Back in DC!!

Couldn’t help but to come back to the Nation’s Capital for another function!!

Gandhi once said: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ I think these seminars and internships have helped exemplify this statement, giving each and every one of us the necessary tools to be that change.”

The most exciting part of all these experiences I am having is the chance to hear from amazing speakers that most people just get to see on TV or read about

An academic seminar at The Washington Center is experiential learning at its finest. Gather with other students to explore, debate, and study every angle of the important topics the world is talking about. You wouldn’t get less than a in-depth education from site visits and tours, panel interviews, group discussions, lectures from distinguished speakers and sometimes fieldwork in a specific field.

During this upcoming seminar we learn more about the role international institutions and organizations play in the evolving global order and how modern weaponry and technological advancements affect the future of war and policy. Furthermore the role social networking and Web 2.0 technologies play in national security and the tools the government is using and developing to combat terrorism.

Top Secret: Challenges to National Security in a Global Society taking place from May 15-21, 2011 in Washington, DC. Through this seminar, offered in partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), I will explore the inner workings of the U.S. national security landscape with nationally recognized journalists, politicians, political analysts and scholars as your guide.

Participants will expand their knowledge of American and international politics through visits to: Executive Agencies, Think Tanks, Embassies, Media Organizations. Other escusions include, The National Counterterrorism Center, and Federal Bureau of Investigation

Under the direction of Faculty Director Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, Director of CSIS’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program, we will be meeting and engaging with nationally and internationally recognized public officials and business professionals, as well as develop your sense of civic engagement and enhance your leadership skills.

Past speakers include: Deputy Assistant Attorney General Department of Justice, Director of the National Counter Terrorism Center, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Directorate of Intelligence, FBI, Deputy Director of National Intelligence, and Homeland Security Advisor to President Bush.

Looking forward to a great two weeks!!!!

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Reflections on DC and Metro

This is it. The end is here. I figured this would be a good opportunity for me to bestow part one of my words of wisdom upon any prospective or future TWC students and other people interested in internships in DC.

The Metro is your friend. Buy a Smartcard as quickly as possible. It is extremely convenient for when you go out and have to use the Metro. Read the maps. Don’t stand on the left side of the escalator – you will get plowed out of the way by an angry rider or two. Don’t take it personal. It’s just the way it is.

READ THE NEWSPAPER! The Express is handed out for free every single weekday morning. Read it and know it!! All current local, national, and international events are in there. All sorts of gossip, showtimes, and similar things are as well. You’ll be the only person who is out of the loop when your coworkers and friends are talking about the day’s hot topics.

Use for grocery delivery when you have to buy a ton of food. They bring it to you and sometimes you can use coupons. It’s a pain to try to carry a ton of food around, so having someone do all the work for you is a plus.

SIGHTSEE! Go check out all the free stuff! You never know what you’re gonna find. The Smithsonian Museums are all free, there are monuments, and oodles more to do. Go to random Metro stops and just wander around! Check out the following spots: Eastern Market (on Saturdays and Sundays), Gallery Place-Chinatown, King Street, Adams Morgan. These are just a few of the many places that are awesome down here

DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND YOUR PORTFOLIO. Repeat. Read that again. The portfolio is a sneaky little monster that will creep up on you your last weekend here while you are trying to do some last minute sight seeing and going out with your friends. Seriously work on everything early so it doesn’t ruin your fun later.

Have fun! Life is short and so is your internship experience. It’s what you make of it. If you spend your time just laying around and not sightseeing, then you are wasting precious moments! Go out and experience as much as you can. This is an area that is practically drenched in history.

Now I know several of my other fellow bloggers has spoken about their dismay with the Metro system in Washington. I have many of the same grievances against it as they do. I hate being pushed and shoved by people attempting to pile into a train as much as the next guy.

The subway system in DC isn’t all that bad. It is rather easy to figure out…within my first couple of days of being in DC I pretty much had it done pat. It’s that simple as compared to subway systems in …I don’t know…NEW YORK..which are ridiculous. I’ve talked to several people while I was in New York who had been living there for years and still have yet to figure out all the twists and turns of their subway system. Sheesh!

