re-entry blues reloaded

Here it is again. The re-entry blues. I wrote about this phenomenon back in March and now I’m dealing with it again. Every. Single. Time. I come back from Germany it seems to get me.

And the re-entry blues can be very sneaky. In my recent post about things you should keep in mind visiting your home country I mentioned all these great plans to avoid the re-entry blues. I planned projects I want to start with, I met friends and drank wine in the sunshine, I got back into my workout routine and I went back to school shopping with my girls. But still, you are tired, jet lagged, you suffer from a lack of motivation and energy and you need to ADJUST. Because you just left one country and in very little time, landed in another one. In my case these are two very different worlds. You’d think USA and Germany, two western, industrialized countries, what could be so different? The people, people. It’s the people. They are so different, it astonishes me every time. And this will apply for most of other countries in the same way.

But I’ve improved over the years. I can deal with this depression-like feeling much better now. There are tools that can help you get through it.

  • In my original post I said to make a list about all the things that are right about your life abroad and that you can appreciate.

But there are some other things you can try as well:

  • Get the rest you need and take enough time to adjust. A few days of artificial hibernation are totally ok. You probably just flew half around the globe, lots of you hauling along some miniature people. It’s exhausting.
  • Go to the grocery store and get the food that you really like or you ONLY can get in the place you live right now. (In California: Go get Sushi!)
  • Expand your circle of friends. It’s always good to meet new people. It will give you new perspective and right after summer you might be able to share your experiences with other people that just came back from visiting home.
  • De-clutter, donate or do something good. That’ll cheer anyone up.

It’s good to get back into your daily routine and to love where you are now, but I think it’s also important to process your visit back home.

  • Sit down and write about your stay back home. You don’t have to write a full paragraph. Just take notes that come to your mind first thing.
    • What was the best part? What did you like and why?
    • What was the worst experience? What was difficult and why?
    • Who disappointed you?
    • What were the best reunions?
  • After you’re done with that, let it sit for a while. Then you take some brief ideas for your next future stay in your home country. That’s my advice because I tend to forget all the stuff that stressed me out visiting Germany and I will draw a beautiful, rosy picture of the time. Scientifically people tend to remember negative events more than positive ones, but our brain also has some strategies to erase bad memories pretty quickly, because it’s easier to not deal with the negative ones. So, in order to improve your next trip home, it will help you to write down things you really WANT to do and stuff  you absolutely NOT want to do.
  • Share pictures of your adventures with friends and family back home and in your host country. Share your stories with all the people in your life and realize how special this bi-cultural life actually is.
  • Make a plan how to keep in touch with the people you will miss the most. Try to implement little things like writing a postcard to one of your loved ones. Set up a WhatsApp group with your best friends back home. We text so much each day, it’s easy to send a couple more messages.
  • Do not be dejected and don’t give up. This re-entry blues won’t last forever. You’ll get through it, stronger than you were before.

 

The coach I’ve been working with, Sundae Schneider-Bean, has a great video with even more advice to get over your re-entry blues.

 

picture on top © nationsonline.org

 

 

My weekly ramble

Fern Canyon, Humboldt County

My family and I visited this magical place in June while doing a road trip through Northern California and Oregon. We camped in Patricks Point State Park, about 25 miles south of the canyon and I rode my bike all the way up. It is not easy to get here, but it is totally worth it! Coming from the south we turned left of Highway 101 onto Davison Road. You have to make a quick stop to watch the Roosevelt elks hanging out on Elk Meadow. There are lots of them, I’m actually pretty sure that the population of elks in this area is greater than that of people.

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Than you proceed on the road and after about half a mile the pavement stops and you have to drive/ride up a very steep hill. I had to walk my bike for a bit and my husband pulled me with the car for about a mile. Our kids had a blast seeing their parents doing irresponsible things! The Golden Bluffs Road then continues for about 10 miles. You have to stop at the gate of Prairie Creek Redwood State Park, but if you paid the daily fee for another state park, you don’t have to pay again. That’s one of the advantages of the state park system. From the gate it’s about 3 more miles to the trailhead that brings you to the canyon. You are still driving or riding on gravel and you have to cross a couple streams, which being on a bike can get your feet wet.

