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Dos and Don’ts on Your Next Flight

Dos and Don’ts on Your Next Flight

Mr. Faultier has already started planning flights for Christmas, which has got me thinking about air travel. Over the past several years, I’ve been flying a lot more, and I think I’ve been able to put together a tidy list of Dos and Don’ts (without apostrophes, don’t use apostrophes for pluralization) for making your trip go a bit smoother.

Do stay hydrated

I’ve given this tip before, it’s that important. Headaches and nosebleeds are not fun when you’re stuck in a pressurized, metal tube hurtling thousands of meters over the ocean. Trust me, I’ve experienced both. Hoarding the tiny water bottles and bringing your own large bottle to refill after security are both solid options. Just remember to empty out any bottles you want to keep if you have to go through security for a connecting flight. You are allowed to bring bottles, just not liquids – at least at all the airports I’ve been through.

Water Hoarding
I drank a lot of water on our KLM flight.

Don’t demand crazy things from your flight attendant

Flight attendants are wonderful. They bring you food and drinks, do what they can to keep you comfortable, and will try to save your life in an emergency. However, they are not somehow simultaneously your servant and all-powerful.

Things flight attendants can do:

  • Provide you with snacks and drinks – sometimes complimentary, sometimes not. That depends on your airline, not the flight attendant.
  • Provide you with headphones on flights with in-flight entertainment.
  • Provide you with paracetamol/acetaminophen when you’re a dummy and don’t follow the first rule. This may depend on the airline.

Things flight attendants cannot do:

  • Make that baby stop crying.
  • Make the plane fly faster.
  • Delay your connecting flight so that you don’t miss it.

Do be polite

Everyone has a better time when people are nice. People are nicer when they’re having a better time. It’s a happy, positive feedback loop. Try to start one.

Don’t leave your trash all over the place

Remember when I said the flight attendants are not your servants. Yes part of their job is keeping the plane clean, but you’re a jerk if you make that more difficult. On all the flights I’ve been on, an attendant has come through after each meal and before landing to collect trash. Give it to them then, when they have their gloves and bag ready! Also, there is a this thing called a trash can helpfully located in the bathroom. If you follow the first rule, which you should, you will likely have to use the bathroom at some point. Why don’t you take your trash with you then?

I get a little ragey whenever I leave a plane and walk past a row of seats that has magazines and tissues and crumbs and food wrappers strewn all over the seats and floor. You had multiple opportunities to clean up after yourself.

Airplane Bathroom Trash Can
You can put your trash here!
Source: Jason Lander, Cropped by me

Do always choose the pasta

You might think that the chicken, beef, or (god forbid) fish option actually sounds quite good on some particular flight. It’s not better than the pasta. It’s never better than pasta. You will regret it. The absolute worst the pasta can be is bland, but it is always, at the very least, more filling than your other options. If you are really concerned about plane food, you can check out a review I wrote about the food I ate during my worst travel experience.

The Pasta
Bonus Tip: If you’re polite and ask for a full can, the flight attendant will likely give you one.

Don’t take up more than your share of overhead space

I’ve figured out how to make the following rant collapsible, for your convenience. If you somehow don’t understand my problem, please open the rant and read. If you are a reasonable person, feel free to continue on to the next point.

Rant Time
For the love of god, stick to your baggage allowance. Mr. Faultier travels quite light, so for our last trip, he could fit all of his things under his seat. We needed just one overhead compartment slot between the two of us for my suitcase, which despite the ever shrinking limits, is appropriately sized for our airline. Like actually appropriately sized, not “appropriately” sized. But was there room for it anywhere near our seat? Nope! Not with all the coats and duty free purchases. Even though we needed one overhead slot – which I wish were divided and numbered to match your seat – I had to go several rows back to find one. This disrupts the flow of leaving the plane! I wasn’t going to fight the crowd back to the compartment (which is rude and counterproductive), so Mr. Faultier and I stood, hunched over in our row until some kind fellow passenger got it down for me on their way out.

Now, I am not without sin. I have tried to bring on a too-big bag before. I was naïve, and the tag called it a cabin bag. Maybe several years ago it was, but not anymore! But Lufthansa doesn’t play, and a gate agent spotted it before I got on the plane and made me gate check it. And because I’m not an [expletive], I paid to check it on the way back rather than trying to sneak it through.

