Mexico City, 2016
I was finishing a lunch at KURA, a fancy Japanese spot in Colonia Roma Norte.
We were an eclectic group of patrons: an Egyptian girl, who originally moved to Mexico for her boyfriend and decided to stick around after they split, a Mexican woman with her own small advertising agency, my Japanese roommate, who worked at a bank, an American friend who sold security systems throughout Latin America and was based in Mexico City, and myself, a Canadian who no one really knew what the fuck was doing exactly.
We settled the bill and those who had to rushed back to their respective jobs, leaving me and my American friend alone outside the restaurant.
"It's a nice day. Want to walk?" he asked.
I'd met Matthew a few months back through my roommate. I immediately took a liking to the guy. He was different than most foreigners you meet in DF, who are either irritatingly enthusiastic about Mexico, or irritatingly cynical about it. He was balanced. Saw the city for what it was: not perfect, but pretty good for Latin American standards. A sensible hub from which to conduct business. He didn't feel the need to bash the place or be an ambassador for it. He was just there doing his thing. 15 years of living abroad in various locations gave him with the ability to judge a place more or less objectively.
A good head on his shoulders.
We headed east on Colima street and hung a right on Salamanca toward Parque Mexico.
"Do you plan to stay in Mexico City?" he asked.
"I'm considering it," I replied. "Ticks most of my boxes. And you?"
"I've had enough of it," he said, flatly.
"Of the city?" I asked, wanting to elicit a bit more information.
"Of Latin America."
Matthew was the head of the Latin American division of a global security company. He was tasked with landing contracts and closing deals to sell security systems to companies throughout Latin America. As a result, he'd visited almost every country in the region numerous times. Originally, the company wanted to base him in Panama City given its ideal geographic location between Central and South America. But he refused ("I'm not a fan of the Panamanians," he used to say).
Instead, he and his boss settled on Mexico City, where he'd been for about the last 3 years.
"What's the story?" I asked.
"I'm sick of dealing with these people. They're never straightforward in business. It takes years to close a deal."
He went on.
"They have no concept of service. Walk into a restaurant and they won't have half the shit on the menu. If you go to a place like La Cerveceria, they'll fuck up all the orders, try to overcharge you on the bill and then chase after you out the door whining that you only left a 10% tip."
We sat at Plaza Popocatepetl for a smoke break.
"I've noticed it," I said. "Hard not to. I can't say it bothers me too much, though. Annoying? Yes. But tolerable.
"Cumulative," he said, voice muffled by the cigarette in his mouth.
He lit it.
"It's a cumulative effect," he clarified. "How old are you?"
"That's about when it starts," he noted. "When I was that age, I'd been in China for a few years. 26, 27, I started to get frustrated with the culture and my environment. Started reflecting. I stuck around for a couple years more, but 26, 27? That's when I realized I'd have to get out."
"And then you came here?" I inquired.
Although I was decent friends with Matthew, we didn't really talk about personal shit. Part of the reason I liked him.
"Shortly after, yeah," he replied. "But for work, not so much for interest. China was the only place I was ever really interested in. But, I studied in Rio de Janeiro for a year, and I liked the lifestyle so I figured I could make due working in Latin America."
We got up to leave, heading toward his apartment on Iztaccihuatl Street.
"What's the escape plan?" I asked.
"I've asked to be transferred to Europe. I'm always asking, actually. And they're always saying yes. I'm hoping it happens one day," he laughed. If not, I'll try to swing remote work from the States and make one of my salesmen do all the travelling. Regardless, I'm getting out. I don't want to do another year here.
We reached the front door of his apartment building. A smart one, less than a block away from Parque Mexico. He lived in a spacious 2-bedroom suite. Top floor. Modern furniture and appliances. All covered by his company.
I said my goodbyes at the door.
"Have a good one, brother," I said.
"Yeah man, let's hit a bar on Friday. Maybe Janis."
A year passed before I thought about the conversation I'd had with Matthew.
I'd since relocated to Lima, and had been in the city about 4 or 5 days. I'd spent most of those days hanging out in my Airbnb apartment, working long hours on freelance gigs, only stepping out to buy groceries.
