The Resignation Letter – an Online Novel

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The Resignation Letter: An Online Novel (Chapter 4: Maria’s First Day, Mo’s Never-Ending Nightmare)

Mohamed woke up extra early on Boxing Day morning. It was not because he was in a rush to get to the mall to purchase the wool jacket for his wife that he could no longer afford. Boxing Day, a Saturday this year, kicked off the five-day rush prior to the New Year. The Firm’s clients from all over the world were in a rush to replace their 2015 marketing strategies and advertising materials to try and be the proverbial ‘early bird that gets the worm’ in 2016.

Mohamed had called his wife the evening of Christmas. As usual, his wife was busy attending mosque with her younger brother. They had recently moved into a small apartment together, and even had a new household helper. Mohamed had not been back to Sierra Leone in over a year and his wife, who didn’t have a visa to travel to Canada, was awaiting processing on their sponsorship application, currently stuck in the African backlog of a three-year delay. Based on processing, they would expect to hear from Immigration any day now.

    The city still pitch black when he woke up, Mohamed took the number 15 bus, as he had every morning for the past ten years. Said his good morning and thank you to the bus driver, who didn’t acknowledge him. Mohamed always sat at the back of the bus, where there were usually less people at this time of the day.

When Mohamed arrived at the office, he noticed he was the first one in. They are probably all hungover again, Mohamed thought to himself. Mohamed had spent his Christmas dinner eating leftovers from his lunch with Shafiq and watching television. It was a boring existence, albeit a quiet one, which Mohamed had become comfortably accustomed to.

    As Mohamed was about to turn the corner, a light suddenly turned on in the hallway. It was the cleaning lady “Maria”, an affectionate 45-year old lady that Mohamed absolutely adored for her vivacious laugh and honest approach to cleaning. Maria was more serious this morning however.

    “Maria, how was your Christmas? You don’t seem your usual self my dear” Mohammed asked gently.

    “Mo, things are not good back home. My husband lost his job and is sick with cancer. It was just diagnosed. My eldest son got arrested for dealing drugs and is in prison. They won’t release him. I can’t afford a plane ticket back to the Philippines right now. I missed Christmas again.” Maria responded, trying to hold herself together.

    Mohamed patted Maria on the back reassuringly. He opened his wallet and slipped Maria a twenty dollar bill. “Take this Maria. I know, it has been tough for all of us. We’re both trapped in a city way too beautiful for all of us, but so lonely without our loved ones. It will get better I promise. Go home and get some rest”

  “Thanks Mo.” Maria replied, pocketing the twenty dollars. “I would like to go home but your stupid boss left a note for me reminding me that the three new interns are starting today and that I need to set up their work station.. volunteer station.. whatever you guys are calling it this year.”

     Mohamed chuckled. He had completely forgot that it was time for the Annual Student Internship Program again. Billed as a program that would give work experience to underemployed/underprivileged recent graduates,

    Mohamed knew that the real reason for hiring individuals like this were that they would work for essentially no pay. Mo knew from previous years experience that each year the interns would be brought on for the busy period of New Years, Valentine’s Day, and Easter and then sent home in early May with a generic letter of congratulations and a $500 stipend. During these five months, had they been salaried junior level employees they would have each taken home at least $500 a week and had to have their medical insurance and Canadian Pension Plan covered.

    Maria bid adieu and continued with her cleaning duties. Man, this is a whole city of immigration problems, Mohamed thought to himself shaking his head. As Mohamed was about to sit down at his desk, Maria came running down the halls.

    “Mo, I forgot to tell you something. You forgot to shut down your computer and you left a document open all weekend.” Maria grabbed the mouse and shook the computer awake. It was the first two lines of your resignation letter. I hope nobody saw it. When I came in yesterday it was brightly displayed. I couldn’t help but notice it.”
“Thanks for mentioning it Maria.” Mo said earnestly. “I hope so too.”

    I am an idiot, Mohamed thought to himself. The thought of resigning immediately had since Christmas become a more distant one in his mind. I can resign next summer. I need the money and peak season means overtime hours. Next summer, when my wife joins me in Canada, then I can quit and we can find new jobs together. Mohamed closed the document and prayed that nobody has seen it.

