Update from Prague

July 7, 2014.

The last time I wrote here I shared about “thin places“. In short I had written, “Although my current geographic location is as far away as possible from “thin places” I am grateful for the opportunity to be traveling soon to such places: New Mexico (again), Prague (again), and Paris (again).  Although New York City’s every bench and corner served as a “thin place” for me, I am beginning to find value in being away from “thin places”.

So, here I am.

In Prague. Waiting for laundry to dry.

Actually, I have been traveling with family for one week now.

Prague-Vienna-Budapest-Prague. Today is our last day in Prague. Tomorrow I am off to another one of my favorite places, Paris.

I have been to all these places before. The last time I was in Prague was in 2011 for 4 weeks for my first “writer’s workshop. And to this day, at least for now, last, unless something drastically new about writing workshops is revealed. The first two weeks with author Charles Baxter were very helpful, kind of like an intermittent apprenticeship, quite an alien concept in the Arts today, but the rest of the time was spent dealing with writers’ neurosis about their preconceived ideas about who a writer is and what a writer writes and overall an unnecessary engagement for purposes of actually producing work. I spent the other two weeks writing on my own instead.

Prior to that, I was in Prague for the first time in 2010 with my mother. During that trip we visited Vienna and Budapest for the first time as well. And to this day, words fail me to describe that experience.  I wrote about my “trajectory to Prague” here which took me back to one of my Still Sundays essay where a Greek woman schooled me about the purpose of a greeting and made me promise her that I would visit Vienna. I think that’s where it all began, at least consciously. A random promise I didn’t think I would fulfill so soon. It wasn’t very long after that that we took our first trip to Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Although this current trip was by no means an attempt to recreate the same experiences, I can’t help but note how different it has been. For one, I am with my sister and her husband who will be staying behind in Prague for a medical school summer elective and part of the trip was the welcome catching up with them and not the cities. Second, the trip in 2010 was during Fall, a season when the dizzying lush colors shift like dreams, turns on cobblestone streets serve as time portals, and all of Budapest is focused on Day of the Dead around Halloween. In fact, one of my stories is about a character named Arpad and it was born then and there in Budapest. Instantaneous. Looking back on it, so much of what is in Collection of Auguries feels like a creative spontaneous combustion of sorts. I was a volcano of stories decades in the making and then boom! And finally, this trip, unlike the others, I have not shared photos via social media, only with a handful of friends and family via instant messaging thanks to Wifi. The weird bit is that compared to 2010 Internet “cafes” feel like a thing of the past given availability of free Wifi in every hotel and restaurant and yet no sharing with others. I did enjoy the sharing in 2010 but find it intrusive and an interruption now. I will leave that for a separate essay.



If there are “thin places”, described by Eric Weiner in the New York Times article which I have shared previously, as “locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, as I like to think of it, the Infinite Whatever” then there too is a “thin time”. Perhaps the use of this idiomatic expression is inappropriate since “thin time” generally refers to a tough or demanding time. Here is another take on “thin places” in this blog post where the writer shares her take on them, “The place itself calls you, draws you into itself, transports you into the presence of the world beyond this world.”  Weiner is correct when he asks, “The question, of course is which places? And how do we get there? You don’t plan a trip to a thin place; you stumble upon one. But there are steps you can take to increase the odds of an encounter with thinness. For starters, have no expectation.”

It didn’t take me long to realize that even if one is roaming about in a “thin place” it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she can penetrate the veil between our lives here and some Grand Mystery that connects us all, the Grand Mystery that confounds as  It reveals. But so much is available if we remain a beginner. I accepted that there is a “thin time” too. A time of  auspicious alignment, alignment of too many things to account for which makes a place “thin” for us to begin with. So, I collected the messages regardless of time and place, which we must do until they are decoded to mean more.




Statute on bench in Prague.





Outside a film museum in Vienna: “It is a misconception that the dead are dead.” ~ Henry Miller.


Usually, I find museums boring, but the Albertina in Vienna never disappoints. They had works of Joan Miro and a few permanent Picasso pieces in their collection that I actually liked. I also discovered an artist who is new to me, Alex Katz, and I enjoyed learning about his work. The best part was finding this little card. I think in many ways it sums up my life since 2011.