You drive along the Golden Bluffs campground with windy sides along this beautiful beach and you can see more elks hanging out between the tents and the food storage boxes.

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Once we reached the trailhead, we only had to walk about a quarter of a mile until you arrive at this grandiose divide in the cliff. It’s stunningly beautiful. Carved by a meandering stream, the walls shoot straight up 30+feet. They are covered with an emerald curtain of micro ferns that are kept moist by fog and waterfalls. Its beauty takes your breath away.

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You can walk a loop that’s about a mile long, but we only walked in and back out the same way. This place is so much fun for the kids to walk across tiny streams and to climb over the fallen trees. “The prehistoric ambience led to the canyon being used as a filming location for The Lost World: Jurassic Park, BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs and IMAX’s Dinosaurs Alive! (Wikipedia) If you’re going to Northern California, this is definitely worth exploring!IMG_1469FullSizeRender 194FullSizeRender 193FullSizeRender 192IMG_0673

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Three Word Thursday

Back to school!

After a long summer that wasn’t only relaxing, it is finally here: The first day of school!

It IMG_0043should be an official holiday for parents but unfortunately the first days are not everywhere the same. They differ between states, counties and even cities. Everyone goes back to school on divergent days. Private and public schools have different schedules and every school district might have a different calendar. In Germany at least every state or even a few states have the same summer vacation schedule. And the holidays only differ from state to state to have a better distribution of travelers and to avoid huge traffic jams on the already so busy German Autobahnen. You really don’t want to be stuck on the A 3 or A 8 going south in the middle of July!

Most children here seem to look forward to going back to school, to see friends, to have their routine and they totally need it after almost ten weeks of leisure! Our kids started asking about 3 weeks ago when they could finally go back to school. I honestly think that the summer break here is too long. It is helpful if you have family far away and you need the time to visit, but still, the length of this break is academically not reasonable. The US has in average a 180-day academic calendar while other industrialized countries have up to 240 days school in one year. “Kids score worse on standardized tests in early September than in late June.” 

Anyway, now the majority of students in California are back in school and ready to soak up some school knowledge. To be appropriately prepared for that, you obviously need the right outfit! That’s why everyone goes “back to school shopping”. That is a big deal here in the States. For lots of retailers the BTSS is one of the best-selling times of the year besides Christmas and Easter, it makes about 17 % percent of the full-year retail sales. In the Old Navy commercial Old Navy commercial they call the first day of school the “red carpet” of the students. Insanity! I don’t really know if the BTSS has the same status in Europe, but I definitely can’t recall that my parents took me shopping to get a fancy outfit for the first day of school and a new backpack with an engraved name every single year. Well, I know that has been a long time ago, but it seems that in Germany the school supplies still have a greater role in BTSS than the clothes. I found this great blogpost about German BTSS on “An Adventure A Day”. The peculiarity of German BTSS seems to be the sale of the “Schulranzen” or “Tornister”, which you get before your child enters first grade. But this backpack-like piece is meant to last for the whole four years of elementary school. The German kid explicitly picks a pattern and the parent buy not only the single bag, but the matching gym bag, pencil case, drinking bottle and lunch box. And these sets cost a fortune!!

I’m happy that we are done with the BTSS. My kids got a few new clothes in Germany, shoes and school supplies here and a skirt from Old Navy!  If you’re not done with your shopping yet, hang in there! Maybe these  do’s and don’t for back to school shopping can help you get through it.

Shoot! I forgot that I have to fill out these enormous pile of forms tonight… oh, I hate the first night of school. But the kids are super tired, will go to bed early and there is always wine!

Happy first day of school!