    Opening his real-estate marketing final report, Mohamed smiled to himself. This is my life calling. The report was intricately prepared. He knew the things that mattered to clients from Arabic-speaking countries: proximity to the mosque, availability of halal food choices, security, and, most-importantly, privacy. His idea was to market the new complex as a “Little Dubai in the Heart of Downtown Vancouver.” He made some last minute edits to the presentation he would have to give on Monday at the real-estate firm’s offices. Mohamed’s line of thinking was interrupted by an email from his manager.

WELCOME TO OUR 2015-2016 STUDENT INTERNS read the email in unnecessary CAPS  usually reserved for emergency situations. Mohamed opened the email to see three student profiles.

    The first was a girl named Veronica Chiu. She had quite the impressive profile. She had attended the city’s top private school, the Colburn Academy. She had a business degree from out in Eastern Canada. She seemed like the type who would be working at a Bay Street firm rather than in Vancouver. Mohamed peered at the fine print.

    Ah, it all made sense. The profile mentioned that her father, Moses Chiu, was a client of the Firm and that all of them needed to be extra careful in making sure Veronica was happy. Veronica would also be working indirectly through the boss’s guidance.

  The second was Dawayne Jamison or “DJ” for short. He went to an inner city high school in California before moving to Vancouver to play college basketball. According to the email, apparently after redshirting he switched colleges three times due to poor grades disqualified him from the basketball team. Eventually, he attended a Christian college, found his calling in God and graduated Valedictorian.

    Wow – exactly the kind of guy our firm will use to secure new clients, Mohamed thought to himself.
Mohamed got to the third profile. She is very pretty, very Hollywood gorgeous, Mohamed thought before playing around with his ring finger and realizing he was having thoughts that a married man should not be having. She looked young, maybe half his age. Maria, eh just like our cleaning lady. Mohamed made a mental note she would call Maria Mendes, Ms. Mendes. In Mohamed’s mind there was only one Maria, the nice cleaning lady. Mohamed read Ms. Mendes’ profile. It was very short and stated:

Maria comes to us from Surrey, British Columbia where she recently completed her post-secondary studies. Maria has a particular interest in fashion and international marketing and will be working closely with our International team.

  Mohamed had been Deputy Chair of the International team for several years. The current Chair, Elliot Huang, was the Firm’s big rainmaker. In 2015, Elliot had successfully closed 40 new clients for the firm and engaged them in the development of marketing strategies. Many were new immigrants to Vancouver, who established quasi-operational businesses that served as vehicles designed to transfer assets to their young sons and daughters who were studying in the city. However, they made the Firm millions and were given rock star treatment.

    Mohamed was secretly quite excited that the team had recruited a new member, and additionally excited that she was quite easy on the eyes.

  A follow-up email soon arrived from the boss. STUDENT INTERNSHIP PROGRAM MENTORSHIP PAIRS read the email.

The email read:
• Veronica Chiu has been assigned to the International Marketing Group, she will be mentored by Elliot Huang.
• DJ has been assigned to the Sports and Entertainment Marketing group and will be mentored by Don Michaels.
• Maria Mendes has been assigned to the International Marketing Group and will be mentored by… 

Mohamed stopped in his tracks.
…. Mohamed Kamara

  Mohamed was shocked. It was the first time he had ever been asked to mentor or let alone participate in the program.
Before Mohamed could ponder any further, a third email came into his inbox. It was from the government’s immigration department in Ghana. Mohamed’s heart sunk has he opened it.

Dear Ms. Kamara:

Your Application for Permanent Residence in Canada has been refused. The primary purpose of your marriage has been adjudged to be for immigration purposes. We are also not satisfied that this is a genuine relationship. Thank you for your interest in Canada.

Officer MF.

    “Motherfucker!” Mohamed screamed smashing his keyboard on the table. It snapped in half. Mohamed looked around. Thankfully no one was around as an audience to his morning meltdown.

  Before Mohamed had a chance to think any further, the recognizable heavy footsteps of his boss and the accompanying rhythm of a set of high heels came towards him. Mo turned around to see his boss’s recognizable bespoke suit and thick-rimmed glasses. Next to him was Maria. She had a serious, “focused” game face on.
“Is this […]

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The Resignation Letter: An Online Novel (Chapter 3: Maria, Maria)

“Maria, wake up.” Maria Morales felt a tap on her shoulder. It was her 12-year old younger sister Samantha.

