Walking on a Dream (Back in London)

This past year has been amazing! I’ve done more this year than many people get to do in the course of their lifetime. I went to ten different shows – the musicals: Miss Saigon, The Lion King, Billy Elliot, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Bend it like Beckham, Mamma Mia, Guys & Dolls, the play: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and the opera: Tristan & Isolde. I went to a handful of concerts: Weird Al, 2Cellos, Hans Zimmer, Ellie Goulding & John Newman, Mika, and Close Talker. I went to eight countries other than England and Canada: Morocco, Scotland, Austria, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, and Spain. And I have plenty of things that I can now cross off my bucket list (not that I have a bucket list.. but maybe I should start one!) – I did the Colour Run, stepped over the Greenwich Prime Meridian, went to the Forbidden Nights show, toured Cadbury World, went to Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford-upon-Avon, explored the Heineken brewery, and the Steigl brewery, AND the De Halve Maan brewery, I donated my hair!, went on the Sound of Music tour, attended the Chocolate show and the Coffee Festival, watched TWO Rugby World Cup games!, rode a camel, climbed a windmill, made it on a website as a ‘model’ (woot woot!), cruised Loch Ness, visited Mozart’s birthplace, went to Africa!, enjoyed a flamenco show, went to the oldest zoo in Europe, cruised down the Thames, met Rebel Wilson, and drove across western Canada. And that’s all I can think of, but it’s already quite a list! When I compare this life to what I think my life would have been like if I stayed in Canada, I can only think that I’ve done everything right, and I plan to continue taking opportunities as they come my way. I just love life! And all of these things completely overpower any lows that I may feel at different points of the year. Being a teacher is not what defines me or my year. When I look back on the past year, the last thing that comes to mind is my crappy teaching experience, or my crappy landlord experience, or the transitions to living in London. These are all memories that I’ve pushed far, far back into my mind and I’ve been able to recharge in Canada and start this year with a new frame of mind.
When I came back from Canada, I arrived at my flat at about 2pm, which was 7am Saskatoon time. I was SO exhausted, and decided I could take a nap for JUST a half hour. I set an alarm and passed right out. Well, I must have kept pressing the snooze button to the point where my phone stopped ringing and I woke up hearing voices outside of my room. I legitimately thought that it was the next morning but upon checking my phone, it was about 7:30pm. I was extremely thankful that my flatmates ended up waking me up at that point because I likely would have ended up sleeping until 3 or 4 in the morning. I stayed up until midnight that night and decided not to set an alarm since I already had 5.5 hours of sleep, and I was hoping I could at least sleep until 6am. Bad idea.. I ended up waking up at 2pm the next day – 14 hours of sleep later, plus the 5.5 I had before! I nearly spent a full day sleeping. The worst part is I COULD have kept sleeping as I was still so exhausted, but I made myself get up. I went out to get much-needed groceries, and spent the rest of the evening in. The next day, I was going to FriendsFest with Kim. We decided to go right when it opened, meaning I’d have to get up at about 8am the next morning. Due to the fact that I had SO much sleep the night before, I couldn’t sleep at all that night! I tried

In Monica and Rachel’s Kitchen

everything and ended up just getting mad at myself when it was 5am and I was still wide awake. Needless to say, I wasn’t the most energetic person on Sunday. At FriendsFest, they had most of the sets from the TV show ‘Friends,’ including Monica and Rachel’s apartment, Coffee Perks, Chandler and Joey’s apartment, the wedding chapel that Ross and Rachel got married in, and the diner that Monica worked in. It was pretty cool to see everything, and they had a huge screen playing clips from Friends all day long!

The next day was the first day of school so I had to get into my usual routine of getting up, being ready by 7, and waiting for a phonecall. I didn’t get work on Monday, so I went back to bed for a couple hours, but then kept snoozing my alarm until it stopped. So again, I couldn’t get to sleep that night and I was wide awake 4am on Tuesday morning. I didn’t get work on Tuesday either, but I also didn’t let myself nap because I was scared that I was getting into a bad habit. However, on Wednesday, I couldn’t even get up that morning, even though I went to bed at 11pm the night before. I decided to not call in to work, and went back to bed and slept until 1:30 – another 14 hours of sleep. This pattern continued until the weekend, until I finally got back into the hang of things (thank goodness!). It was definitely my worst jetlag yet. I ended up getting a call on Thursday night that I had work for Friday (yay!), and then when I was halfway there, my agent called and said the school had cancelled… So no work that week! I wasn’t really expecting any, and I still had enough in my bank account to last me for a couple more weeks. That Saturday night, I went to the Billy Joel concert! This was actually what made me decide that I’d be coming back to London