New York Subway system. Confusing huh? Yeah, I know.

DC Metro map. May look confusing now, but trust me…it’s really easy.

The Metro can also be rather entertaining. It is always fun to watch the 50-or-so-year -old man with earphones in his ear bobbing his head trying to relive his younger years or to see the thirty-year-old balding man who decided that keeping an earring in his ear was still part of the professional world. It’s also always fun to listen to tourists new to the Washington area attempting to find their way around the metro. I am often kind enough to offer my kind assistance if I can, which makes me feel like I really got this place figured out. I’m no longer the new kid on the block

Few tips that I can rattle together based on what I have experienced:

1. If you’re traveling during rush hour, during the morning or around the time you get off from around 5ish-6:30ish/7, more than likely you don’t have too much to worry about. With so many people using the system at this time, and most of them are normal, you don’t have too much going on. But still continue to scope your surroundings to make sure nothing funny is going on. You never know!

2. If you’re traveling a little later or during a time when there aren’t that many people in your train, try as hard as you can to get to a position where you can see the entire train in front of you. Ideally, sit as close to the back as you can so you have nothing or no one behind you (especially if you are a young lady as I am, but this is also a good tip for guys as well).

3. Don’t be afraid to get into the big crowds. Usually when it’s time to head home, everyone is tired and super ready to be at home. They will push you out of the way…or yell at you because you aren’t moving fast enough.

4. If someone does yell at you, don’t yell back. Not that anyone will hit you or anything (they might) but it’s just so unproductive and gets nothing solved.

5. When using the escalators, in the off-chance that they are working, always stand to the right and walk to the left if you want to pass people.

6. Going along with tip #5, don’t be surprised if almost all the escalators aren’t working. They often don’t and most times it isn’t a big deal because they are usually just the length of a normal staircase. BuT then there are the monster ecalators like the one at Dupont circle which has sooo many stairs. It sucks when those escalators are out, and yes…I have had to experience that, thanks for asking!

7. On weekends, add like 30 or so extra minutes on to your travel time if you have to use the Metro. They are always doing something during the weekends and the trains don’t run as frequently as they do during the week.

Those are just a few of the tips that I could think of. For the most part the Metro system is rather convenient.

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DISCLAIMER! This entry is going to be a tad longer than others due to my absence. Sorry Chris!

Ever single time I sit down to write a blog, the same thought keeps crossing my mind: “Wow, the weeks are going by way too fast.” This is definitely true! I have had the same routine for awhile now: wake up, work, home, dinner, shower, sleep, repeat. It may sound dull, but it’s the truth. Working a “9-to-5” (or whatever hours it may be) like an adult is probably the most exhausting thing I have ever had to do. The weather has became absolutely GORGEOUS in comparison to the extension of winter we had.

This experience was without a doubt the craziest, weirdest, strangest, most exciting time of my life. I had the opportunity to work with, live with, and become friends with people I would have never met otherwise.

For those who didn’t read from the beginning, I was an intern with the United States Secret Service and I will miss it every single day! I worked with all the departments and had the opportunity to see the “other side” of what happens in the federal government. I am grateful for interning in the USSS, as I would have never really had an understanding of the behind-the-scenes work. Administrative work definitely isn’t taught in textbooks.

I had the greatest time at my internship. I had the time of my life, as corny as that may seem. USSS was great to me. I worked with and learned from some of the most compassionate, funny, and smart people I have ever met. I am grateful that I was able to have such a fun semester. My final bit of advice about this semester that I can offer is enjoy every single day, work as hard as possible, and meet as many people as time allows. You never know where life’s crazy journey is going to take you, especially down in DC, but rest assured, the ride is worth it.