You get one small suitcase-sized spot per person. That is it. If you coat and laptop bag don’t fit on top of your suitcase, they don’t go in the overhead compartment! At least, not until everyone has had a chance to claim their spot. If everyone has boarded, and there is still space – go crazy! Just sit down when the flight attendants tell you to.

If you are one of those people who put your luggage in the first compartment you see, regardless of where you sit because you think you’ll somehow get off of the plane faster, I have some choice words for you. I will not write them here, however, because my mom reads this.

Overhead Bin
Source: Michael Coté, Cropped by me

Do choose an exit row if leg space is important to you

Disclaimer: There are requirements for sitting in the exit row, and you must be willing to perform exit row duties in the case of an emergency. Mr. Faultier and I are relatively healthy, English-speaking adults, which qualifies us for most exit seats. These seats are glorious, because Mr. Faultier can spread out his legs (he’s a giant), and I can easily get in and out of my window seat without disturbing him. Then I can drink even more water and go to the bathroom as much as I want.

Leg Space in JAL Exit Row
We sat in the exit row on our flight back from Japan. It was glorious.

Finally, do what you can to relax or, alternatively, don’t stress out!

Once you are in the air, everything is out of your control. It’s better to channel your energy into keeping yourself occupied and comfortable. See my other post for some entertainment suggestions. Any issues from the ground are now beyond your reach. Flight was delayed and you might not make your connection? Literally nothing you can do about it in the air. Nothing. Save your energy and patience for when you are on the ground, so that you can run to the next gate or schedule a new flight.

And by “on the ground”, I mean out of the plane. Don’t fight to get off. Several other people are also stressed about their next flight, and trying to cut past people is not only incredibly rude, but is just slowing down the whole process for everyone. So just chill, you’ll get there eventually.

 

If you like reading about travel, check out all my travel posts here.

Commuting on the Autobahn

Commuting on the Autobahn

I have already written a post about driving in Germany, and in it, I mentioned that I could probably dedicate a whole post to the Autobahn. Well, here is that post! Though, I’m not debunking myths as much as telling you how to drive without getting run over by an angry driver in a BMW (it’s always the BMWs).  Now I commute on the Autobahn daily, so I feel like I actually have some of the experience necessary to talk about driving.

 

The left lane is for passing

I touched on this in the general driving post, but it’s one of the most important things to keep in mind when driving on the Autobahn. It’s essential for maintaining a good flow of traffic. You can’t just hang out in the left lane. By keeping slower traffic to the right, and having a dedicated lane for passing, Autobahn traffic is able to move more smoothly, and with fewer in-and-out weaving that causes jams and accidents.

A corollary to this is, only pass in the left lane. Drivers are not accustomed to regular passing on the right, so they are less likely to watch out for it. This can cause problems on highways with three lanes. For example, if a truck is driving in the middle lane, and a car is passing them on the left, they are not going to expect a car to also be passing on the right – which could cause an accident if they both try to merge into the middle lane in front of the truck.

Passing
This doesn’t look very safe.
Source: xenostral

The exception to this is at on-ramps and off-ramps, but in places where passing on the right is allowed, the lane markers are thicker, so drivers are reminded to expect passers on the right.

 

There are speed limits

This was also mentioned, but it’s the greatest misconception that the Autobahn is a complete free-for-all. C’mon, people, it’s in Germany – the land of Ordnung. Of course there are limits. There are sections with marked speed limits, primarily in heavier trafficked areas and major interchanges. And in the sections with no marked limit, there is an advised limit of 130 km/h (81 mph). You are allowed to drive faster, but if you get in an accident while going above this advised speed, it will count against you with insurance and determining liability. You are also expected to drive slower in the case of adverse road conditions, such as rain or snow, but again, the penalties will only come if there is an accident (unless speed limit signs had been posted for the weather).

Source: Michael Pereckas, Cropped by me
Source: Michael Pereckas, Cropped by me

 

There are speed cameras

I mentioned this in my previous driving post, but it does bear repeating. There are speed cameras on the Autobahn. These are much more common than American-style speed traps where cops hang out on the side of the road in conspicuous police cars. No, here they hid cameras under bridges all sneaky-like. The radio station I listen to when I forget to download podcasts actually announces where speed cameras (or Blitzer) have been spotted every half hour or so. I have no idea if this is a normal thing, or if I listen to a shady station.