Billy!

for another year. I booked the ticket back in December, and I remember thinking that if I got the ticket, it would mean I’d definitely have to come back. It seemed like such a big decision at the time, but now I see it as a no-brainer. Billy Joel was great! He was actually really funny, and very personable. I got quite emotional being able to see him play. The one thing that didn’t work out in my favour was that I decided I wanted to buy a t-shirt but all of the debit machines were down so I went to ask where the atm was, and the guy said they didn’t have any. What kind of arena doesn’t have an atm machine?! So I didn’t get a Billy Joel shirt 😦

The next week, I got work on Monday at an absolutely amazing school – probably the best school I’ve been to so far! That evening, I met up for drinks and dinner with our family-friend Karen, who was in London to see her boyfriend (who’s British) and meet his family and friends. Therefore, I got to meet a lot of his friends as well! The night was a lot of fun! We had drinks at a pub and then went to a fancy restaurant at the OXO tower, and it had a beautiful view of the river. It was a two-course meal, so I got rabbit as an appetizer, and had salmon for my main dish. It was delicious! We were there for quite awhile and I started losing energy at about 11:30, when I realized I still had to get up at 6 the next morning and the last train was due in about a half hour. We asked for the bill and I was shocked when I saw that it was about 780 pounds! As they do in Britain, we split the bill evenly 12 ways, but even that amount was more than a week’s worth of groceries, and I hadn’t gotten paid in two and a half months. I was having a silent panic attack, trying to figure out if I could go without food for the next couple of weeks when Brian generously (and thankfully!) offered to pay for my portion. I got back home at about 1 and was able to have about 4.5 to 5 hours of sleep – nothing that I wasn’t

Kyoto Garden

used to after my week of jet lag! I didn’t get work for the next three days, so I decided to start leaving the house since I had spent the whole week before in bed. I explored the Kyoto garden on Tuesday, which was small but absolutely gorgeous and then I went and checked out Little Venice on Wednesday. That evening, I went to a science talk at a pub – the event was called ‘Scibar,’ and it was called “Why do we die?” The talk was extremely interesting, and he mentioned that our bodies get about 1000 cancer cells per day, and it’s our body’s job to fight them – some people’s bodies doing a better job than others’. He also said that chances of dying increase when an organism enters its reproductive stage or becomes sexually active, because of complications during pregnancy, during childbirth, and the energy that’s used (and lost) when competing for a mate. Therefore, menopause is nature’s way of prolonging life for women since those chances of dying increase even more with age, so stopping a woman’s ability to get pregnant is nature’s way of helping her live longer. And humans are apparently 1 of 2 species who have menopause. So pretty cool! Going to the Scibar talk was so invigorating, and I realized how much I’ve missed learning! On Friday, I got another day of work (yay, 2 days this week!) at another good school.

The next week, I got another two days of work – on Monday and Wednesday. By that point, I was starting to freak out since rent would be due the following week. When I left for

Little Venice

Canada, I set aside money for August and September rent, not even thinking that I’d need October rent because I assumed I’d be working in September. However, with only four days of work in three weeks, I wasn’t even sure if I’d make it. Luckily, I did but I went down to a measly 19 pounds in my bank account. That Monday night, I met up with Karen and Brian again before they went back to Canada the next day. We went to a nice Italian restaurant and had a good visit before having to say our final goodbyes. On Wednesday night, I decided to start up my gym membership again because I was constantly feeling tired and sedentary, and I needed something to get me going again. That Friday night, I went to Ricky Martin with Kim! We had dinner and drinks first, and then made our way to the concert. While it was nice seeing Ricky, we only knew about three songs and it seemed like the entire audience was from Argentina and Venezuela (actually though, Ricky asked where everyone was from), so everyone was singing along to all of the Spanish songs except for us. It was still a good concert though! The next day, I went to

Ricky!

