village house because there was another house I was interested in visiting just down the street from it in the same town. I called up the agency to see if we could see this village house on the same day. The RDV (rendez-vous) was set for 05 April.

The first house we saw was a no go. Same as always, lots of land, but the house was crappy. We were getting disappointed. I had 4 main criteria for what I wanted: (1) The house had to be old (the older the better). Coming from the states you can’t find a house that has middle ages written all over it! (2) I wanted some land. (3) It had to be in the countryside of Provence, but not more than 20 minutes from the nearest town (grocery shopping is a necessity) (4) The price had to fit into our small budget.

Dude added a 5th criteria, he had to be able to fix it up. Now Dude can do just about anything that needs to be done to a house. He is the construction wonder boy. The problem was that there are so many houses in France that are beyond what he is willing to do and pay for (and that means that are really messed up!) This doesn’t mean that they are beyond repair, it means that they are beyond my pocket book for the repairs!

After the first let down of the day, our agent took us over to the village house. It was tucked away on a small road and there wasn’t even a “for sale” sign on it. When the agent opened the large gates, we couldn’t believe how enormous the house was. Three stories and a beautiful yard! The house was surrounded by an ancient stone wall and the garden was full of beautiful trees that were just beginning to bloom.

Our first stop was the main floor. It had an enormous garage with a wine cave below that was full of old wine bottles, the oldest being 1957. They were all covered in dust and looking real cool to me! Off to the side was a small room where the original owners made their own wine. It still had all the equipment in it! The entire cave was made out of stone walls and the temperature was so nice and cool.

Upstairs and through the garage was a separate apartment that had its own kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom. The front of the apartment faced out onto the garden.

Behind the garage, was the main house. When opening the front door, you had to go up a flight of stairs and this lead into the enormous kitchen, bigger than I have ever seen in France. Through the kitchen was a terrace that had been closed off and made into a large living room which looked out onto the garden. Just off from the kitchen was the master bedroom, a large closet (also rare in France) and a bathroom. Just off to the other side of the kitchen was the second flight of stairs up to the next floor. On this floor was the library (my dream, my dream) another bedroom, another closet and another bathroom.

We couldn’t believe how huge it was. The view of the town was in every room and it is situated not far from the church so we could hear the church bells ringing!

Michael was instantly all about this house. It was entirely made out of stone. The flooring in most of the house was this beautiful colored tile (very provincial) and the space was great, PLUS the apartment for having guest. I was in love with the furniture, some of it was ridiculously old.

There were, however, a few problems in the house due to it being vacant and old. Three of the main problems were that there was an exterior wall (that encompassed the apartment bedroom, the master bedroom and the upstairs bedroom) that had a leak in it coming down from the roof and it was damaged pretty badly. It was going to be a pain to fix. Another problem was a large crack in the side of the house that seemed to be getting larger as the house shifted. Lastly the entire house needed to be completely rewired (for this is was only a money problem since Dude is an electrician by trade-nothing like free labor!). Even with those three obstacles in mind, we told the agent “SOLD” and went off with him to make the “you Americans are the biggest suckers for France” deal.

When we got to the agency we were told that we had to submit what the French call an “offre d’achat” which means an offer to buy the house. Here in France, it is very common for the listed price to include the agency fees. In that case the house will be listed as “frais d’agence inclus”, this is very important to look out for. When making the offer you need to include what you are willing to pay in total including the agency fees. Then the agent sends this off to the buyer. Since the house needed some “tender loving care”, we offered them about 20 000 Euros less than asking price. Now we had to wait.

The next day, agent man called and said that our offer was not accepted, but they were willing to raise us 8 000 Euros more than our offer and throw in the super cool, ancient furniture. He said it was a brother and sister selling it and they had some arguing to do before coming up with a counter offer. I said I would talk to Dude and call him right back.

I couldn’t even finish my sentence and Dude said “yes-go for it”. Seriously, he had to think more about saying “I do” on our wedding day that about this!

I called agent man back and said, “It’s a deal. What do we do?” It turns out all we had to do was right down that we accepted their counter offer with the furniture included and then sign it and send it off to him. What? No formal paper work involved? Just a plain piece of white paper with my signature? Whatever. So that is just what I did and with that we were ready to make the deal.