As soon as I had a free day, I decided to knock off all my errands in one go: getting set-up with a local SIM card, scoping out neighbourhoods to rent a long term apartment and setting up a local bank account. I called an UBER and headed from Miraflores to Barranco. I figured I could get a SIM card, after which I could call some apartment numbers and ask about prices, eventually inquire about a bank account and take a nice leisurely walk back to Miraflores along the sea when I was done.
How wrong I was.
I had the UBER drop me off at the Parque Municipal de Barranco, a good jumping off point for the neighbourhood. Then I hit the first bodega I saw that had a Movistar or Claro Network advertisement to ask about getting a SIM card.
"We don't sell them" the clerk said.
Fair enough, I thought. Not every bodega does.
I tried the next one.
"We don't sell them."
Fine. I'll head to the supermarket. I'd gotten SIM cards at that particular market two previous times on two separate trips to Lima. I was sure they'd be able to sort me out.
First, I asked at Movistar.
"We're sold out." said the clerk.
"You know where I can get one?" I asked.
"Do you have a passport, or a DNI?
"Just a passport," I replied.
"If you only have a passport, you'll have to go to the office in Miraflores. We can't sell SIM cards to tourists."
What the fuck? I thought. I'd never had this issue before - usually, getting a SIM card is easy as pie down here.
I asked him for the address to the office just in case, although I was sure I wouldn't need it.
I walked 10 steps over to the Claro kiosk to try them.
"Hi, I said. "I need a SIM Card."
"Do you have a DNI," he asked.
"Just a passport," I said.
"I can't sell you one. You'll need to go to the Claro office."
"Is this a new policy?" I asked. I got a SIM card from this same kiosk like 6 months ago."
"I don't know," he shrugged. "But if you only have a passport you can only get a SIM Card th -"
"Through the main office..." I interrupted. "Thanks."
Fuck it, I thought. I'll get that later. Let's see about that bank account.
First, I tried Scotiabank.
No bank accounts for foreigners.
Then I tried BCP.
No bank accounts for foreigners...unless they have a reference from someone who has a lot of money in BCP (paraphrase).
I tried another one, I don't recall. Probably BBVA.
No bank accounts for foreigners.
Finally, I tried Interbank.
Yes, we open bank accounts for foreigners.
"Are you sure? I asked. "Are you sure that I can open a bank account with my passport and on a tourist visa."
The laws for a foreigner opening a bank account in Latin American countries are vague. Most won't let you do it. I wanted to be certain.
"Of course, I'm sure," the clerk said. "Just bring your passport and a second piece of ID to our main office and they'll open a savings account for you."
OK, I thought. Seems legit.
Since I couldn't do much about apartment hunting without a SIM card, I decided to hit the main office of Movistar in Miraflores to see what was up. I hailed a cab off the street. I told him to take me to the address.
"25 soles" he said, which is about $7.
"10 soles" I countered, which is only slightly lower than what the price should be.
He shook his head and drove away.
Ah, Latin America, I thought. Where the cab drivers would rather lose a fare than admit failure at trying to fuck a tourist over.
I hailed the next one.
"20 soles" he said.
Cocksucker. I thought.
"10," I said.
We settled on 12 or 13.
The line at Movistar was massive. There were two lines, actually. One to get a ticket for service, and the other to line up for service, thus making the ticketing process entirely irrelevant.
I went through their belaboured process, explaining to the clerk that all I needed was a fucking SIM card.
"Line up over there," the woman said, giving me a number. I cued up behind about 10 miserable Peruvians, who looked as though they were as baffled by the inefficiency as I was. Finally, it was my turn.
"Hi, I need a SIM card," I said. "I only have a passport."
I'd learned this part by now.
"OK, give me your passport," she said.
"I'll have to take this back to photocopy it" she replied, after glancing at it a few seconds.
Instead of asking why the fuck she needed to do that, I accepted it to facilitate expedition, bewildered that, in 2017, it was taking an entire day to procure the ability to make a goddamn non-payphone call.
After about two minutes she came back.
"I need you to sign these three spaces, and then put your finger in the ink and place your fingerprint beside your signature."
"Do you want a blood sample as well?" I asked.
She didn't laugh.
I signed all the papers, left my fingerprint and was sent off with a receipt to another line to pay. A few dollars, not very expensive.
I was given a new receipt and then, I kid you not, sent to ANOTHER line to collect my SIM card.
Fucking Fuck. Really? I thought.
I finally received the card and fled. The entire process took well over an hour.