New Scientist Live, which was basically an exhibition of a bunch of science stuff, with lots of talks during the day. I just decided to go to all of the talks, so I went to one about human impact on global warming, gene editing, helping the immune system beat cancer, what makes us moral, diy dna, and antibiotics. They were really interesting, but I started to tire towards the end and that’s when I realized (ironically at the talk about antibiotics) that I was getting sick. I went to Trafalgar Square to check out Malaysia Night, but I just ended up having dinner there before heading home to rest.

The next week, my contract finally started (so I was guaranteed pay, even if they didn’t find me work), and magically, I had a full week of work at the same school. It’s a school I’ve worked at before that I don’t like because all of the students seem really preppy and have a “better than thou” attitude, so everything’s always a fight. My agent told me that the head of science would be coming in to observe one of my lessons, which I thought was a little weird since I was only staying there for the week. I arrived at the school and no one knew what I was supposed to be doing because the head of science was running late and the assistant head wasn’t in that day, so the science technician gave me a list of classes to teach. I was in the same classroom the entire day so I taught period 1, and then had period 2 off. I decided to just stay in the classroom so that if anyone needed me, I’d be easy to find. However, once period 3 started, the head of science came in with another supply teacher and said that she was teaching there. I was so confused and asked what I was supposed to do, and he said I should have observed another lesson during period 2 so I could teach that same lesson during the present period, and didn’t anyone tell me? Nope, I was completely unaware that was supposed to happen. Anyway, I went into the other classroom but the other teacher took over teaching (which I was completely fine with since I had absolutely no idea what they were doing), and after about ten minutes, the head of science asked to talk to me in the hall and apologized for wasting my time but he didn’t think it was worth observing me during this lesson. I, of course, didn’t really care since it’s not like I was hoping to get a job there or anything. But then, he said that I could spend the rest of the period planning a lesson for the last period of the day, on a topic that I knew nothing about because we’ve never learnt it in Canada. Anyway, I planned the lesson, taught it, and after school, the head of science said that he’d really like to hire me to take over the maternity leave position. Um… what? I explained that I wasn’t looking for a short- or long-term position, and he said he understood – he has friends from abroad and he knows that teaching isn’t our first priority when living abroad, but the position would only be the rest of September, October, and November. He asked if I’d at least stay until the end of the week, which I said of course since I had already agreed to it, and he said to let him know what I thought at the end of the week. I was ticked off with my agent for putting me in such an awkward position, since I’ve been clear from the beginning that I only want to do day-to-day supply, and I wasn’t looking for any short-term positions. Anyway, on Tuesday, I did a normal day of supply teaching and then on Wednesday and Thursday, all they wanted me to do was shadow the teacher that I’d be taking over – basically sit in the classroom and help out if necessary. The days were so much longer since I was essentially doing nothing, and watching how the students treated this teacher – a guy who’s been teaching for 7 years – I knew the students would walk all over me. There were so many kids who put up a fight for no reason at all – one student who refused to sit down at the beginning of class, boys who wouldn’t do any work and would just talk back to the teacher the whole time, and then the one that really got me – one boy who came into class after ten minutes, walked into class while “talking on the phone,” which just ended up being an empty phone case. The teacher told him to leave the room and go straight to head of science and the kid was like, “But it’s not even a real phone! No, I’m not going.” And finally, I stepped in, “No, you’re deliberately trying to make him mad. You’re carrying around an empty cell phone case, and for what reason? To get a reaction out of him.” The teacher asked me to escort the student to head of science and the student left while yelling, “I don’t even care! You’re a lousy teacher! You’re done at the end of the week anyway, she’s our new teacher now.” And I kindly explained on the way to the other classroom that, “Actually, you’ve done a good job of convincing me that I wouldn’t want to accept a job here. So congratulations!” I wrote my agent after school that day that I wouldn’t be working there for longer than one week and that he should let the school know so that they can look for someone who’s actually interested in the job. I felt guilty