Maria slipped on her bunny slippers and felt her head feel all of a sudden, light-headed. It had been five weeks since Maria had last woken up without a hangover, but it also marked five weeks since Maria woke up everyday with a painful headache. Maria pulled the curtains and looked outside. The scene was a beautiful winter wonderland. Maria resided in Surrey B.C’s beautiful, golf-course ridden, Panorama Ridge neighbourhood. It was “a gem in a rough,” as she often described to the guys she would meet and cringe when they heard the phrase, “ I am from Surrey, and you.”

Maria Morales walked down the stairs of her family’s five-bedroom house. Christmas felt different this year. As she stepped downstairs, she could see her mother slouched across the couch. The O was playing in the background. “Mom, wake up – it’s Christmas Day” Samantha tapped her mother on the shoulder in the same fashion as she had tapped Maria’s shoulder.

“Get off me, you little slut” Maria’s mother shouted slapping Sam across the face. Samantha, stood back stunned. To Maria’s surprise, Samantha didn’t cry but rather looked at her mother angrily.

“Get your shit together Mom, please” Maria yelled rushing over to pull Samantha away. “It is Christmas Day. You are not ruining today like you have ruined the last three months.”

“Fuck you alchy, go make me some breakfast,” Maria’s mother slurred. Suddenly, there was silence and only loud snores.

“Sam, I am sorry” Maria whispered to Sam. “Let’s go out and grab some Jimmys. I think it’s another one of mom’s bad days.”

Their mother had been acting this way for three months. It was the day that Sam had accidentally revealed that “Dad has a new girlfriend,” while fighting with their mother, unraveling a series of quick and unforutnate events leading to the family of five, now becoming a family of four. Maria’s older brother, Todd, had long left the family in pursuit of his own career ambitions doing God-knows what.

Long-story short, Maria and Sam’s dad, a divorce lawyer (ironically), had started seeing his secretary and within a month time had moved out of their Surrey home and into her Yaletown condo. Maria felt depressed, thinking about her mother, a former fashion consultant was now a 24-hour W Channel afficianado.

Maria helped Sam get her coat on as they left their apartment driveway. While it was municipal b-ylaw that the driveway was to be shoveled, there was simply no one for the task. No man of the house. Maria felt tears run down her cheek.

Maria herself had been through a tough patch. She had an abusive five-year long-distance relationship end earlier in the year. She had spent the last nine months dating various guys online, only to realize none of them wanted more than a short-term hit and run. Maria, as self-conscious as she was, knew she was pretty by all cultural standards. She had this vivacious, rich, yet innocent look to her – ‘real stature’ as her Dad once complemented her. She looked younger than her 20 years.

Maria looked at her younger sister, trying to maintain herself emotionally. Maria’s year had been filled with way too much alcohol, way too much marijuana, and even one incident where she had accidentally taken fentanyl after being coerced by a few of her former old high school friends one late night out. Maria secretly hoped her sister could have her memories from 2016 erased.

Through all the madness, there was some good news. Maria had recently accepted a coveted internship at a marketing firm. While Maria was not sure if she had been selected to do marketing or be the one marketed, it was an end to her unemployment. Maria had obtained a certificate in marketing two years back but had never been able to find a firm to take her. They all said her grades were too poor, her certificate worth less than the paper it was printed on. One interviewer even accused her of being a fraudster and asked her for a criminal background check for a job (as a fashion model!).

Maria would start her new job, downtown, on boxing day, apparently as the Firm was short staffed for last-minute New Year promotional materials that were being requested by their retail clients. Maria felt nervously brave about this new job and her only worry was running into her father downtown. She had not spoken to him since he had tried to explain to her that he needed to ‘pursue his own happiness’ and move out with Anastasia (his secretary).

After a fifteen-minute walk, Maria and Samantha had arrived at Jimmys. They saw that the line-up was a mile long. In the front, she could see a Arab man with her wife, wearing a hijab. The man was yelling at the front-desk attendant, who appeared to be an Asian girl.