I left apartment hunting for another day. That could be done more casually, since I'd booked my current place for a month.
Now was time to get a bank account.
The Interbank head office was located on the border of La Victoria, a shitty barrio, and San Isidro, a nice barrio.
Interbank was on the shitty side of the border.
I cued up and participated in another intricate take-a-number system. This one included electric screens.
"Progressive," I thought.
My number was called after about 15 minutes.
"Hello, I was told by an Interbank agent that I'd be able to open a basic bank account on a tourist visa," I said.
"Ok," said the bank lady. "No problem, did you have your carnet and a copy of your work permission?"
"No, no," I said. "I have a tourist visa. I was confidently told by a Interbank agent that it was possible to open a bank account with my tourist visa, my passport and a second piece of ID."
"Oh, no, it is not possible," she said. "You can't do it on just a tourist visa."
"Then why. WHY are Interbank agents telling me that it's possible?" I asked.
"Well, it used to be possible," she said. "But the rules changed a few months ago."
"So, even though I was explicitly told by Interbank that it was possible, it is not possible," I said, defeated.
"Correct," she said. "It is not possible."
"Not under any circumstance?" I asked.
"Not unless you have a reference from one of our premier members," she said.
Typical. In Latin America you can't do anything...unless you know a rich guy. Then, you can do anything.
"Fine," I said, knowing I wouldn't get anywhere.
I hailed the first cab I saw. He ripped me off a few soles on the fare but I could've cared less - I just wanted to be alone.
I got back to my apartment and drank 3/4 of a bottle of whisky and smoked 1,200 cigarettes.
"Fuck these people," is all I could think.
What’s The Big Fucking Deal, Bitch?
Over the years, I’ve made an effort to be more aware of my conscious state. This was after realizing that my years spent in college between the ages of 18-22 seem like a blur now. Relationships and friendships formed at that time are all distance stars, fading more with each passing year. I was always looking toward the future. The only concrete plan I had was to live in a Latin American country. Plagued by indecisiveness as a young lad, this was about the only thing that I was sure I wanted. I couldn’t explain why, and that was part of the draw.
Made it feel like destiny.
Some gay, Paulo Coelho-type shit.
As such, I’ve always been fascinated by expats. How they did it. Why they did it. If they’re getting on or not.
After finally achieving my goal of living in Latin America, I felt I was alive in the moment. Drinking each day in. Cataloguing every memory in my brain. The touches, the sights, the smells. Living abroad makes you aware of the mundane that you don’t pay heed to in your homeland. Walk past the same apartment block as you have 100 other times and you don’t see it anymore. But in a new city, every fucking piece of graffiti, market, or bus stop is a new discovery. It's an exercise of living in the moment, getting out of your own head and interacting with the world.
Psychologically, my time in Mexico City was sunshine and kitty cats.
Lima was slightly darker.
I arrived in the Peruvian capital after spending three months in Canada, where I was hired to work on a product launch for a company in the firearms industry.
That buffer time between Mexico City and Lima was just enough for me to readapt to life in Canada, i.e. the world basically working and running the way I reckon it should. During that time, I was earning decent money, my Internet or power never got cut off and I didn't almost die simply from daring to exist as a pedestrian. No one tried to fuck me over, and any errand I had to run generally went smoothly thanks to the help of qualified individuals.
Lima was a cold slithery slap across the mouth. In addition to the fuckaround I got trying to do basic tasks, my Airbnb host tried to raise the rent on my when I asked about renting his apartment for half a year.
A prime example of people down here failing to think longterm.
Instead of getting full occupancy for six months, paid upfront, for maybe $100 less than his advertised monthly rate, making much more money than he could have hoped for getting the occasional one-off rental for a few days, he decided to try and fuck me. This was also after he lied about having wifi and a fully-equipped kitchen (thank Christ I brought an ethernet cable and a fucking chef's knife).
I began to seriously question why I was ever interested in these shithole countries with backward people. For a time, I only wanted to stay inside, read and make money. I was done with Latinos and their nonsense.
And this sentiment shocked me.
It was the first time that I'd felt such powerfully negative feelings toward living in Latin America.
Matthew's words came rushing back to me. 26 years old. "That's about when it starts."
I couldn't help but laugh.