“The love always finds its way.” or Where there is love there is a way. A card in Albertina museum of art in Vienna.



It doesn’t take long to note when one has crossed the Pond to Europe: great coffee and wine.


Budapest, 2014.




Restaurant Pest Buda in Budapest, 2014.



Budapest, 2014.



Budapest, 2014.



Budapest, 2014.



Budapest, 2014.



Budapest, 2014. The Vajdahunyad Castle just isn’t the same in summer as in the Fall/Winter but it was beautiful nonetheless.


I guess this time I felt compelled to take more photos of Budapest.


Budapest, 2014.



Budapest, 2014.



Budapest, 2014.


My mother spotted this apple tree while we were walking in Buda. And I felt it was truly inspiring given all that is going on in the world right now.


“If the world were going under tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree.” – Martin Luther





Budapest, 2014.



A French bakery in Prague.



At the only self-serve laundry in Prague where they offer you free, great coffee.


It’s amazing the peace of mind clean laundry brings! Perhaps the same peace as planting an apple tree as the world seemingly falls apart due to greed, pollution, corruption, and wars for money. So it is with writing new stories or creating new art or living one’s life to the fullest. You just have to keep going regardless if this world is actually ending or the world you once knew cracks away into fragments of memories.  I have begun several new stories and haven’t found the time to finish a single one. I think that is okay, when the time is right some Auspicious Alignment of thin place and space will command completion and I will stand aside to watch the big boom in awe that I even had anything to do with any of it…

More from Paris, perhaps.


Living Sundays

Thoughts are hanging on the clothespin made of Stillness, too wet for a clear meaning.


  • There are two kinds of artists. There are those who feel compelled to create and others who feel compelled to change the world. There are very few artists of the third kind, the ones where their compulsion ends up changing the world.


  • Love may be unconditional, but desire is not.


  • Most stories really only require one good, long sentence; the rest of the sentences exist to convince others or oneself.


There are moments that I experienced in Prague-Budapest-Vienna in 2010 that come back to life with such a fervor that I almost believe I am some ghost. I can still hear the crunch of leaves larger than the size of my face as I walked around Vajdahunyad Castle in Budapest. IMG00052-20101030-1544


The sooty, smoky bar near the Cotton Club in Budapest where even the saddest memories were a welcome incense. For the past week or so every other blink has pulled me back to Vienna. I am not sure precisely why since I hardly explored many of the recommended touristy activities and destinations there. I just walked a tremendous amount, mostly spellbound yet hyper-aware.


Often I feel as if I am some geological instrument for systematically excavating the past from different cities. How else does one explain attachment to cities as if they were people? People one has known! But places are people.  That being said, some people take generations upon generations of stories with them when they leave this earth, and when enough people do this there is no record of real stories. Such towns and cities then become inert, strictly speaking, chemically inactive. Here tourists come for tall tales build for an empire to profit.

Maybe this happens to create room on earth for “new” stories? Some stories aren’t really worth knowing any longer because there is no meaning given to the events that took place.  A series of events alone don’t make a story. But meanings are negotiated between the teller and the listener; both are needed for record keeping.


  • Most of us don’t know what “new” looks and feels like. Happy and new are not the same thing when it comes to years by a calendar. New means you have never experienced it before; most of us just dive into cycles we have already forgotten. New means discomfort, new means uncharted, new means unexpected, new means having to utilize old knowledge and learned skills for circumstances yet explored.


  • Before the truth can set you free it kills you. What is really true by its very nature destroys as it confirms what is known.


Stillness feels like balls being tossed in a lottery machine. What are the lucky numbers for freedom? 2013 comes with new rules.


Photos: House of Czech photographer Jan Pohribny

This morning in New York City I was thinking about Jan Pohribny and his family in Prague. I recalled that I had photos from their wonderful house that I enjoyed visiting very much. While looking through them, I really missed them…and, in ways I can’t quite articulate, Prague…one of the most mysterious and haunted cities.

I decided to share these today (I had their permission to share when I took them, just didn’t get around to posting them).