This week was probably one of my best yet!! At work, we got to tour the Secret Service Rowley Training Center. Read that again. SECRET SERVICE ROWLEY TRAINING CENTER.  It was without a doubt one of the coolest places I have ever been to. So many big names have been there, celebrities touring for background on movies, movies being SHOT there, famous agents, etc! We also got to see the famous Hogan’s Alley — which is basically a “fake town” that the agents in training simulate and role play different scenarios in: entering houses, doing traffic pull-overs, going into hotels, etc. All in all I was really thrilled to be able to go see such a well-known facility and appreciated the opportunity. It didn’t hurt that I scored myself some USSS swag…

My class that I took was Managing the American Intelligence community with Dr. Holstine. It was a great class to take because extremely interesting! I learned all about leadership theories, types of personalities, working across generations, and more. I was able to develop better study habits to bring back in the fall for my senior year. I managed to actively participate in class every single week, and was able to interact with other people who I might have never talked to in the first place.

I was able to develop and perfect leadership skills that I had not previously possessed. My class was a direct link into my development of said skills. I was able to to observe leaders in the news and compared their application of leadership to the factual knowledge that I was picking up from the classroom. I believe that I was successful in using the class to become a leader myself. I have developed more confidence as a result of the class in one semester, more than I have ever before in my life. I am certain that I will be able to take the leadership skills with me across other facets as I prepare to enter my last year of college.

I grew as an individual more in this semester than I have during any other experience so far in my life. I became far more assertive, productive, and positive seemingly overnight. By keeping myself motivated throughout the day, I was able to cut back on somewhat bad habits that I had, and this stemmed from my academic and leadership pursuits. Keeping positive throughout the day and being productive are two ways I was able to keep myself motivated to wake up every day and do work throughout the semester.

I had the greatest time at my internship. I had the time of my life, as corny as that may seem. USSS was great to me. I worked with and learned from some of the most compassionate, funny, and smart people I have ever met. I am grateful that I was able to have such a fun semester. My final bit of advice about this semester that I can offer is enjoy every single day, work as hard as possible, and meet as many people as time allows. You never know where life’s crazy journey is going to take you, especially down in DC, but rest assured, the ride is worth it.

Definitely the greatest experience I have ever had in my life thus far!

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Cherry Blossom Festivities and GREAT WEEKEND

First off, story of my day once I get back home from work! I must say I have gained a new appreciation for my parents and all they do for my brother and I since I’ve started working here in DC. It used to be as soon as my mom walked in the door from a full day of work, I would be there with the timeless question, “what’s for dinner?!” not at all thinking that she’s probably not in the mood to cook right now. I have had those days where I just did NOT feel like cooking after I got back home from work, but nevertheless, I had to because unlike lovely college years, I cannot just walk to a cafeteria where food will just appear before me. My family’s opinion has always meant so much to me but more-so now.

I must admit that this past week was probably the most tiring, annoying weeks since my arrival to Washington. Between the craziness at work, and workload for the Washington Center, it’s been difficult to manage, but all that changed over the weekend. A close group of friends came down for the 5k Cherry Blossom on Saturday. Chris and Yostina Khalil (weird calling Yostina- Khalil, Veronica Khalil {AWESOME SEEING YOU} Marina Matta, Mina Massak, and my DC neighbors George Phillips and Mark Doss. They arrived at approximately 1600hrs. 4PM (finally getting used to military timing), we hung out around the city, but we all needed to prepare mentally for RACE DAY!

I will keep the my comments brief about the race… needed to train more. PERIOD

As the spring approaches DC has both pros and cons to it…

  1. The DC cherry blossom festival arrives!
  2. The incessant sneezing begins – its allergy season and all these blooming plants definitely don’t help.
  3. You find yourself walking the few extra blocks in the morning (or at least in the afternoon) to the Metro in order to avoid switching trains, just because its finally nice out.
  4. Random tulip and daffodil gardens planted all over the city find themselves in bloom.
  5. You find you don’t necessarily need to wear that heavy overcoat you dragged into the office that morning when you step out of work to head home in the late afternoon.
  6. The weather is completely bi-polar – 75 one day, and 40 the next.  (At least we’re not as bad as the northeast.
  7. You begin to notice games of kickball and flag football taking place on the middle of the National Mall in the shadow of the Washington Monument.
  8. The plethora of fountains found throughout the city emerges from their winter-long drought.
  9. Those who prefer to bag their high-heels for the morning metro commute find themselves wearing flip-flops instead of Uggs.