My weekly ramble

Garfield Peak Trail, Crater Lake

I can’t believe that the summer is almost over. Nine weeks full of fun adventures have flown by way too fast. I’ve been busy visiting family and friends and have been too lazy with the blogging! Now it’s time to catch up on sharing my adventures and experiences I’ve made over the last two months. Already back in June we did this amazing hike and it was too good not post it here as a few more adventures that are yet to post. I hope my blogging friend Jo will be so kind to link this ramble to her beautiful series of Monday walks again. Check out her blog here. She has lots of beautiful photographs of a broad variety of things and places.

In June we went on a road trip to Northern California and Oregon and hiking the Garfield Peak Trail was definitely one of the highlights for me. Crater Lake leaves you in awe. It was formed 7,700 years ago, when a violent eruption triggered the collapse of a towering volcano, Mount Mazama. The lake is fed by rain and snow, it is the deepest lake in the USA and maybe the most pristine on earth. Everyone stands in wonder at its blue water and stunning setting.

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I hiked with my two daughters who are not necessarily hiking lovers, but they are always a good sport and accompany their mom. (Dad got to ride around the lake meanwhile.) And once we get going, the girls are actually enjoying it. I love hiking with them, exploring the beauty of nature together and have the time to chat in serenity. This hike was especially fun for them because we hit lots of snow and they could trudge through it, slide down on it and play with it.

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You start right behind the Crater Lake Lodge and hike out and back for 3.3 miles with an elevation gain of 1,010 feet (308 m). Apparently the trail can be heavily trafficked, but we were lucky and didn’t meet a lot of people. The ranger actually said that you can’t hike all the way up because of the snow. The first few people we met coming back down told us that they hiked everything anyway and that the snow wasn’t that bad. So we did the same and got rewarded with spectacular views along the way and at the top, a nice chat with a young couple from Indiana and a snowman.

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If you are ever going to Oregon, Crater Lake is an absolute must see! Pick a suitable hike  or just drive around the rim and enjoy this incredible blue and this natural wonder. Check out the Reflections Visitor Guide for Crater Lake Summer 2016 and here you can find more details about the Garfield Peak trail. Happy hiking!

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Travel Monkey

 

12 things to keep in mind visiting your home country

Plan ahead. Book your flights well in advance. Different people have different strategies though. I personally prefer to book my flights at least three months in advance since we have to travel in the busy summertime. But it is definitely worth to watch the prices for a while. This year I could have saved $ 350 if I would have waited only two weeks! Here you can read more about when the best time is to buy a ticket.

Stay long enough, but not too long. I’d recommend to stay at least 3 weeks at home. Especially if you have to deal with time change, you want to give yourself enough time to adjust to the different time zone and climate. Thinking about the length of your stay is vital. Three weeks might be too short, but five weeks seemed way too long for us one year.

Plan who you want to see and how long. Even if you stay four of five weeks, you won’t be able to see everyone. It’s summer, the people are traveling or they have their own busy routines and sometimes it’s hard to meet up. I try to make some plans in advance but there should be always room for impromptu get-togethers and some things just fall into place once your there. I tend to have a busy schedule so I get to see as many people as possible, but I also plan on some down time to recharge.

Don’t change the location too often. Our family lives in only a few different places, but according to my experience it is not wise to move around too many times. Try to avoid constant hellos and good-byes since they are hard to deal with for everyone involved. That’s the one thing my children always complain about when we’re here. They don’t want to drive around to visit everyone, instead they ask why people are not coming to see us. Hence the perfect solution would be to have a “base camp”. This way you’d offer a port of call to all people who want to see you. For our next visit I will definitely look into booking a vacation rental and have people visit us to reduce our travel time.