We were also informed that if French is not your first language, by law, an official translator is to be there at the signing of the “compromis” (the official “I am buying the house” document) and also the closing escrow signing. Where the heck do I find an official translator? Agent man said, “No worries. I will find one for you.” Cool beans.

Fast forward to May. The deal was taking longer than expected. It had been a month and we had heard no news on what the heck was happening.

Here is some background for you: Another crazy thing about France is once all parties are in agreement, you have to go to a notaire and sign what is called “a compromis”. This is the solidifying thing. We were told by some friends of ours that we should have our own notaire. They are the ones who protect the interest of each party. If you have the same notaire as the buyer your interest might not be well protected and you could end up signing forms that will, in the end, burn you. Lesson to you, find your own notaire. I had found ours by simply asking my company’s accountant. She gave me the name of someone she new, we called her up and, bam, she was our notaire.

So back to the signing of the “compromis”. Before you can get to this point, the seller’s notaire draws up all the documents about what the conditions are for the sale of the house. Mind you, they can put in anything they want (even ask for your first born). Once the document is drawn up, it is sent to the buyer’s notaire for either a “yay” or “nay”. In our case, it was a “nay”. Apparently, the seller’s notaire stuck a bunch of crap in the document that totally favored them and would blind side us so our notaire rewrote some things and the war was on. Because the seller’s were being a big pain and were having difficulties agreeing to things, it held up our signing. Normally, it takes about 2 weeks from offer to signing. We were now into week 5 with no end in sight. We talked to our agent and he agreed that it was taking too long and said he would see how much longer the holdup was gonna be. In the mean time, Dude and I had done our due diligence and had gone to the bank and were already pre-qualified. I didn’t want it to be our fault that things were taking so long!

Finally we heard from our notaire and the date to sign the “compromis” was set for 12 May. During our waiting period, Dude was worried about the ever growing crack in the side of the house. I contacted the agent and said that we would like for someone to go out to the house and take a look at it. He gave us the name of a person who “professionalized” in this. This is an ever growing problem with stone houses here in France. The fix it man went to the house with the agent and Michael to talk it over. Fix it man took a look around and then told Michael that it wasn’t really that big of a deal. Ohhh kay….

The big day for the signing had arrived. Michael and I took off for Marseille and we were met by agent man, the translator and our notaire. Normally the sellers are there, too, but they live on the other side of France and so we were having a two-step signing process. The signing of the compromise took two hours all together. The reason why it took doubly longer than usual was because our translator had to re-say in English everything the notaire was telling us in French. Good grief! I do have to say, it is a very good idea to have a translator there, you need to know what exactly is in a document before signing it. Especially one that is going to bind you legal for all eternity! Plus it allows you to ask questions, as well. Normally, the escrow process in France is about 3 months which means that from the date you sign the “compromis”, it should take about 3 months to finish the whole process before the final escrow. Our notaire and the seller’s notaire had written down that our escrow would be done and ready for the final signature on 12 July, two months away instead of three. This was because it had taken so long to get the “compromis” done and going into mid-July, we would be running into “les grands vacances” which could hold everything up. We agreed and set the date.

One stipulation for the closing of escrow was that if we didn’t receive the loan from the bank, we were not bound by law to buy the house. This is very important and if wanting to buy a house in France, you had better make sure this is written into the “compromis”. If not, you will be bound by law to buy the house even if you don’t get the loan. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t happen to have enough money in my back pocket to outright by a house!

Once everything was said and done and agreed to, Dude and I had to sign a bazillion pieces of paper (front and back). Oh, how the French love their paper! Then we all shook hands and agreed to see each other again on 12 July for the final deal. We then had a 7 day period to back out. If in the course of the next seven days from the date of signing the “compromis” Dude or I decided we didn’t want to go through with it, we could back out, no harm done. Only the buyer has this option to back out. The seller does not.

With that finished, our paper work was sent off to the sellers for their John Hancock.