10. Cyclists and runners take over the National Mall on the weekends, making it nearly impossible for those not athletically inclined to walk along it without the threat of being run over.

I’ll be going dark for the next couple of weeks for spring break and relax time…. Tune in in May!


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Promising Blossoming of Spring Edition

While it is still a weekend ahead of the National Park Services’ already bumped-up peak bloom date, this weekend past was still a marvelous opportunity to stroll through Downtown DC and over to the Tidal Basin in order to see the famous Cherry Blossom Festival.

After meeting two friends from work and combating unusually heavy weekend Metro crowds, I found myself in Downtown DC. After grabbing lunch, we headed over the National Mall to the Tidal Basin. There we found about a quarter of the trees were already in full bloom, with the rest of the blossoms just shy of coming fully into the spring air.

We wandered around the Tidal Basin, taking pictures like mad the whole way. We found ourselves first at that far-flung Greek temple to our third president, the Jefferson Memorial. After spending some time there, reading his rather radical political beliefs, now immortalized in stately carvings, we headed to the FDR Memorial. I was happy to note that the Park Service had turned on the water, which is critical in feeling the memorial’s intended effect, reflecting Roosevelt’s lifelong love of the sea.

I was also interested and pleased to see that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial is under construction. We peeked through the high construction fences surrounding the sight, only to see very minimal work has been done to date. However, the location is a quiet and beautiful one and it seems we are moving towards the final arrival of a long awaited memorial.

Washington is a unique city, with a great many movers and shakers doing business within it’s boundaries on a daily basis. The city has so much to offer, and yet perhaps it’s most valuable offering is the fact that it often hosts 535 men and women representing every corner of the country. The city pulls together some of the most educated, most interesting people in the world. The city functions as a gigantic power center, and as a living museum, a monument to the American will. For any intelligent leader with a will to effect change, all these things should amount to more of a reason not to leave.

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Week 9

If the warmer weather and blooming cherry blossoms haven’t made it clear already, the fact that we’re almost completely through the month of March points to one thing: spring has officially sprung. I was home in NJ for the weekend, and although I was busy catching up with family and friends, I didn’t expect to miss D.C. while I was in New Jersey for only a few days, but I found myself comparing the two cities quite often. Although New Jersey is great, it can almost be a little too quirky for me; D.C., on the other hand, has a more professional feel to it. It’s also a lot easier to learn the area I could never picture myself living in anywhere else but New Jersey, but I’m slowly beginning to become attached to D.C. It’s probably not a good thing, seeing as how in a little over a month, I’ll be heading back home. But, it’ll definitely bring about more opportunities later on since I won’t be restricted to one city. I have been so tired lately – I think the 8:30-5:30 job is finally beginning to take its toll. Although I’m having the greatest time in D.C., homesickness is definitely not an unfamiliar sentiment. Despite all this, I’m still trying to take in as much of the experience here as I can. I planning on the cherry blossom festival in 2 weekends, and although the anticipated exhibit is beautiful, its probably a mistake to go during the festival’s opening weekend – it was complete insanity. As a New Jerseyian, I thought I was used to large groups of tourists, but the crowd at the festival that everyone is talking about is definitely going to prove me wrong.

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Interested in learning more about Human Rights in Egypt??

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Shout out to: 433 Riva!! (Fr. Bishoy Way) BABY! AND Mena Gaballah

This is part three and four of the series that chronicles my four major tenets of my personal (non-academic) experience. The primary three new mantras are, “Do it, for you, because you want to,” say “I don’t know” when you really don’t and finally “don’t assume anything,” because I’ve learned that assuming anything about anyone or any topic is probably the number one error that many students, myself included, can make.

This entry clarifies the second tenet….saying “I don’t know” when you don’t.

Why is it so hard to just say, “I don’t know” when people ask you what you want to do in the future? It’s the question of questions that make us really want to crawl and hide when we’re not sure. 