You can learn more about the talented Jan Pohribny here. And in an older post, you can learn more about his magical village,  Únětice , where their house is located.

Thinking of them today. Their house was poetry reflective of their passions, art and ecclectic tastes.





This is their fireplace in the main living room.


This is one of the photos Jan took. He can do amazing things with light!


These are around the house.


These are things sitting around windows.


I absolutely love the upstairs.


Some other cool things.



When I was visiting their house I thought of Anthony Lawlor‘s work as he is one of the few architects who has had a tremendous influence over my re-thinking about the architecture and design of one’s “dwelling”.  

I found this fitting from his blog:

Want would happen if we created homes and neighborhoods more for our animal selves and less for our clever minds. Imagine redesigning the room you are in so it focused less on visual/mental aesthetics and more on touch, sound, and smell. Would the material of your chairs have a softer, rougher texture or a harder, smoother one? When you walked across your living [room], would you like to hear beneath your feet the crisp crunch of gravel or the spongy hush of moss? How would your bedroom change if it were designed around fragrance of lavender or the sound of rain on the roof? What color would your stomach paint your dinning room? How would your arms and legs redesign your shower? Getting out of that brain space between our ears and designing from our bellies opens entirely different ways of shaping nature into architecture, and crafting buildings into nature. This way, we might begin to get beyond the idea of green and learn to touch, smell, taste and hear green.

When the lightest touch wakes you up…A Nap In the Únětice Village

The wonderful and inspiring Czech photographer  Jan Pohribny invited me to his village where he lives with his wife, a beautiful woman and amazing artist and photographer too, and their son who enjoys playing the guitar and can cook a wonderful meal! I didn’t join his photography students for a project but when I saw the photos through others, I knew I had to make a trip on my own. I did and I am grateful.

However, getting there was a bit tricky. The bus that was supposed to be a simple ride from Prague to the last stop, which was the village, terminated the route two stops prior to the last stop. It was just that bus! I had gotten on the anomaly bus! The 12:00 p.m. bus doesn’t go all the way to the last stop which is the village. I had no airtime on my Prague simcard and no cash to purchase any and there was no ATM or restaurant in site given it was a very residential area, part of some other village.

I didn’t worry because the worst case scenario was for me to wait until a “normally” scheduled bus came after 45 minutes and once at Jan’s village I would try to call him. Village has to mean “small”, I decided, so I would somehow find him once there. Meanwhile, I walked into this car dealership near the bus stop and asked if anyone spoke English. And one man replied, “Very small English.” Good enough for me. I told him I was sorry that I would not be buying a car that day but instead just needed to call this number since I had no airtime.

I left Jan a message that I was near and well either he could come to pick me now or I will get on the next bus and he can pick me up from the last stop in 45 minutes.

I didn’t know what to else to do….except…relax…

20 minutes later Jan came looking for me and said, “I knew you would be taking a nap somewhere around here. They didn’t know where you had gone after you left the car dealer ship.”


I was amazed to learn that an important historical period and culture, Únětice, is named after this small village just outside Prague. It´s due to the excavations carried out in 1879 by local doctor and amateur archeologist Čeněk Rýzner on Holy Vrch (bare hill) that overlooks Únětice. It was here that he uncovered 56 graves dating from the late bronze age (roughly from 200 to 1500 BC) . In later years, far bigger and more important sites were discovered in the near locality and elsewhere in Central Bohemia. You can read more here.


We walked down the road from Jan’s home to the green fields. There I saw a very colorful cemetary. And a very trendy tree!


While walking Jan pointed that the plant on the ground was a healing plant of some sort. He didn’t know the name.


The poppy fields in Unetice are not home to the same kind of poppy in Afghanistan, the hub of opium trade.

This is Jan taking a photo. “For any real photographer there is always something new no matter how many times you have seen something before,” he said.


This is looking down at the village from the top of a hill that we walked up. There was a beautiful creek to explore and much more but I started getting sleepy. So Jan told me how to get back once we got back down the open field. As I have mentioned before, I am a light sleeper when taking naps in parks, but perhaps because this was such a small village, or perhaps this part of the earth really had some unique magnetism pulsating from the core, but I was knocked out!