“This coffee is cold. Why is it cold?” the man yelled at the girl, who looked as though she was near years.

These damn refugees think this is Saudi Arabia or something. Maria thought to herself. I hope they deport these guys. Such a burden on our society.

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The Resignation Letter – An Online Novel (Chapter 2: Party Like a Permanent Resident)

     “Ladies and Gentleman – this year’s Power 50 Marketer of the Year is… Mohamed Kamara! Mohamed, please come and claim your award.” 

     Mohamed could hear applause fill the air and the sound of a rap song in the background. He heard his dad’s voice booming from behind him.

     “You did it, my son, you did it! I am so proud of you”

       As Mohamed walked up to the podium, he noticed that the seats were empty. Looking back, Mohamed notice his father’s seat was unoccupied. In fact, there was no audience at all. As Mohamed started walking up the red-carpet lined stairs he felt the ground start to crumble. Looking up, he managed to make eye contact with the good-looking Caucasian male who was the award presenter. As Mohamed’s vision came into focus, he noticed it was his manager holding his final paycheck. “You are fired buddy, do you actually think we would actually award you?” Mohamed felt himself falling through the floors into a dark abyss.

 

“Mo… where are you?” a faint voice came from outside the room.

Mohamed woke up in a cold sweat. He looked at his alarm clock – 8am. He should have been at work by now. Mo sat up on his bed in one swift, urgent motion. Waking up at random times at night in this fashion was a bad habit of his, one his future chiropractor would certainly speak to, and probably his future psychiatrist as well if she did not diagnose it first. After staring dumbfounded at his ceiling for a minute, Mohamed suddenly remembered that it was Christmas Day and the office was closed. He lay back down gingerly on his pillow.

“Mo… open the damn door”

Two knocks on the door of Mo’s basement suite confirmed that he had a guest this morning.

Mohamed quickly pulled on his pajama shirt and stumbled to the front door. He peered carefully outside. The East Vancouver neighbourhood he lived in was notorious for break-ins, and even (as of recent) a string of violent home invasions. Mohamed saw a man with a puffy jacket wearing a green toque. As Mo stepped closer, he noticed it was his best friend, Shafiq. Mohamed felt his nervous tension dissipate.

Mohamed hurriedly unlocked his door.

“Ya scared me brother. Why didn’t you call me yesterday to tell me you were coming? Eh Shafiq, where is your wife? Shouldn’t you be spending the day with your wife and kid.”

Shafiq mumbled something inaudible before he spoke, “Bro I’m sorry, it is an emergency.”

Mohamed was worried. This was very out of the ordinary for Shafiq, the usually happy-go-lucky/outlandish comedian. While they didn’t see each other often, with Mo trapped at work and Shafiq trapped with newborn parenting duties, they made sure to attend mosque together once a week, followed by afternoon tea or coffee. Shafiq’s stories of perennial underemployment and diaper education often had Mohamed in stitches. Shafiq was an Engineer, turned Gas Station Attendant, and now probably classified himself as a budding entrepreneur. Shafiq always had amazing ideas for solving Western problems, unfortunately problems that Mohamed all-to-often pointed out, were not actually problems for most Westerners. For example, Shafiq came up with a remarkable idea of a swimsuit that could turn into a cocktail dress at the pull of a strap, in the odd event the female’s father or mother showed up at the beach and saw her underdressed. Mohamed kindly reminded Shafiq that cocktail parties usually did not occur at the beach and that in any event, two piece swimsuits were specifically selected for being two pieces rather than one.

Shafiq eventually resigned two weeks later to the fact that his idea was a flop. In fact, he lamented in the fact that his “market research” into two-piece swimsuits led to a cold night spent on the couch. His wife had come home from work one day and found Shafiq holding the newborn and looking at a few too many goriye girls.

“Mo, it’s not good. I think she’s doing something behind my back,” Shafiq’s eyes locked with Mohamed for a brief second. Mohamed could tell that Shafiq had not slept all night. He looked liked he had been hit by a bus.

“Brother, what happened?” Mohamed responded, quickly putting on a kettle of hot water for tea.