because I was wasting the school’s time (and money), and all I was doing was sitting in classrooms, watching and doing nothing. My agent basically told me to keep my mouth shut until the end of the week, because he didn’t want me to let on that I wasn’t interested. However, towards the end of the next day, I couldn’t take it anymore. The science department asked me to stay after school for their weekly meeting so I could be prepared for the following weeks, and then I kept being asked what I was going to be teaching next week and what labs I’d need prepared. Finally, I pulled the head of science aside and told him that I wasn’t going to be staying longer than a week. “Like this week or next week?” “I want Friday to be my last day.” “Like this Friday, or next Friday?” Seriously?! “This Friday.” The Head of Science looked genuinely surprised and disappointed, and I felt so bad and hated my agent for putting me into that situation in the first place. Obviously he was keeping information from both of us and telling each of us what we both wanted to hear, and I wasn’t impressed at all. Anyway, the Friday was a normal day of supply and it made me SO glad that I didn’t agree to anymore time. One of the year 10’s came into the classroom and the first thing he did was turned on the sink on full blast and put his hand under the tap so that the water sprayed everywhere. I immediately told him to get out and go to head of science. The kids were doing a practical that involved elastic bands, so you can imagine how that turned out. They didn’t do any work, basically played with the elastic bands the whole time, kept leaving the classroom without permission, and were overall just rude. And then they blamed me because they didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing for the last half hour… I talked to the class afterwards and told them how rude they had been and that I had been asked to stay here and take over a position, and that any teacher who had to deal with their behaviour that day would be CRAZY to agree to deal with it again. “Wait, so you were going to be our teacher…?” “It was a possibility, yes. I wasn’t ‘just a supply teacher..’ You have to think about the first impressions you’re making, because if you keep acting like this to supply teachers, then that’s all you’re ever going to have.” I saw the thoughts going through their heads and the recognition of how they had made a mistake, but hopefully they’ll know to act better for next time. After school, my agent texted me and said, “The school doesn’t have anyone else for science at the minute. Is there any chance you could do 1 more week? I can pay you 20 pounds more each day if you could do it, it would be amazing.” I had no problem replying, “Especially after today, my answer is absolutely not. I don’t think there’s any amount of money you could pay me to go back. Sorry, I just want to go back to day-to-day.” And that’s what he gave me… for a week anyway. That weekend, I got to meet up with our family friend, Dave, who I’ve seen four times now since I’ve moved to London. We also met up with his son’s friend, who lives in London now, and who I haven’t seen since I was 15. We went to a great steak restaurant, and then went out for a few drinks afterwards; it was nice seeing some familiar faces again!
The next week, I was doing general cover the whole week. Twice, I went to one of the boys schools that I used to always work at (Monday and Wednesday). On Tuesday, I worked at a girls school and then my agent had set me up for an interview at another girls school later that afternoon. I should have made it to my interview with over an hour to spare, but at the end of the school day, all of the girls were asked to go to their homerooms and wait there until further instruction. Someone was guarding the door to leave the school and when I asked what was going on, they informed me that the station across the street (which is also a bus terminal and a mall) had received a suspicious package and the entire area was evacuated. I went outside and there was a big crowd of people surrounding yellow security tape. The police had closed off all of the roads, and a voice went on overhead, “This is an evacuation; everyone is to leave the premises immediately,” and went on repeat over and over again. People weren’t even allowed to leave their office buildings! I stood there with the crowd for a bit, wondering what I was going to do and called my agent to let him know that things weren’t going to go smoothly. The police did a controlled explosion and opened the roads again after about 10-15 minutes and everyone rushed to get to the underground, but the mall still wasn’t open. I decided to walk to the next station (about 20 minutes away) and catch the underground over there. On my way there, I figured that all of the tubes would be held up anyway, so maybe it would be best for me to take the bus. I hopped on one, but traffic was so horrible. I got off after about 45 minutes, running to the closest tube station and I ended up making it to the school five minutes late for my interview. This school wanted me for