 

You are never the fastest

So you understand the rules about passing on the left, but you figure that in your fancy-pants BMW (sorry, BMW owners, but you’re usually the worst offenders 😉 ) that you’ll be faster than everyone else, so you never need to leave the left lane. Hold on, buddy, is that a Porsche you see in your rearview mirror? You better get over, because you’re cramping their style.

Seriously, though. You are never the fastest person driving. There is always someone who will pop up behind you and jostle you to get over. The best thing to do is to just always get into the right if there is enough space for you to drive there for a bit, if only to give the speediest of speed racers a chance to pass. The German driving test I took has an actually time recommendation for this, but I can’t remember it now.

Fast Cars to the Left
This driver wants you to go faster or get out of the left lane!
Source: jo.sau, Cropped by me

 

It’s illegal to run out of gas

The Germans are really big on keeping things running efficiently – that means absolutely no stopping on the Autobahn unless necessary. You know what’s not necessary? Running out of gas. This is not a joke. You are expected to have sufficient amount of gas in your car at all times, and it’s considered your fault if you did not plan properly.

You really shouldn’t run out of gas though. If you are on the proper Autobahn, there is a maximum distance allowed between gas stations, and each stop with a gas station has a sign that tells you how far away the next one is. No excuses, keep your tank full!

Fun fact, I complained to Mr. Faultier about my “idiot light” turning on, and asking him about how far the car could go with that much gas – and he told me that he doesn’t think he’s ever let it get that low!

 

Source: Sauerlaender
Hopefully they didn’t run out of gas!
Source: Sauerlaender

Not all highways are the Autobahn

While Autobahn may be used colloquially to mean any German highway, the Autobahn system does not cover all highways in Germany. It’s similar to how, in the US, there is an Interstate highway system, as well as smaller state highways. From Wikipedia:

Various other controlled-access highways exist on the federal (Bundesstraße), state(Landesstraße), district, and municipal level but are not part of the Autobahn network and are officially referred to as Kraftfahrstraße

You can tell what type of highway you’re on by how it’s named. A # is an official Autobahn, B # is a Bundesstraße, L # is a Landesstraße – very logical, very German. Bundesstraßen in particular are very similar to Autobahnen, but they generally smaller,  more likely to have speed limits, and may not have a hard shoulder. Landesstraßen are generally even smaller, and remind me of itty-bitty country highways.

For a road to be classified as an Autobahn, it has to meet some very particular construction standards regarding central barriers, shoulders, curves, and so on. If you want an overview, the Wikipedia article is pretty solid. It has 96 references, if you also desire deeper reading.

 

Trucks have different speed limits

Larger vehicles, as well as cars pulling trailers, have different speed limits, indicated by stickers on the back of the vehicles. This is the most noticeable with semi-trucks, which have a speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph). This usually keeps them in the right lane and easy to pass.  Until one going 81 km/h tries to pass another going 79 km/h and you have elephant racing (Elefantenrennen). If there are more than two lanes, everyone angrily gets over to the far left, which slows down the speedsters. If there are only two lanes, break lights flash and everyone starts swearing.

Elephant Race
Source: Tino Rossini, Cropped by me

 

There will be construction somewhere along your route

Always.

Construction
Source: WikimediaImages

 

Source for header: Sauerlaender

Ten Tips for Surviving in Germany

Ten Tips for Surviving in Germany

My parents and younger sister are landing in Germany tomorrow, and in honor of their visit, and a bit too late to be of any real use to them, I have compiled a list of my top tips for surviving a trip to Germany – presented in no particular order.

1. Prepare for Grocery Shopping

Getting to the cashier in a German grocery store is a high-stress situation. They are speedy and everyone in line with you has high expectations for efficiency – they are German, of course. I prefer shopping with Mr. Faultier so we can team up and bag the groceries together. It also helps to place your items on the belt in the order you want to bag them. Then you don’t have to worry about organization while a grandma with two dozen liters of discount milk is staring you down.

If you truly are not ready for this, just get a cart, toss your stuff in after it’s rung up, and sort it at your leisure once you’re out of the line.

2. Review the Driving Rules

I’ve already written about driving in Germany, which will go into some more detail about some of the difference between driving in America and driving in Germany.