Although I wasn't ready to leave Latin America just yet, my negativity did make me realize something important: The honeymoon period was over. It was time to see if the marriage would survive.
Who Makes It Work Down Here, Who Doesn’t, And Why
But enough about me.
Aside from what I mentioned above, situations that all expats or longterm travellers can sympathize with I'm sure, why do so many expats decide to head home after a few years down south?
Part of the problem is that finding that perfect Latin America city is a fucking tightrope act.
You want a country with laidback culture, sunny skies, low prices and sexy women? Your sacrifice will be inefficiencies, personal safety and being cheated (y'all know the countries I'm talking about)
You want a country with stability, security and relative efficiency? Your sacrifice will be uglier women, higher prices and a drab culture. You’ll begin to wonder why you left home in the first place (again, you know what countries).
A three to four week “scouting trip” isn’t enough to prepare you for the bullshit that you’ll encounter when you actually try to get something done that’s more difficult than ordering food in a chain restaurant or catching an UBER.
It takes an individual with a very particular set of personality traits that is able to thrive as an expat in Latin America with no qualms, and I'll be the first to admit that I’m not one of the people who possesses these traits.
At times, it's a real struggle for me doing more than a few months in LATAM.
But there are some people who are really not cut out for it. You meet these folks (usually in bars). Expats for who the dial has swung too far to the wrong side. Those who have, instead of finding the paradise they were seeking, seem to have stumbled upon a tropical hell.
Sit down and chat. You’ll notice a pattern
It’ll start with the usual gripes about LATAM: a lack of customer service, how everyone plays the victim and never takes responsibility for anything.
Stick around long enough in the conversation, and it may descend into a full-on hate fest for the country and its people.
“Fucking incompetent savages.”
“Some stone-faced indios tried to fuck me over again”
The jump from critical observation to blatant racism is shorter than most are comfortable believing. Quite often, it’s only a word.
These folk take to the drink for predictable reasons. Never quite being comfortable with the language, that groundless feeling of knowing they’ve turned their back on their culture only to never be accepted by their new one, the constant fear of being ripped off, to be seen by the local poor as a mark, and by the local rich as a sex tourist or a buffoon that couldn’t quite make things work in his own nation.
The unhappy expat can come from any walk of life. Perhaps he came down with good intentions. To do social work with a charitable organization or to teach English to locals. For the life of him, he couldn’t understand why donation boxes were being robbed by the very same people receiving the donations, or why no one was showing up to take advantage of free English classes.
Or maybe he came down in the hopes of finding love after a nasty divorce, and found himself burned by the local women one too many times.
Maybe he accepted a transfer from work. A bigger pay check and all living expenses paid sounded pretty good. That is, until he realized the appalling work ethic in LATAM organizations. What would take an hour to accomplish working a CitiBank corporate branch in Chicago will take an entire day to accomplish in a branch in Bogota.
This place will wear you down, son.
Enough time in Latin America can turn the hopeful into to a cynic, the amicable into an asshole, the compassionate to callous.
So, who does make it down here?
From what I’ve seen it takes a cocktail of adaptability, romanticism and independence garnished with a touch of ignorance, willful or otherwise.
It’s a difficult compromise for a man of logic and reason to come to terms with. Eventually, his powerlessness in the face of daily impracticalities will swallow him whole. I suspect this is what happened to my friend Matthew. His ambition and propensity for logical thought couldn’t find solace in a culture that struggles to recognize let alone reward these traits.
This runs contrary to what I used to believe. I assumed that people who are able to carve out a life for themselves in Latin America are the industrious, driven and sedulous. After all, what other type of person would be able to thrive and adapt to a new culture without having a solid work ethic and the ability to sort through the endless setbacks and struggles that come with moving to a new country?
However, what I’ve found time and time again is that those that are driven professionally and have to do anything linked to business in Latin America, such as opening a company, getting construction permits or working in a multinational corporation, get burned out in a few years and relocate to Asia, Europe or North America, to countries where success relies a tad more on work ethic than on knowing the right people.
Now, there are exceptions, of course. Driven expats with preexisting ties to the place they’re living tend to do better, particularly those with families. Although they may not feel entirely at home in their new surroundings, they at least know what to expect, speak the language fluently and have a support system to fall back on.
Expats that have lived in the region for a few years before settling down, getting married and starting a family also tend to adjust to their environment in a slightly less-bitter manner.