However, we do know what we like. We know our dislikes. We still have dreams, but it seems they sometimes get lost between guidance counselors’ warnings, declaring a major and reading about salary outlooks and demand rates for various professional fields. Should I consider my standard of living when I’m contemplating further education? Do I think about my marketability first when I select a field, etc.? Well, my advice is this. Understand that you and your interests matter. You have to get up in the morning and go to work. There’s not much of it, so hopefully you’ll find a way to for your dreams and your livelihood fit to coexist in your career scheme.

You’re doing it. You’ve got interests. Your true interests matter despite the odds. Go for it whatever it may be. And if you still don’t know what “it” is, keep reflecting, soul-searching and adjusting your direction as you go along.

Finally, I’ve learned that assuming anything is probably the number one error that students can make. So the last is, “Don’t assume anything.”

My mom and friends were right when they said I wouldn’t know unless I tried. There are so many opportunities of which I could have taken advantage. I was sure that I’d enjoy the experience in DC, but I didn’t think that I’d become this completely new person taking back personalities, inspirations, and impressions that I will not forget from the “big” city.

Have a conviction and run towards it with open arms.

I challenge you.

As I sit here plugging things into my calendar that I have to do this month, I’m starting to realize that my time here is slowly winding down. We’re halfway through! I have a full month of DC livin’ under my belt (end of January + February) and a sizable dent in March started. Pretty soon, there’s only going to be April left and then I must depart my life that I have started here and pick back up in New Joezy. I decided to take the time out to rattle off a few things that I have learned since I’ve been here. I will likely add more to it towards the end of my program, since there is no doubt that I will have learned more.

1. Learn how to budget! It is ridiculous how expensive DC can be!!! Food here can be three times as expensive as back home…just because it’s in DC. Same food, same great taste, NOT the same price! Then there’s everybody’s favorite transportation system, the METRO! Since I work pretty far out from where I live, I pay close to $4 both ways (so almost $8) everyday just to get to and from work. CRAZY, right! I am still failing to realize the logic behind peak rates in which transit authority thinks it’s better to charge people more during rush hour, when realistically they would still be making more money during those hours if they didn’t increase the price because more people use it…DUH! I feel like maybe I should start a campaign to get the Metro prices lowered. I wonder would it work since I’m in DC and people seem to protest against everything else! Some people are lucky enough to either work at a place where they can just walk and not have to use the Metro, or have a job that pays for their Metro usage to and from work. Unfortunately, I am not one of those.

2. Get all the touristy things out of the way early. True, you are here for a whole semester through TWC and therefore have a whole semester to venture out to all the museums and monuments. But I think it’s best to get those things done early no matter which semester you are here for. If you’re here for the fall semester, I would think you would want to get them done early before it becomes too cold outside that you just don’t feel like going anywhere. But for me, I feel that it is important to get the touristy things out of the way in the spring semester because you want to be done before all the real tourists come to visit DC and go to all the attractions. There’s nothing like visiting a museum and being suddenly surprised by a large group of high school tourists! Not saying that there’s anything wrong with high schoolers, afterall I went to high school once, but it is so much easier to enjoy museums without them!

3. Get out and do things you have never done before. Although it’s not that big of a deal, the other night I went to an open mic night at Busboys and Poets. I’ve been to ones that my school has sponsored, but never a real one. It was really good though, everyone had a lot of talent. I’m thinking about going up one night and giving a piece that I wrote! I am really fascinated by the art of spoken word, and although I’m not great at it, I’ll never see these people again when I leave DC, so why not!!

4. Live outside of your comfort zone. That was what I was shooting for during my time here in DC. I wanted to be outside of my comfort zone as much as possible. You’re only in this program for a semester and if you live outside of your comfort zone while you’re here you can learn so much more than you ever could in four years of college.

5. Hone in on your passions. DC is a great place to find what it is your passionate about and get on a project that is focused in the same area. Like for me, my passions lie in the happenings of the Middle East. Just so happens this place is bustling with people who are likeminded and are just as passionate. It’s a great way to network and become more articulate in what it is you are passionate about.