I was in such a deep slumber that I didn’t even notice this woman’s dog sitting next to me for at least 5 minutes! She came running after him because she was worried he was chewing my shoes which I had taken off to nap! I was startled because I didn’t hear this hyper noisy dog at all. I took their photo and went back to sleepy.


And then an hour later was woken up by the softest, slightest touch. Mr. Lady!



I sat there too happy that I couldn’t trace a single dream—best kind of deep sleep—and noted the little guy on my finger. I was overcome by the contrast: the vast green field, the deep hills, the trees, the noisy dog, earthlings, cars and then this little ‘bug’.

There really is enough space for all of us if we can just stop stepping on each other.

Reminded me the end exchange between a mountain and a squirrel in Emerson’s poem “The Mountain and the Squirrel” which Iqbal translated in Farsi and Urdu as well.

“If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut.”

A sleep so deep that only a little lady bug could wake me up…


Still Sundays

July 31st.

Misunderstood dreams shape-shift return to sleep in cities like Prague. Happy Birthday to my mother. Stillness is some Doppler effect.

It’s July 31st and it is my mother’s birthday.

I read this year’s July came with an extra offering: one more Sunday. I also learned that this will not happen again for some 800 or so years. I checked the facts on this. Such a combination occurs far more often than every 800 years. The last occurrence was in July 2005. The next one will be in July 2016. It might as well be accurate though. Yesterday feels like years ago.

Who keeps track of Sundays besides those who are harvesters of Stillness? No moment seems to return the same, even a déjà vu moment says, “No. Please consider me a new memory.”

This final Sunday does indeed feel packed with some commanding stillness. Just five? I want thirty Sundays every month. What will you do with all that stillness, self? Tiptoe reach the sky for a kiss all the way from earth.


Prague is another celestial city to be placed in my dream menagerie, alongside, New York City, Lahore, Durban…  I want to write about Prague now. I want to never write about Prague. Just like I never write about Lahore. I want Prague to be mine only, like some miracle love, like a dream. I don’t know if cities like Prague possess us or we want to possess them? Who is reaching for whom to be understood?

It’s my mother’s birthday and I miss her. I know she too likes Prague. I recall we weren’t even supposed to come here last year. It was just on our way to Vienna. This was never the plan. I remember that night in November last year when we were here together and I awoke to some dangling dream that pierced my chest. Sometimes 3:00 a.m. feels darker than any November sky.  She told me dreams are only to be understood or set free. Poof! I felt more like a child that night than I had in a long time although I am often silly around her. Where do those dreams that we don’t understand go? I think they shape-shift return. They sleep in cities like Prague and Lahore.

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“perpetual war for perpetual peace” Photo of Wall Mural in Prague

The title I borrowed from Gore Vidal’s book (I read it ages ago in my political science days). That is not the actual title of the mural. I don’t know what the actual title is. I guess I could ask around, google, check out tour books or we can make our own titles.  War Against Infinity works too, in my mind.

Anyway. I share.




Propaganda protects its fictive world to the very last. The broken Adolf Hitler, the dictator whose hands were shaking so much he could scarcely sign his name, held his own histrionic wedding in his shadowy bunker, cursed the German people for their inability to achieve victory and then he and his new bride shot themselves. The dying propaganda machine then announced to the public, who by now were thinking of nothing but how to survive, that their Fuehrer fell in a heroic struggle in defence of their capital city.

Totalitarian regimes cannot survive without totally untruthful propaganda and propaganda cannot exist without a regime determined to resort to every dirty trick in the book. When the regime falls, its propaganda machine dies too. For the majority of people it means the arrival of a long-awaited moment of truth, but there are also quite a lot of people who are terrified of the moment when they will be cast out of the fictive world into real life.

One is tempted to compare the fictive world created by the propaganda of totalitarian states with the world inhabited by the citizens of the democratic countries. Do they really live in the real world, or are they too presented with an illusive world with its own particular language and its own clichés, a world that differs from the one in which they spend their daily lives?