an eight day supply (Monday to Thursday for two weeks) but wanted to interview me first, which I thought was kind of weird. The interview was with the Deputy Head and the Head of Science, and they asked me so many questions, from what has went wrong in one of my lessons, to what experiments I would do for certain subjects. I wasn’t too concerned about it because it’s not like I was looking for a short- or long-term position anyway, so I may have answered the questions a little TOO honestly – about London school systems, respect levels of London kids, etc. and they assured me that I wouldn’t have to spend any time dealing with behaviour management. Yeah, I’ve heard that one before… I was about to leave when someone came and said that the Headmaster would like to speak with me. I went to see her in her huge office and got to sit on one of the couches in the sitting area of her office. She was one of those typical British women that you see on TV, who are so prim and proper, with the accent and the smile that looks like it hurts. I didn’t actually know women like that existed! Anyway, I was also honest with her about the reason why I’ve chosen not to do long-term teaching (because I’m not going to put in time and effort to do lesson planning if it goes unappreciated, and so far I haven’t found a school that I would feel respected at). I clearly did these interviews not trying to impress anyone, and I was still somewhat upset with my agent for putting me in another situation like this. I finished talking with her and then I went to leave, and the secretary was just like, “Oh, just wait one minute!” She turned around and grabbed an envelope, “Here’s the money for your transportation here and back home.” Wow! That’s never happened before.. I got a call from my agent about an hour later, saying that the school would like to have me for the 8 days, as well as have me on Thursday of that week so I could get acquainted with everything. I agreed to it and instantly after, I regretted it and started having mini panic attacks about how I had just signed my life away. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not.. I know, so dramatic, but obviously I have major problems committing to things. I went on Thursday and watched one class, and then spent the rest of the day talking to the head of science, talking to the teacher I’d be taking over for (who was going on jury duty), talking to people about safeguarding and being a homeroom teacher, and setting up an account with the IT guys. I had to fill out a bunch of forms and one of the blanks I had to fill in stated: ‘Peripatetic teacher for:’ Well, I had to look THAT one up! This school meant business.. AND when one of the teachers said, “Are you ready for lunch?”, I said yes and went to grab my bag, but she said, “Come on then!”, and took me down to the cafeteria, where I got free lunch(!) that day and for the two weeks that I was there. This school was spoiling me and I had only been there for one day. I went back to a pretty bad school on Friday, so it made the weekend worth it. That week was also quite busy in terms of social events! On Monday, I went to a BBC Radio show with my flatmate, and it was done by Lemn Sissay, who was apparently the official poet of the 2012 Olympics (Don’t worry, I didn’t know that was a thing either..). He talked about how so many characters in books and movies are missing one or both of their parents (Katniss from Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Superman, etc.) and compared it to the realities of living in foster care (he grew up in the foster system). It was a really interesting talk, and also very enlightening. That Thursday, I went to Book of Mormon with Becky and her friend, which was amazing! The cast that I saw was great and while there were parts that took the jokes a BIT too far, all-in-all it was very entertaining. On Saturday, I went to a talk called, “Introversion Explained,” and it talked about how everyone has both introvert and extrovert qualities, but everyone favours being one over the other. I learned that introverts prefer to communicate in writing, which probably shouldn’t surprise me, and they digest information thoroughly, stay on task longer, give up less easily, and they’re more accurate. On Sunday, I prepared for the following week since I’d be teaching a bunch of stuff that I wasn’t too familiar with (at the school, I had taken on a Chemistry position but some of it was the upper level stuff that I hadn’t seen in about four years). The first week was okay, but the days were a lot longer than I was used to and the travel to get to and from the school sucked. I had to leave my house by 7 and sometimes, I would hardly make it for 8:30. The Heads weren’t lying though; the behaviour was amazing and I only had to tell one student to stop talking! The week seemed extremely long so on Friday, I was very thankful when I was asked to go to a boys school closeby. The day finished 50 minutes earlier than the other school, and I was home by the time I would have left the other school. That Thursday, I went to the Empire of the Sun concert,