Don’t set the bar too high. I’ve been disappointed a few times, because I pictured a reunion differently than it actually happened. People have changed and you have changed while living abroad. Every year there is a moment where I’m negatively surprised how inflexible some people are. They don’t even consider a short trip away from their home in order to see you, while others drive 600 km just to see you for two days. Stick with those people🙂

Do not let others make you feel guilty! Visiting friends and family is a blessing, but can be a curse at the same time. It is tough to make adequate time for everyone, including family. Some people don’t realize that it is supposed to be a bit of vacation for you and that you came to have quality time with loved ones. Some people might give you the feeling that you don’t take enough time for them and they unconsciously blame you or want you to feel guilty for that. Do not put on these shoes! Try the best to make appropriate time for everyone, but also listen to your guts! Who do you really want to spend time with and who makes you happy?

Take pictures with the people you meet. I’m always sad when I’m back in California and I realize I didn’t capture one or the other reunion that happened back in Germany. Well, I’m kind of a photo maniac, but my kids love to look at these pictures as well and to remember these special moments. And it’s great to send these pictures to the people you’ve met once your back in your new home.

Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster. Visiting family and friends back home is lovely and I wouldn’t want to miss this time of the year, but it is emotionally exhausting, too. The constant hellos and goodbyes can be tough. Brace yourself and discuss this issue with your children as well.

Enjoy all the things you don’t have in your adopted country! I’m a foodie and I always love to indulge in food and drinks in Germany that I can’t get my hands on in California. “Brot & Brötchen”, “Kölsch oder Radler” in a Biergarten or “Kaffee & Kuchen” in the “Konditorei”. I love that you can walk into a restaurant or bar and just seat yourself wherever you find a free chair or that you just ask other people, already sitting down, if they’re willing to share their table with you. And I highly appreciate the very well developed public transportation system. Germans might argue that the “Deutsche Bahn” is always late, but at least there is such thing.

Find and learn new things to love about your home country. I love the fact that only by moving away, I could see certain things in Germany in a positive way. I may repeat myself (Three Word Thursday), but I love the German honesty. Not everything is sugar-coated, things are much more real and there are a lot of unbleached teeth. You can drink a beer in public and if you go to a climbing park, you don’t even have to sign a waiver, because people are not afraid they might get sued. These are just a few things…

Learn to know yourself better. I love to learn about my new me, the one I became in California. I consider myself stronger, more self-confident, relaxed and more positive than I was living in Germany. These changes become even clearer visiting my home country. It was good to be away from everything familiar and to make new friends where no one knew you and you could start fresh. And it is good to reconnect with old friends and find something of your old you.

Make a plan for your return. It usually takes me a while to re-adjust to my life in California. It is sad to leave family and friends and to know you won’t see them again in a long time. It is crucial to have something to look forward to in your place of residence. Having friends over, starting a project or visiting a place you haven’t seen yet will help you to get over the re-entry blues.

More interesting articles about visiting your home country you can find on expatchild.com.

Three Word Thursday

Time with friends

I’m visiting my home country of Germany right now and it’s always lovely to be here. Despite the fact that it’s often quite challenging to deal appropriately with all the expectations of family and friends, I mostly enjoy being home, visiting familiar places and seeing loved ones. There are some times when I’m exhausted from too much driving around, making plans and coordinating with others, packing stuff and sleeping in other beds, but in the end the good times outweigh the stressful moments and I guess, that’s why we keep visiting each year and still thinking about moving back eventually.

Every year I try to fit in some special time for myself and this year I managed to get away with a trip to Berlin. On Sunday I met with three very good girlfriends and we took the ICE from Cologne to Berlin Hbf. During these last four days we had so many great talks, ate good food, enjoyed lots of different Aperol Spritz’ and Gin Tonics and immersed in the life of this  absolutely beautiful, lively, loud, international, creative and crazy city. I love Berlin!