There are at least two phenomena that are worth our attention: news media and advertising. When we watch the news we are presented with a more-or-less one-sided world. And it need not even be one of the gutter-press variety:  the image of the world presented to us is dismal at first glance. There is none of the optimism that is typical of all totalitarian propaganda, there is none of the good-evil dualism. […] In the world of free news, evil prevails without political orientation. It takes the form of floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, lethal landslides, forest fires, escaped wild animals, epidemics and other natural disasters.

People who watch the news day in and day out without realizing that it is simply a tendentious stream of carefully selected, titillating information, which does not constitute an image of the world in its true proportions, find themselves in an unbearable world, from which they must escape.

Luckily they have the world created for them by the advertising experts. This, by contrast, is a carefully constructed mosaic of velvety smooth and soothing words, a parade of well-built properly slim young women whose tantalizing attire and footwear ensure the seductiveness of first one brand and then another. They have “irresistibly soft skin and hair that doesn’t frizz, but is smooth and has a magnificent sheen” thanks to the cosmetics of one brand or another, a landscape of unblemished purity, “perfect whiteness”. It is a world of ideal men ready to welcome gorgeous beauties into the passenger seats of their newly-purchased luxury cards of one brand or another….

The language of advertising and news broadcasts resembles the language of propaganda in the way that it creates clichés that are repeated over and over again with only the slightest variations.

However, there is a fundamental difference between the image of the world presented by totalitarian propaganda and the world created by news media and advertising in the democratic countries. […] Nobody obliges citizens to accept this image as a true representation of the world and if they do so they do so of their own free will. But those who reject this fictive world need not fear sanctions.


Respectfully, I assert the following:


The art and literary worlds too runs on propaganda and most artists are creating within those parameters.

And although those of us who live in democratic countries need not fear sanctions for rejecting political and news propaganda and, if we so have the courage, can reject the antidote of another fictive world provided by advertising, we live like outlaws amongst the very people who wish for the same freedom we don’t just quote or preach but actually live. It may sound presumptuous to state that everyone wants to be free, however we all readily agree if I stated otherwise, “everyone wants to be happy.”

Young Woman Paints In Front of Duende Cafe in Prague; “A Walk” by Rilke (literally literary…)

Lorca writes: “The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, ‘The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.’ […] it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation. […] everything that has black sounds in it, has duende […] This mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains is, in sum, the spirit of the earth, […] The duende’s arrival always means a radical change in forms. It brings to old planes unknown feelings of freshness, with the quality of something newly created, like a miracle, and it produces an almost religious enthusiasm. […] All arts are capable of duende, but where it finds greatest range, naturally, is in music, dance, and spoken poetry, for these arts require a living body to interpret them, being forms that are born, die, and open their contours against an exact present.


“If I told you the whole story it would never end…What’s happened to me has happened to a thousand woman.”  ~ Federico García Lorca from Dona Rosita la soltera/ Dona Rosita the Spinster 

A random discovery by a poet stranger-friend in the program. Happy he shared with a few of us who are Lorca fans!



This I randomly came across while walking! Restaurant R.M. Rilke.



“A Walk” By Rainer Maria Rilke. Translated by Robert Bly.


My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-


and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.


And the beautiful, mysterious Prague…


So there I was minding my own nap business…when I heard something move…

After lunch I continued writing. Then it got sunny. This meant I had to rush and avail the opportunity to finally get recharged (it has been cloudy and cool lately in Prague and I can’t function too long without the sun). So I walked into a new park in the middle of a busy street but once you enter through the door in the wall everything outside the park disappears.



This spot was already reserved. I would have liked it given it was V.I.P seating for sun rays.


I saw some  humans who were napping and reading. Unless the ground is very dirty, I prefer the earth to benches.


Found a cool Mr. Tree but it wasn’t warm enough for me to be under shade.


Finally I found a spot.


I stared at hearts in the sky till I fell into a semi-sleep.


And then I heard something move. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or if there was really something moving around me. Before I continue…

This has recently been brought up by some folks here: how come you feel safe taking a nap in a park? I really didn’t know people felt unsafe. For me it is like ordering tap water with a meal unless I am in that part of the world where clean water is not available and it known and understood that one must buy bottled water.