6. Get a water filter!!! Water is important…VERY important. Funny thing I learned while being here. There are a ton of international students who participate in this program. One thing that several of them have told me that they were told when they were getting prepared to head out to DC was not to drink the tap water. I found that very interesting because the few times that I have been abroad, I was always told not to drink their water, I never thought that other countries would be telling them the same thing about ours! But it turns out, DC tap water is nasty. I’m not talking about in terms of taste, but in terms of substances in it. They even have an alcoholic beverage at most of the bars called DC Tap Water, so you know it can’t be good. One of my friends performed an “experiment” leaving DC tap water out for two days. Let’s just say, it was not a pretty sight. Those are just a few of the tips I have come up with so far. Stay tuned as I am sure more will come.

Events that occurred this weekend:

Friday Night: Mariana Diksies and Joyce Michael arrived to DC



Breakfast with the Ladies

Holocaust Museum,

National History Museum

The Washington Monument

US Capitol

My Crib

Chinatown Regal Cinema’s- JUST GO WITH IT! GREATTT MOVIE









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Two of Four

This is part two of a four part series that chronicles three major tenets of my personal (non-academic) experience. First, “Do it, for you, because you want to.” The second–I’ve learned it’s best to say, “I don’t know,” when referring to my future if I really don’t. Finally, I’ve learned that assuming anything is probably the number one error that students can make. So the last is, “Don’t assume anything.”

This entry clarifies the first tenet. “Do it, for you, because you want to.”

It was my initiative that got me to DC in the first place. I wanted to come here, and although I kept going back and forth about my purpose in doing so, I kept making headway to get here and now that I’ve been here, I have honestly enjoyed the experience. You can never underestimate your own personal interests for what others tell you what you should or need to do. to others, I “should” be doing thing x or seeing event z, but because I’ve followed my own preferences and listened to what I, Andrew Abdou, wanted to do, I began embarking on independence. Independence is not granted with just the degree, nor is it even the first career-oriented job. Independence has to be a state of mind.

Honestly, the tendency you’ll want to combat is to lie to yourself. Just stop it, it’s that easy. Follow your heart people, don’t ask questions


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One of Four

This is part one of a four part series that chronicles three major tenets of my personal (non-academic) experience

The experience in DC could have been mimicked anywhere else. TWC creates interesting courses, the program is organized and the opportunities to see the nation’s capital city were great additives. However, this was only part of the appeal. The only factor that resulted in making this experience special for me was my own initiative. I remember the first day, during the intern orientation. We were told that we should definitely only use our apartments for, well, sleeping.

I couldn’t agree more.

For me, this experience provided me a sense of mental silence from the very, very, emotionally loud environment that I, and most other twentysomethings, “hear.” We’re thrown in so many directions. “You should look into this,” and, “Oh, I know the perfect next step for you,” and oddly enough, “So, what are you going to do with that?!” if our majors don’t sound trade or career trajectory oriented. Students need the opportunity to hear themselves. If only this could be silenced so that the unsure, such as myself, can learn to listen to themselves.

I’ve never been completely alone in making any major decisions. This seems to be a recurring theme in my previous blogs, this lack of “adult” experience, but it’s because it’s true.

I’ve been protected.

Several of my friends hold outside jobs while in school. Thanks to scholarships, etc., this wasn’t a necessity exactly for me. I wanted this faux independent experience.

In DC, it has been a little different. I’ve had the late nights, late papers, neglected cell phone, Facebook, work and mental fatigue and moments when I just didn’t get time to finish things. I had to decide to either sleep or be sleepy when I needed to work. Working from 9-5:30 with evening classes once a week, and a million seminars,  it gets a little tough. I’ve never really experienced challenges when time use was a factor in the challenge if you exclude standardized testing. It has always been the issue of me procrastinating because I’ve had so much time between assignments that I’d rather do something the morning of so that it stays fresh on the mind. During this program, you have to do it now or else it’ll be a week late. It’s these sort of experiences, not to forget to mention the overnighters, that have allowed me a completely new perspective.

I’ve developed three new primary mantras. First, “Do it, for you, because you want to.” The second–I’ve learned it’s best to say, “I don’t know,” when referring to my future if I really don’t. Finally, I’ve learned that assuming anything is probably the number one error that students can make. So the last is, “Don’t assume anything.”

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