Berliner are unfriendly and ruthless, gruff and opinionated, Berlin is disgusting, loud, dirty and gray, Construction sites and congested roads wherever you go –  but I feel sorry for all people that cannot live here.                  Anneliese Bödecker

During all the conversations we had, there were several strange moments for me, when I realized once again, how much I’ve changed over the last eight years. Views, ideas, philosophy of life have changed compared to those of my friends who have lived their last years in Germany. Culture, politics and life circumstances have been different for us. We had to face different challenges over the years, made different experiences and developed close relationships to unalike kind of people. We have different values and approaches in a few areas of our lives. But all these discussions were so enriching and instructive for me and probably all of us and I wouldn’t want to miss them in the world. I was able to discover a bit of my old me and learned more about my new one. A few times I was overwhelmed by realizing that I feel as not belonging here as I often feel in California. But overall I was just so happy to spend time with my friends in one of my favorite cities in the world and that I became aware of how many great experiences I was able to make in the last years and how wonderful it has been to have the best of two worlds and living a bicultural life. It was a wonderful getaway with my friends and I’m grateful for the laughter, for philosophizing and for new perspectives. Germans might be sometimes straightforward and a bit rude, but I will always appreciate their honesty and genuineness. Your German friend is a friend forever and I’m looking forward to more time with true friends in the two places I can call home!

London Heathrow Terminal 5

Last Sunday I flew from San Jose, California to Düsseldorf, Germany and had a layover in Heathrow. Usually I don’t really pay much attention to airport terminal design, but despite all bad predictions, we managed to get our connection to Düsseldorf in time. First, because my girls and I ran all the way from the gate we landed to the next security check and second, because the plane was slightly delayed. And even though my little girls’ backpack got double check snail speed because she didn’t take out the iPad in the first place, we would have made it anyway. I still had time to get my “Starby” latte (that’s how my 12-year old calls it), watch a bit of the Wimbledon final live and check out my surroundings.

I looked up and appreciated the airport interior design of Terminal 5, Gate 9. I thought it’s a very cool and simple way to beautify a terminal ceiling.

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Art Boxes Part II

Last month I blogged about the utility art boxes I found around Campbell and San Jose, California. This public beautification program “Art Outside the Box” is designed to transform plain, grey traffic control utility boxes in Campbell, into works of art, creative a more vibrant cityscape. The program was launched in 2015, with 11 boxes completed during the year. Program costs are 100% funded through sponsorships and individual donations by residents, businesses, civic and other non-profit organizations. Shortly after I posted about this electrical box art project, I started seeing new boxes in various places around town. I even saw two artists while they were painting the boxes and stopped my car for a little chat. Pam Mossing was painting this box at the intersection of Hamilton Ave and Creekside Way.

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I already featured her box Civic Centre Drive and Campbell Ave. in my first post. One week later, dropping my daughter and her friend off at the Campbell Community Center for their summer camp, I stopped at Winchester Blvd. and Campbell Ave. to meet Winifred Brown and her friend René.

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They told me that the 9 designs for phase II of this street art project were selected from an applicant pool of 36 designs submitted by 24 artists from Santa Clara County.  Here are the artists participating along with the locations where the artwork can be seen.

Andrew Bayudan Campbell Ave. & San Tomas-Aquino Rd.

Winifred Brown Campbell Ave. & Winchester Blvd.

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Irene Bronner Winchester Blvd. & Hacienda Ave.

Jennifer Carrier Hamilton Ave. & Marathon Dr.

Alexander Holland Bascom Ave. & Apricot Ave.

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Lea Joyeux Campbell Ave. & Jeffers Wy.

Pamela Mossing Hamilton Ave. & Creekside Wy.

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Patricia Mulder Winchester Blvd. & Rincon Ave.

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Michelle Munoz Hamilton Ave. & Llewellyn Ave.

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Go and check them out, I still haven’t seen all 20 boxes yet. Will do that when I’m back in California!

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My weekly ramble

Water towers in Mendocino

We just got back from a wonderful road trip to Northern California and Oregon, which I will probably tell you more about in the next couple weeks. On our last day we checked out Glass Beach in Fort Bragg (coming soon…) and then drove down to the town of Mendocino. I can barely remember it, but I think we stopped here briefly in 2000 on a road trip from Seattle to San Diego. Anyway, I definitely can’t remember seeing all these Water towers.