Then you have the mad ones. Artists, writers, swindlers, dodgy businessmen. Many live in an alternate world anyhow, so you don’t often find them moaning about their adopted home.
Occasionally, there are single men over 40 that are happy down here. Some are even mentally well-adjusted. Oftentimes, their insatiable appetite for Latinas is enough to keep them happy. The ones that do alright unsurprisingly have low ambition, often retired or running an low-maintenance business, like renting a couple rooms on Airbnb.
What About Digital Nomads?
The most curious group of all is the “Digital Nomad” group. Young folk, aged 20-40, who earn their income from abroad through things like freelancing, affiliate marketing, book sales etc. You’ll find them all over Latin America. Medellin, Bogota, Mexico City, Rio, Panama City. Having met a handful, I can say that not many have a keen interest in the countries or cultures in which they are staying. Rather, they are drawn to places for the women, weather and low cost of living. The way they earn income allows them to isolate themselves from the more unfavourable aspects of life in Latin America. They tend to befriend other digital nomads who speak English and they can do their shopping and errands during business hours to avoid crowds. They typically split their time between a maximum of three neighbourhoods, occasionally departing only to check out an exclusive bar in another area of town where they’ve heard that hot girls hang out.
The digital nomad's ability to insulate himself from the surrounding culture keeps dissatisfaction low. He cherry-picks the aspects of the country and culture that he likes, and largely avoids or ignores the rest. He need only leave his bubble if his Internet stops working or if his electricity gets turned off for no reason. Even then, he can often get a girl he met on Tinder to handle the phone call and get everything sorted out.
It remains to be seen if digital nomad-type expats will make it long term in Latin America. The ones I’ve met with a semi-permanent base down here all seem to be happy so far. But many haven’t been tested.
Shit, a good percentage haven't even taken public transit in the city they live in.
I don’t say this to bash them; it’s a logical way to live. In fact, many wealthy locals arrange their lives in this manner as well. I just query whether or not beautiful women, cheap rent and sunny skies will be enough to satisfy their souls past a certain age.
As a good percentage of my income comes from online endevours, I certainly have a foot in the digital nomad camp. But, at the risk of sounding holier-than-thou, I also have a borderline obsessive interest in Latin American countries and cultures. In the past, this has been able to moderate the frustrations I have regarding efficiency, service and the omnipresent risk of getting scammed or outright robbed in these countries. Although I make an effort to branch out and explore different things in different neighbourhoods of the city I’m living in, I’m under no illusions that I also live in a bubble down here – I always opt to rent in a more affluent district and only pop out of it when it suits my needs or interests.
However, after readjusting to life in Latin America after my stint in Canada, and having recently been trying to do a bit of business down there, I’m seeing the veneer I once had starting to peel away. Instead of shaking my head at the bitter expat as I once did, I’m finding myself understanding and sympathizing with him.
What Kind Of Expat Is Best Suited To Life In Latin America?
In reality, it’s the fool who is best suited to life down here.
The fool lets the culture wash over him, taking him out to sea as it would an abandoned ship. Sure, it might bash him against the rocks a few times, but give the fool an English teaching job, cheap beer, a Latina girlfriend and 5 other expat friends who have the same and often that’s already much more than he had back home.
I met the female version of the fool while I was living in Mexico City. Three of them, actually. Two English teachers and one graphic designer. All middle-aged, none of them married. Borderline alcoholics. They all got drunk amongst themselves, never leaving the neighbourhood in which they lived (Condesa). Low cost of living, cheap booze and friends with common interests were all they needed to be happy in the city. Never mind that none of them could name a single state in the country they were living in and knew nothing of its rich and intricate history. Why would that matter when you can get $3 cocktails?
One had been there for 25 years and her Spanish was worse than my pidgin tongue.
But, alas, we can’t all be fools. So who does that leave?
Having met dozens of expats throughout Latin America, I can give you two examples of people I know who seem to be legitimately happy in their new home. This is excluding the fools and non-ambitious. These are people that are motivated, productive and well-adjusted.
The first is an American expat that lives in Guanajuato, Mexico. He is in his forties, married with children. Initially, he came down to Mexico as a college student for an exchange program. While there, he developed a ravenous interest for the culture and decided to stay, in the process, earning himself a couple different degrees and landing a cush job in a private university in the nearby city of Leon, where he still teaches. He’s been in the country for about 25 years.