We were told that when the seller’s signed the “compromis”, a copy of it was to be sent separately to both Dude and I (cuz cutting down trees in France for extra stuff is no big deal). We would each receive in our letter box a registered receipt saying that we had to go to the post office to pick up our documents. Well, 10 days later, the registered receipt came and Dude and I went to go pick up the “you are a dumb American and just bought a French fixer-upper” documents.

We were told by our agent at the bank that we needed to give her a copy so she could start the loan process. So we made an appointment and ran those over to her straight away. All was good on that.

Dude still wasn’t happy about the crack in the side of the house so while all this was going on, we spoke to the agent to have his fix-it man go back out to the house and give us a quote. Since this is France and everything takes 100 times longer than usual, the fix it man wasn’t able to go out to the house to make a quote for how much this sucker was gonna cost until 6 June! Gosh! Cuz I got all the time in the world, thank you very much!

All we could do now is wait. Wait on the quote, wait on the bank, and wait for the final signing. I kept telling myself that “patience is a virtue”. I tell you, by the time this was over, I was gonna be so virtuous that Jesus’ disciples would pale in comparison.

To be continued………………….

Gross Child’s Game

While browsing the game aisle in Carrefour one night, I came across this game for kids. It was so disgusting that I stood there for about 10 minutes just mulling it over and trying to come up with a reason why some one would even invent this game!

I am appalled at any one who would BUY this game for their kids! It actually says on the box that the object of the game is “to pull the green from his nose”! That’s just sick, in my opinion. Every time I even look at this picture my gag reflex just gets going.

Thank goodness I’ve never seen it advertised on TV. I don’t want to know how it works.

Can’t this company think of anything more education for kids to do with their time than this! What is even the point? What do you even win?

After grabbing my attention for long enough to contemplate all this, I snapped my photo (thinking no one would believe me if I told them with no proof) and walked away shaking my head. Needless to say, my shopping basket didn’t leave the store full that night. Some how my appetite flew the coup.

System D

System D is what the French do when they need something to work right or go well, but have no conventional way to do it. They just kind of…… find a way. We, in the states, would call it Mickey Mousing it.

Today, Dude and I did a System D and I am quite proud of it. While I was at work today, I accidently threw an unopened bill I received into the recycle bin. Now some of you might think, “Boy, I want to do that every time a bill comes in the mail to me!” and others are thinking, “What is so big about that? Just take it out!”

Well getting it out of the recycle bin is harder than it looks. See, there is this company here called Beaver 13 Exploitation. Yes, I know, the name is weird and says nothing as to what the heck this company even does and no, they don’t exploit 13 beavers. They are in charge of coming once a month to get everything out of the recycle bin that we throw into it.

Anyway, we have this waist high box in the office made out of wood that was given to us by Beaver and you throw your recycled paper into a tiny slit in the top of the box. Once in, you can’t retrieve your stuff because the slit is too small for your hand to go through and there is a lock on the box that only the guy who comes to the office to get the recycled material has.

Problem for me cuz I need my bill back even if I don’t want it.

So what do I do? You guessed it. I yelled over to Dude to come help me fix this issue. Then our thinking caps went on.

First we grabbed a flashlight to look into the box to see if we could spot the one bill I needed amongst all the stuff I didn’t. As luck would have it, we saw it! I then tried to put my hand in the box just on the off chance it might be small enough. Didn’t happen.

So I took a quick look around the office and, as luck would have it, I had two plastic rulers on my desk. So I told Dude that we should tape the two rulers together in order to poke around in the box to find my prized bill.

I got the packing tape and did just that. Then Dude had the awesome idea to put a piece of tape on the end with the sticky side out so we could make the envelope stick to the ruler and then pull the bill out. Brilliant, I tell you.

I’m sure glad we were the only ones in the office at the time, cuz I think we looked pretty stupid all hunched over this wooden box with a flashlight and taped together rulers. But guess what! It worked! Dude was able to make the envelope stick to the tape and we pulled it right out the box! I was so excited especially after I saw who the bill was from! VIP, I tell you.

This is proof that paying attention when MacGyver is on TV is very important. I knew watching that show wasn’t a mistake.

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