Germans are as impatient on the road as they are in the grocery store. Make sure you know the rules and keep in the right lane on the Autobahn, otherwise you’ll see an angry BMW in your rearview mirror.

3. Avoid Jaywalking

Crossing Signal
Photo: pixcarraldo

Germans are pretty big on order (Ordnung) and that applies to crossing the street properly. Crossing a street with no crosswalk is sometimes permissible depending on traffic and how close the nearest crossing is, but crossing at an intersection when the signal is red is highly frowned upon. You can maybe, possibly cross if the street is completely empty, but only if there are no children around. Setting a good example for the children is key. We must maintain the illusion of peace and order, for the sake of the kids.

4. Learn a Few Pleasantries

A little German goes a long way. Most Germans don’t have much of a problem using English if they know it, though they will be overly self-conscious about their skill level. But when you know how to ask for help and say thank you in German, others are much happier to help. And, hey, you’re in their country!

Helpful Phrases

EnglishGerman
PleaseBitte
Thank YouDanke (schön)
You're WelcomeBitte (schön)
Do you speak English?Sprechen Sie Englisch?
Can you help me?Können Sie mir helfen?

“Schön” in these phrases can be used to mean “very much”, so break it out for extra politeness if needed.

A phrasebook or booklet is going to be a lot more helpful than a full dictionary, especially if you’re only visiting. I have a dream of creating my own, but that hasn’t happened yet.

5. Ask for the Check at Restaurants

In America, waiters rush you out the door in order to turn over your table more quickly, however, eating out is one area where the Germans are less efficient. Europeans like their leisurely meals. A check will not show up at your table right after the dishes are cleared. If you are ready to leave, you have to tell the waiter that you would like to pay (“Ich möchte bezahlen.”) But if you want to linger a bit and chat with your dinner companions, go ahead! Unless you are the last ones in the restaurant, then you may want to consider leaving.

Added note: No need to get crazy with your math for the tip. Round up a euro or two, and you’re probably fine. Tips are called “Trinkgeld” – drinking money, they’re for the waiter to buy themselves a drink or two, not a main part of their income.

6. Request Still Water

Photo: Snufkin
Photo: Snufkin

If you don’t like sparkling water, the phrase “Stilles Wasser” is your best friend. Sparkling water is the default, so you have to specifically ask for still. If you order with an American accent or in English, the waiter may ask – using a variety of translations, my favorite being “without gas” – but no need to take any chances.

This method will still get you possibly pricey bottled water. If you really want tap water, you have to ask for “Leitungswasser”.

7. Remember that Eis is Not Ice

If a German asks you, “Do you want an ice (spelled “Eis” in German)?” they are not asking you if you want an ice cube. They’re offering you ice cream. Putting ice in drinks is not common, which is very odd to Americans who are used to more ice than beverage. If you want ice for a drink, you may want to ask for “Eiswürfeln” (ice cubes) instead of simply “ice” to avoid confusion.

8. Check Public Transportation Options

Photo: afrndz
Photo: afrndz

Public transportation is often better than driving. Gas is expensive, roads are often narrow and not originally designed for cars, and parking is scarce. Thankfully, buses, trains, and trams can get you almost everywhere. If you are planning a trip, check out the public transportation options. If you’re traveling around a city, especially, it may be much more practical than dealing with a car. If you choose that route, I’ve also written a few times about public transportation in Germany.

9. Get Ready for No Air Conditioning

If you are traveling in the summer, be prepared for scarcity of air conditioning. Most people don’t have it in their homes, and many businesses don’t bother. Major culture shock if you’re a wimpy American like me. Last summer, I compiled a list of tips for dealing with the German heat, which I will be reading over again as the temperature starts to climb.

Definitely pack layers for summer trips, because it doesn’t take long for the weather to go from pleasant and cool in the mornings and evenings to horrifically hot.

10. Forget Stereotypes

Germans are not mean. Most of the ones I’ve met are quite nice, even if they are a bit reserved and masters of the bitchy resting face. Here, “niceness” is more about actions than appearance. People don’t walk around smiling, but they’re usually happy to help, especially if you try asking for it in German.

 

Let me know in the comments if you have other tips to add! Or if you are visiting Germany soon and have any questions, feel free to ask!