The second is a young American journalist in Mexico City. Having always been interested in Mexico, he came down after university to cut his teeth in the industry. He’s since written articles for Forbes, The Guardian and The Atlantic. He’s got a long-term girlfriend, a dog and a nice flat in a good neighbourhood. Going on about ten years in the city. When you talk to him, you get the impression that there is nowhere else he’d rather be.
These are about the only two satisfied expats I know that are actually doing something with their lives.
The traits they have in common are these:
1. An interest in the country or culture they’re living in & fluency in Spanish
2. A job than earns a higher than average income
3. Personal relationships that ground them to the country (girlfriend/wife)
I’ve come to believe that, in order to be truly happy as an expat in Latin America for the long run, you must have all of these three things going for you.
If you don’t, you’ll flicker out.
Chasing local skirt doesn’t offer enough substance to keep you happy forever in a place that you’re not interested in. I suspect this is part of the reason why digital nomads are hopping around so much. Don't get me twisted, getting new and different pussy is great. I love it as much as the next fella. But once you've hit 100 notches or the age of 30 (whatever happens to come first), if your soul isn't demanding more it may be time for some introspection.
So, my advice for hopeful expats is this: get interested in the place you want to move! This interest can be developed either before or after you arrive in the country. Doesn’t matter. As nice as Colombian women are, Colombia also has a fascinating history to enjoy. Read about the Muiscas, the Colombian civil war or even Pablo Escobar.
Mexico has fantastic beaches, but it was also home to the Aztecs, one of the most impressive civilizations the world has ever known.
Same goes for Peru. Sure, it has easy and loyal women, but it also has the history of the Incas, who boasted the largest pre-Columbian empire in all of the Americas.
Walking the streets of these countries feels different when you’re aware of historical context. Strolling Condesa’s Hipodromo takes on new meaning when you realize it was once a horse racing track for the rich. Bogota’s Bolivar Square has new significance when you know that many of the nation’s monumentous events were celebrated under the ground you’re walking on.
These are the interests that will keep you going down here when everything else around you appears to be turning to shit.
Also, develop relationships with locals. It’s easy to fall back on fellow expats or short-term travellers for companionship. But these connections are often transient. Most foreigners you meet in your adopted city will leave, even if they don’t intend to.
If you truly plan on staying in a city, make local friends. Friends that have built a life in the city and know its streets intimately. They’ll introduce you to alternate worlds. You’ll build in-roads to the city and its culture.
Trust me, you’ll have a much richer experience than you would “daygaming” with other travellers.
Get beer-drunk on a sunny afternoon with the mechanics or construction workers on your block. Accept the invitation to meet the family of the man whose been running the bodega on the corner for 20 years that you always go to. Play with his kids. Buy your doorman a pizza every so often and let him talk to you about his marital troubles or the hot pieces of ass that live on the floor below you. Visit the markets inhabited by beasts, criminals, wannabe narcos and con-artists.
And last but not least, please, please fucking do not move to another country just because you hate the country you’re from…unless you’re from a poverty-stricken war-torn hellhole and you just need to get the fuck out. That's different.
People whose main motivation for moving to another country is because they hate first world countries like Britain, Australia, the United States or Canada are on a false quest. It’s inevitable that you’ll bring that negativity with you regardless of where you end up.
I’m not saying that you can’t be dissatisfied with your birth country. A majority of people who move abroad are, in some fashion. I’m only saying that you’re primary reason for relocation should be an interest in a new country or culture, not unhappiness with your own.
As for me, I’m getting my ducks in a row for a more permanent move; to join the ranks of the ‘expat.’ It’s not a decision I’ve taken lightly. After years of travelling, I’ve narrowed this shit down to two cities.
And, despite my undeniably un-triumphant return a year back, Lima is one of these cities.
Both places have enough to satisfy me. One is slightly better suited to business interests (door one) and the other is slightly better suited to personal interests (door two). Depending on how the business interests play out, I’ll have my answer by summer of 2018. If the business crashes and burns, I’m taking door two. If I make it work, door one it is!
I’ll keep you posted.
And for any expats who are feeling the weight, keep your head up. Don't let 'em drag ya down. It's a ratfuck out there.
Make the best of it.
Until next time,
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