“I was out with the baby girl yesterday just around 5pm. I stopped at the Jimmys next to her work place. I grabbed two hot chocolates thinking I could give her a surprise when she left. Minutes later, I get this text message – saying she has a work meeting and can’t make it for dinner. This isn’t the first time, so I am not that upset, right. I get the stroller and I get ready to try and catch the next bus back home. I see out of the corner of my eye across the street. I know it was my wife. Just as I am about to call her name, I see this Lexus pull up and she gets into the front seat. I try and I.D the driver and I see her colleague next to her. Guy is the Team Lead of their project. I don’t remember his name. I know he’s rolling in dough. Dad’s a big-time lawyer or something. I remember him from the Christmas party. Whole night he was starring at my wife. My wife would smile back. I just know they are up to something.”

“Calm down brother. You are married with a kid. She would never be that reckless.” Mohamed grasped Shafiq firmly on the shoulders. “If you need me to go speak with her, I can do it for you. She’s in the PR business. We work with them all the time in marketing. It’s business around the clock. I’m sure it was just an innocent business meeting.”

“It is because I am a useless good for nothing foreign-trained engineer. Brother, I don’t know how you did it back in the day. I can’t even get another job anymore. I am an overqualified, stay-at-home father. That should just go on my resume. You know one interviewer last week even said that if he were me he would just let the wife make the money and stay home.”

Shafiq had only been in Canada for a year and a half. Initially, the plan was for his wife to move to Pakistan with him and for him to eventually find a company that would transfer him to Canada. However, Shafiq’s wife Muneeza (or Melissa, as she called herself at work) was offered a new job in Vancouver and Shafiq came to Canada right away. Importantly, Muneeza became pregnant shortly after sponsoring Shafiq. Now, he was what Canadian immigration called a “conditional permanent resident” and had to cohabit for his wife for two years before the conditions were removed.

Mohamed himself was all too familiar with Canada’s immigration system. He had arrived in Canada as a political refugee from war-torn Sierra Leone. His citizenship application had been held up for a year and a half because he had purportedly provided “inconsistent dates” – a two-week memory gap in his ten years as a Canadian permanent resident.

“Where is the wife and kid now?” Mohamed asked Shafiq inquisitively.

“They went to visit Melissa’s grandparents for lunch. I have to get back after lunch so she doesn’t think I left. Apparently the grandparents don’t want me to show up at their house this year. They think I’m some money-sucking bad omen.” Shafiq sighed heavily.

“Anyways brother, Merry Christmas.” Shafiq took out a small neatly-wrapped gift box from inside his jacket pocket. “I know it is not much, but I value our friendship.”

Mohamed guilty accepted the gift. He had been so busy with work that he had forgotten to prepare anything for Shafiq. “I left my gift for you at the office. I’ll hit you up with it next week.” Mohamed responded, hoping the cheerfulness in his voice would hide the whiteness of the lie.

“Go ahead, open it” urged Shafiq.

Mohamed opened the package to find a beautiful, brand new Quran written in both the Arabic and English language. “It’s beautiful. Thank you my brother. Let’s make lunch, how does some of my homemade fish stew and yam sound to you.”

“You know that I love everything you make guy,” Shafiq answered happily. “Tomorrow’s problems we can deal with tomorrow. Now where is the remote control, I want to watch the football game, the Hawks are playing”

American football,” Mohamed kindly corrected Shafiq, throwing over the remote.

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The Resignation Letter – An Online Novel (Chapter 1: Writer’s Block)

Chapter 1

Writer’s Block

     “Dear Boss….”

Mohamed stared blankly at his laptop screen hoping that the letter would somehow write itself.

     No that doesn’t sound right… too informal, Mohamed thought to himself. He quickly corrected the line. It now read: “Dear Mr. Smith”

One would think that after a decade as a marketing professional that Mohamed would be able to perform a little better under the circumstances of a last-minute pitch. Mohamed wished at that moment he had followed the advice of his best friend, Shafiq, who always kept a template resignation letter ready to deliver just before his pending resignation/firing. Needless to say it had been used quite frequently through Vancouver’s recent economic downturn.