But first things first: Coffee. We enjoyed a humongous, delicious Latté and a Blueberry Buttermilk Muffin @ GoodLife Café and Bakery. Super busy on Sunday, July 3rd but absolutely worth the wait. Interesting folks and excellent people watching while sipping on my favorite hot liquid and chatting with my family. After that we shopped for some gifts to bring back home @ the Mendocino Country Store and @ Out Of This World.

During our stroll through town we noticed all these fun wooden water towers and I started reading a bit about them.

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For more than a century these towers have captured the attention of visitors. The early settlers were blessed with plenty of water from nearby creeks and rivers. You only needed a windmill tall enough to catch coastal winds to power the pump and a tank positioned high enough to provide the necessary water pressure. With these two things you could facilitate the luxury of piped water in the house. Today, most of the windmills have disappeared, but lots of the towers are still standing.

Unlike Fort Bragg Mendocino has no central water supply to this day so many of the original towers are still in use.

Some of them completely restored, some in a rather brittle state. Some of them are used as an arts studio, a gift shop or even a vacation rental. If you want to stay in a Water Tower in Mendocino, you should check out these websites:

Mendocino Village Water Tower,

Bever-Roberts Tower,

Jade’s Tower,

Sweetwater Spa and

Bluedoor Group.

You can learn more about the preservation of these unique structures by visiting the Kelley House Museum.

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What else? Many films and movies have been filmed in and around Mendocino and Mendocino County, including Overboard, The Karate Kid, Part IIIForever Young and The Majestic. Mendocino was also depicted as turn-of-the-20th-century Monterey in the James Dean classic East of Eden and 9 episodes of  the TV series Murder, She Wrote were filmed in Mendocino.

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My weekly ramble

A walk along 4-mile beach

I have to catch up. On Father’s Day we made a trip to Santa Cruz. First we had breakfast at “Café Brasil” on Mission Street. Its’ rated the #5 place for breakfast & brunch in the area. It’s a popular and very busy place and doesn’t take reservations. Try to find a parking spot in the back or the adjacent streets, get your name on the list and get a coffee for the wait.

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I had the Veggie Cocota which was quite different from the usual scrambled eggs or omelet, but I enjoyed it.  My hubby was pleasantly surprised, because they sell one of his favorite sauces. “Lozano Salsa” is a vegetable sauce from Costa Rica. I call it the “Maggi” of Central America. And we got a pound of Brazilian coffee.

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After breakfast we drove to our most favorite beach around here. You leave Santa Cruz on Hwy 1 north towards Davenport and pass Wilder Ranch State Park. There are no signs that give directions, but you can find it on the map. Parking is left off Hwy 1 and if you come late, you might have problems to find a parking spot. But usually there is always someone that leaves when you arrive and people are cool about parking in several rows if you leave enough space for the other cars to pull out. From the gravel parking lot you have to walk about 0.25 mile down to the beach and cross the train tracks. There used to be portables down by the beach, but unfortunately they removed them a while ago due to budget cuts. That sucks, because there isn’t really a place to pee.

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Anyway, we had a lovely time there as always. My husband surfed for a couple hours, the girls had fun building a dam and I took a walk up and down the beach. I love the cliffs at the southern end of the beach. You can climb up on the rocks to go to the very end.

IMG_0171The different shades of the ocean are mesmerizing and I took a few shots of the waves crashing on the rocks.

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Even though I don’t consider myself a “water person” (my husband still hasn’t given up on me surfing….), I could spend hours watching the ocean and its waves. I don’t have to be in the water to enjoy the beauty of it. Good times!

Playing in the sand.  

A walk along the beach.  

Footsteps in the sand.  

Gone.  

Everything starts fresh.

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