Moreover, I don’t know how most people forget that skin is a sensory organ! It is the body’s largest organ. Organ! There are at least (don’t quote me, I am recalling human biology days from back back in the day) 2,500 nerve receptors per square centimeter in the human hand alone!

The brain (the mind is a more apt term I suppose) usually alerts us due to fear, memory etc. but the body–the body—is hyperalert to the now. In short, I am quite aware of my surroundings without rising to the level of anxiety unless the occasion really calls for it.


Anyway, there I was, minding my own nap business when I heard something move. I was quite startled but I think Mr. Peacock was more scared of me!


Then his friend followed.


Then there were more!



They were clearly having a party and I had to leave.

On my way out, I found a beautiful tree with lots of hairZ. I think it was a MissTree.


Then I saw this pond…


With two reflections I liked…


reminded me of feeling cool mercury in one’s hand…


and then I walked out of the park into the streets of Prague…



This one poet-strangerfriend in the program joked and said, “Is there any park in Prague where you haven’t slept?” The program director jumped in and said that would make for an interesting essay: “Sleeping Around in Prague: Naps in Parks.” Yes, joke on… : )

After the readings tonight, another writer-strangerfriend asked, “Were you walking around in a park today? A park that had peacocks?” I exclaimed, “But of course! You saw me? Why didn’t you say anything? Where were you?” She had seen me from a far when I was walking out of the park.

What is interesting is that I took a photo (it is one of the tree sets) and she is in it! Sitting under a tree, writing, wearing blue! I didn’t even know.

The End.



Some notes on naps:

I walk around till I find the best spot. Sometimes I don’t and I have to continue walking or do without a nap. I am well aware naps are a luxury and I firmly believe we would all be better if we made them a priority in our lifestyles. Also, running through Central Park in New York City at 11:oo p.m. by yourself, especially if you are a female, is not the safest thing to do. However, napping in Central Park during the day is something almost every other person does. My point, common sense, although not so common, goes a long way. Finding a nap space that is ‘open’ and not closed in is a good idea. As long as you can hear children nearby, it is fair to assume you will be okay. If the elderly are sitting on benches nearby that too is a plus. Naps are best if done in 20 minutes or full cycle of 1.5 hours or 3 hours, otherwise one feels more tired than rested. Finally, even if one doesn’t sleep, just closing one’s eyes for 15 minutes is great for all kinds of alignment. Naps are not to make up for lost sleep, although that is what we mostly use them for.

Of course, the best part of napping in a park is when you wake up. Be it after 15 minutes or 45 minutes the people that were around have left and are replaced by new ones or no one and you really feel you escaped somewhere for a moment, with or without dreams.

Still Sundays

Delayed posting. The website was down for 12 hours.

July 24th.

A woman named Yo; the windmill within, World Rivers Project; truth is a deadbody…


Stillness is some fog today and thoughts heavy sandbags.

There is a blanket of clouds made of stubborn gray covering the Prague sky for days now. Except it was shyly sunny yesterday evening. The sun was blocked again this morning.

The sun can burn yet its power is invisible against fluffy, goofy, bulky clouds who too visit at the mercy of winds. Mirror, mirror on the earth’s wall, who is the strongest force of them all? They all win against us as the elements draw even against one another.

Some days Prague feels like an elegant barque lost in the fog of history. She sails through time, a vessel for time itself. Fogs move. Waves propel. Prague stays in some time.


I had a dream about a blue monk last night who told me to go find out more about a nun I had actually helped the other day while I was very much awake. Dreams are a quagmire for meanings. For every meaning, there is a new dream.


I met a woman over a week ago who works at one of the many Thai massage parlors here in Prague. Yo. She said, “Yes, my name is Yo. Like Yo Yo, the toy.” She has been in Prague for two years. She is 32 and has a “good-for-nothing-ex-husband” and her mother takes care of her twelve year old son in Thailand. “All is in Thailand.” Her English was good enough for us to communicate, albeit very slowly, which was better than any amount of effective communication with most Czechs.

Language is a barrier to communication, grace is not.

I asked Yo how come there are so many massage parlors here. She said she didn’t know.

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