Mohamed heard footsteps behind his cubicle, realizing it was only the cleaning lady, Maria. No one else was working at this hour. In fact, the rest of his colleagues were already half-way through getting sloshed off expensive scotch at a senior manager’s Coal Harbour apartment. It was the Company’s Annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Wine & Cheese, not that Mohamed had ever attended any of the eight previous ones. He only found out after receiving a half-hearted, after-thought invitation from the manager. The offer came simultaneously asking him if he could stay late to do a document review favour for a client of interest. All clients were always of interest – much more interest than he (or his work) had ever been paid.

Mohamed sighed heavy. He closed his eyes and for a second was transported to his favourite tea spot. Five of his university brothers were surrounding him – discussing the topic of the day, football and how many points their hometown team, the Sephadu Stunners, would win by. Mohamed remembered fondly walking home to the sights and sounds of the local market. He remembered the states of sweet aromatic breadfruit and the smell of freshly slaughtered cumin-dusted lamb being grilled on the charcoal grills. His hometown markets stood as such a sharp contrast to the same apples, oranges, and bananas that filed the fruit shelves in their endlessly and unnecessarily repetitive varieties.

However, the bane of Mohamed’s existence had to be the mayo and mustard baloney sandwiches that had become somewhat of a daily ritual. Mohamed never used to eat pork, considered haram in his religion, but a year of welfare cheques when he first arrived made his a connoisseur of cheap cuts of all edibles.

Mohamed’s thoughts were suddenly transported back to the streets of his hometown. After the walk through the market, it would be one left turn and two right turns before he would arrive at his home – the Jenagh Compound. He would see his elderly mom busy grinding up a cassava dish and his wife preparing the side dish of fresh pepper fish. His wife’s radiant smile and hazel-coloured eyes lit up in a concentrated gaze as she asked him if he wanted a third serving. He always did.

Mohamed grabbed a bite of the increasingly-soggy tuna wrap that was sitting in a half eaten glob on his desk. Mohamed hated tuna fish wraps, but they had become someone of a staple of his eight o’clock nights. Mohamed`     kept a box of tuna fish and a bag of tortilla wraps under the small drawer on the right side of his desk for these all-to-often emergency session.

A pile of files sat on the left side of Mo’s desk. These were a reminder that he was still four projects behind. In addition to the task for the manager, he owed a draft mock-up to the city’s largest real estate company that was launching a push for new Arabic-speaking clients. Mohamed also had to finish off a marketing report for an up-and-coming luxury car company that wanted to advertise their new fuel-efficient car to buyers.

Having been in the business for twenty years, Mohamed could smell through the proverbial horse dung that was marketing. For example, he knew that that real estate companies were selling their townhouses way above market value, and conveniently leaving out details relating to historical leaks and hydro problems. The ads only focused on the ‘view that will get you laid’ attracting the young generation of the debt-ridden and those who lived off daddy’s wealth.

Mohamed looked at the yellow envelope on his desk. He had waited until the night to open his cheque. The cheque was to contain his much-anticipated year-end bonus. Mohamed had already searched out the beautiful baby blue wool overcoat that he wanted to give his wife for Christmas. Although they did not celebrate Christmas back home, he always used it as a good opportunity to give his wife something special. Doing the math, if his cheque was $1800 (assuming a $300 bonus), he could pay rent for $1000 and would have about $500 dollars to buy the coat. Mohamed’s own shabby suit jacket came from Global Fashion Co. – 70% off the Black Friday discount rack. It fit well enough, but it definitely looked every dollar of its $60 after-sale price.

Mohamed carefully ripped open the cheque with the dull-blade of his desk scissors. To his surprise he saw a few coupons with a handwritten note from his boss. Mohamed scanned the letter:

“Dear Mo, due to our difficult economic quarter, we have decided to cancel the yearly bonus. In exchange, we are giving every member of our team a generous $200 voucher generously provided by our client, Horizon Gas. Please enjoy this with your family (and if you don’t drive, friends!). Merry Christmas”

Mohamed placed his hand to his head. Mohamed didn’t drive nor own a car. Merry Christmas Indeed he thought to himself. Mo continued to work on the resignation later:

“Due to recent financial challenges at work, I have decided…”

It would be a long night before Christmas.

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Will Tao is an Award-Winning Canadian Immigration and Refugee Lawyer, Writer, and Policy Advisor based in Vancouver. Vancouver Immigration Blog is a public legal resource and social commentary.

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