My TSA-Approved Liquids Bag

My TSA-Approved Liquids Bag

1 April 2016 – I’m bringing this post back again because I’m on vacation, and while I plan on writing about some of my beauty related discoveries here in Tokyo, I haven’t had much time to explore or write yet. However, back when I was packing for this trip, I looked back at this post to make sure I was ready to go for the plane trip. The only things I ended up adding were a concealer and a moisturizer with salicylic acid because my skin was acting up. I hope this list is as useful for you as it’s been for me!

My Liquids Travel Bag

I’m going to be heading back to America at the end of August, so expect some more travel related posts popping up as I prepare myself. I’m desperately trying to cure myself of my overpacking tendencies, so I’m hoping that by documenting my packing process, I can hold myself accountable for being efficient.

First up is my liquids bag – my little one liter or so plastic bag that I can fill with 100 ml bottles because that is apparently necessary for safety. I think a lot of the security hoops we have to jump through nowadays are pretty much useless and just for show, but that’s is a topic for another time. Because I don’t want to take a boat over, I dutifully stash all of my fluids and gels into a little plastic bag for travel. On a positive note, I really adore tiny-sized objects, so this gives me an excuse to buy travel bottles of things.

I used to stuff my ziploc bags with as much as I possibly could, but as I’ve traveled more, I’ve taken note of the things I’ll shove in there and won’t actually use. These things do not make a return. I’ve managed to divide my needs into four categories, which I hope may help some of you make decisions about what you may need on your trips.

Skin/Hands 

Skin Care

Planes are dry and they are dirty, so I always bring hand sanitizer and moisturizer. The hand sanitizer is just the store brand from Lidl, because as long as it has enough alcohol in it, it will kill all the germs. The Verlobter has convinced me that the water in the airplane bathrooms is filthy, so I use this as an alternative to hand washing. I have no idea how true that is, but I know that you aren’t supposed to drink the sink water, so I’m very suspicious of it.

We got this tiny Nivea Creme tin in a travel kit, but the next size up also works quite well. I like it for my hands and face because my skin gets really dry in the plane, especially on long haul flights. It also doesn’t have a very strong scent, so you will not bother your neighbors. I’m not 100% sure if the cream counts as a liquid, but it’s small, so I throw it in the bag to be safe.

Teeth

Travel Dental Care

Dental care is probably more important for those of us traveling on long haul flights, if you are only on a plane for a few hours, you probably won’t need to freshen up. The toothpaste I may not actually use on the flight, because of my aforementioned fear of the bathroom water, but I like to have it in case we get stranded somewhere. And I can also brush my teeth during the layover in a sink with less sketchy water.

The mouthwash I will use on the plane as a quick refresh before we land. Our long haul flight in August will be about 10 hours long, and I would like to attempt to sleep during it. I have not used these particular products before, I just bought them because they were cheap at Müller. I don’t have any special preferences for my teeth and mouth, though, so I’m sure they’ll work out fine.

Eyes

Eye Care

If you have perfect eyesight, you can skip this section and I don’t like you. (Kidding, the Verlobter has perfect eyesight, I’m just jealous.) I will wear my glasses during the trip, but I am scared that my luggage will be lost, and, depending on what we are doing after we land, I may want to put my contacts in right after we arrive. I hate encountering sunlight without sunglass, so if we land during the day, I will likely pop them in.

I keep my current pair of contacts in my adorable owl case that I think I got from Walmart. It’s getting a bit old and worn down, so I will probably need to buy a new one soon. I also bring an extra pair. Mine are two week contacts, so I will probably start a new pair right before we leave, and then I’ll have the extra set in case I lose one. It’s important to have replacements with me in the US, because there you need a prescription to buy new ones, unlike Germany where you can pop into a drugstore to pick them up. I keep extra solution in an old Target travel bottle because travel sized solution is comically overpriced.

Makeup

Travel Makeup

If you don’t wear makeup or don’t feel the need to put any on while traveling, you can skip this section. This is the category I’ve cut down the most. I think the first time I traveled, I had enough for a full face, with my powder products (eyeshadow, blush, setting powder) in another bag. That is way overkill for me now, especially since I never go anywhere fancy directly from the airport. Now I just stick with a tinted moisturizer/BB cream and mascara so that I don’t arrive looking dead, because my mom always takes pictures for Facebook immediately upon arrival.