Empire of the Sun

which wasn’t really what I was expecting. I had listened to all of their music while I was living in France and all of the reviews said that seeing them in concert was awesome, so I figured I should go. However, the style was some kind of random, techno, electric, odd performance – I don’t even know how to describe it but it went so over the top that many times, I was just like WTF. As the guy standing in front of me yelled over to his friend, “This is f***ing weird!” And I couldn’t agree more. It was still nice to be there though, and it was great to listen to the songs that I knew! On Saturday, I went to The Chocolate Show and I got to try all of the chocolate that I wanted before I went to Kim’s for a Thanksgiving dinner. There were 11 of us there, and it was complete with all of the staples – turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, broccoli salad, pumpkin pie… it was delicious! On Sunday, I spent most of the day carving my pumpkin.

The next week, I was at the same school from Monday to Thursday. This was the last week before my holidays so I was glad to have those days booked so I didn’t have to worry about finding work. That week was a lot more enjoyable and seemed to go by a lot faster for some reason.. maybe because the girls were all writing tests most

Thanksgiving dinner

of the week. I was just shocked as to how the girls actually WANTED to learn, and they sped through all of the work like crazy! I wasn’t expecting it so oftentimes, I had to come up with more stuff for the girls to do at the top of my head. That week, my agent called about another long-term position at a different girls school (which I actually worked at today), and I declined. I was really starting to get annoyed because it was the third time he had tried to set me up with a long-term position in three weeks, and that was one of the main reasons why I switched agencies last year. He spent about ten minutes trying to convince why I’d want a long-term position – how I’d have references when I’m looking for jobs in Canada, that when I go back to Canada, I won’t get hired as easily just having “Supply” on my resume, blablabla. That made me extremely mad and I almost lost it, wanting to say, “How do you know what I want? Who says I’m even going to teach back in Canada?” But I figured I should just keep that to myself. I decided to just go with, “I just want to do day-to-day supply.” “But it would look so good on a resume..” “I’m not here for the experience, I’m here for the opportunities that I can have while being here.” “But the references…” “Again, I’m not here for the experience.” “But you did that last year.” “Yeah… and I want to do it again this year.” I think he finally got the point. On Wednesday evening, I went to another BBC Radio show called The Kitchen Cabinet, where a panel focuses on certain foods – this show was about custard, port wine, and pumpkins. I even got a Portuguese egg tart, and got a free glass of wine to go with it! When I went to the gym one evening, I decided to make a stop at the grocery store on the way home. I was in such a rush, I threw my debit card in my pocket after purchasing my stuff and then ran for the train, just as it started to pour. I made it to the train station and as I was running to the platform, something in my head told me to check my pockets to make sure I had everything. I could feel my Oyster card, but I couldn’t find my debit. I began to panic and ran to an empty chair where I could unload my backpack and check the pockets and then check my jacket once more. It was gone. I went into freakout mode and decided to retrace my steps and walk back to the grocery store with my groceries in the rain. It was dark out by that point so I looked as best I could, and I got all the way to the door but didn’t find it. I started kicking myself, as I couldn’t afford to go without money while waiting for a new card to come in the mail. All I could think about was how someone else was probably happily using my card, tapping every purchase they could. Feeling defeated, I slowly started to walk back to the train station. As I was walking, something shiny caught my eye, and I saw a silver rectangle to the side, under the bike rack. Hopeful, I ran to it and flipped it over to see my name on the front of the card! I couldn’t believe my luck! The chances of finding a card on a sidewalk in one of the busiest places in London is almost slim to none. Someone must have accidentally kicked or biked it to the side, out of sight. It got completely worn out, the letters on it are totally squished down and the ends of it are frayed, but it still works!

Today, I wasn’t too sure if I would get work or not since it was the last day before the holidays. However, I ended up getting a call around 8 asking me to go to a girls school, which was actually the very first school I ever went to in London. Well, today was the longest day ever and I was losing my mind with the students. I know it was the day before holidays, but none of the students wanted to do anything and then instead of just sitting and talking, they kept fooling around and being extremely disruptive and loud. The worst part was the end of the day, when I had a class of 45 year 12 students. Normally year 12s are my favourite, but these ones were something else… I ended up writing an email to the headmaster about the behaviour. On the plus side of today, one year 9 student just out of the blue was like, “Miss, I really like your nose.” “What, really? I don’t think anyone’s ever said that to me before…” “Well, it’s a nice nose..” “Well thank you.. you know, I was teased during my whole childhood about my nose and I’ve always been really self-conscious about it, even to this day.” “What?! Why would people tease you about your nose?” “I don’t know, but it’s always been something that’s bothered me.” “Well, I would LOVE your nose; I don’t like my nose!” It’s funny how those insecurities can stay with you for the rest of your life, and how a simple compliment that would seem so meaningless can actually make your day. Anyway, tomorrow I’m on my way to Romania for the week so that should be fun! I still need to pack and it’s almost my bedtime.. I hope everyone enjoys the last of their October! Love always
Walking on a Dream – Empire of the Sun

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