The BB cream is the Lidl store brand. I believe it’s under 3€, but it’s really more of a tinted moisturizer than a BB cream. That’s fine for me, because that’s all I want. Because it is so sheer, it blends in well with my super pale skin, but it does brighten it up a bit and add some moisture – perfect for the end of the flight. It says it has SPF 10, but that’s basically nothing for pasty people like me, so I wouldn’t treat it like sunscreen.

The mascara is just what I’ve currently been wearing. It’s the Glam & Doll Volume Mascara Waterproof from Catrice. I just picked it up because I wanted a waterproof mascara for the summer, and it was pretty cheap (under 5€, I believe). It’s okay. It’s not clumpy, which I like, but it can smudge a little on the lower lashes, which isn’t cool because it’s meant to be waterproof. Doesn’t bother me too much, though.

So that’s what I’ll have in my liquids bag! The bag itself is from Essence and I picked it up and Müller. I grabbed it because it is rather thick plastic and felt pretty sturdy. However, I’ve already had to wiggle the zipper bit back on, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. If you can find one will a real zipper, that will probably be the best if you are planning on using it a lot. However, for just a trip or two, regular ziploc baggies work quite well.

Is there anything that you can’t live without in your baggie? Let me know below! Maybe in my attempts to be more efficient, I’ve missed something critical!

More Public Transportation Tips

More Public Transportation Tips

I’ve talked a bit about using public transportation here in Germany and some tips on public transportation etiquette, but now I have some more tips! These are primarily based on my personal experience and things that annoy me. I try to follow my own advice, and I think that if everyone kept some of these tips in mind, travel on trains, trams, and buses would be much more pleasant.

Wear Headphones and Keep Music at a Reasonable Volume

While I appreciate the people who have the self-awareness to not carry around Bluetooth speakers and treat the whole train to their private techno party, when you turn up your headphones all the way, you have a similar effect. Please turn down your music. Your fellow passengers and your eardrums thank you.

This is not how headphones are meant to be used. (Photo by Foundry)
This is not how headphones are meant to be used. (Photo by Foundry)

Please Keep Your Arms and Legs in Your Area

You may not be on a roller coaster, but it is considerate to keep your limbs out of the aisle so people can pass without tripping. If you must spread out, it would be really appreciated if you kept and eye on the aisle to move out of the way when people need to pass. This also applies to bags or luggage. The aisle isn’t your storage space. It’s for people to move around.

Look at these considerate people keeping the aisle clear. (Photo by cegoh)
Look at these considerate people keeping the aisle clear. (Photo by cegoh)

Be Careful With Food and Drink

Commutes can be long and you often require sustenance, but try not to make a mess. And if you do, try to clean up after yourself to the best of your ability. If you spill coffee all over your seat on the bus, please put something on top of it, like a piece of paper or napkin if you have one, so people have some sort of warning before they get your latte all over their butt when they try to sit down. This last example is specific for a reason. Advice for the rule-abidMing, always check your seat before sitting down.

Indoor Voices

I assume you don’t want everyone to know your business, and most people don’t even want to know your business, but if you talk quite loudly, you’ll be hard to ignore. It’s like bringing on the aforementioned Bluetooth speaker, but instead of a techno dance party, everyone knows that you woke up in a strange apartment and was surprised to see the Alps when you looked out the window. This example is also specific for a reason. I can only assume that man’s experience was rather disconcerting..

"I woke up and I saw the Alps!" - apparently a sign of a crazy night. (Photo by klausdie)
“I woke up and I saw the Alps!” – apparently a sign of a crazy night. (Photo by klausdie)

For the Love of God, Let People OFF the Train First

I mentioned this in my other etiquette post, but I think I cannot say it enough. The train will not leave with the doors open. You will not miss the train somehow if patiently let the people off first. In fact, when you stand in their way, they can’t leave and you can’t get on – which holds everything up. This also applies to buses, trams, and subways. Keep it orderly. Off then on.

Now this is not an exhaustive list of tips, but something I’ve noticed is that a bit of self-awareness goes a long way. Think of how you would feel if someone else was doing what you are, and if that would bother you, don’t do it yourself.

 

Photo used in header by WikiImages

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