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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Visit to Kpong field

Submitted by Francis Norman
Friday 22.April first meeting with Matt @ Kpong Airfield- started a nice Kitelandboarding session on the field. It’s a great spot with an awesome panoramic view with Krobo Mountain in background. I took some nice pictures of my brother Emmanuel during his Land board session.

Sunday 24. April

Second visit to the Airfield together with Emmanuel. Meet some AvTech Girls, we sing together and they loved their first exericises on the violins I brought. Especially Lydia even with her right arm being damaged she is very talented and produced really nice sounds from the violin. I left a small Violin for the MoM guys to use it for their work (Jonathan used to play and has the knowledge to show it to the kids a little).
My highlight of this day was an awesome and impressing flight in the XAir. I sit on the Pilot seat and did the flight operations. Jonathan gave me instructions, because it's really different to do tropical flights if you are used to the European climate. The flight took us over Somanya, Kpong and the beautiful Volta river area and the huge lake Volta.  We did one touch and go before we landed. The whole flight is recorded with a GoPro HD cam.

Wednsday 27.April 2011

Ongoing work @ kpong airfield. They’re building a visitor’s accommodation and installing underground water pipelines for toilets. Matt and I bought cement, than we started to fix the broken wind turbine. After a tasty meal of rice, meat and salad Jonathan, Matt, Patricia and I started a discussion about the Ghanaian workers. It seemed to be that they need some motivation, because they didn’t looked happy and worked really slow, 3 guys were watching one of the workers dig the holes for the water lines. We decided to go and motivate them. I took my violin and played some music for them while Jonathan and Patricia joined them and helped with digging and all the other work. The workers appreciated the music very much, they started do dance a little and they began to work faster. You could see that they appreciated the assistance and enjoyed working with live music. This was an successful idea of Jonathans.
After that Matt and I went to plant some paprika and tomato plants in the nice MoM garden. Before we went home we dropped the workers in Kpong and Somanya with my uncle’s taxi.

Update from Francis, "Surfing Kpong field"

Are we using the right planes/Engines for the job?

Submitted by Jonathan Porter
As part of our approvals process in Ghana we are required to undertake regular training and to keep our 'engineering certificates' up to date. consequently, Patricia and Capt Yaw, went to Europe for training. Since the training was the week after AERO Friedrickshafen (Europe's Oshkosh), we went a few days early, accompanied by Paul for one of the days, and met with other engineers from around the globe at this event.

Doing what we do, it is important to remain abreast of the latest developments and to assess if we are on track and if we should change directions. So, before entering the halls of fame and salesmen's verbal spewaged, we empty our minds of pre-conceptions and start afresh, thinking outside the box.

The first hall was gliders. Beautiful machines crafted like Godesses of the air, smooth and silky, able to glide horizontally fifty times the height they have achieved in still air. Lightweight batteries and the e-machines with electric 'get me home' engines. Many have suggested that such an approach may have a place in Ghana. So, we make the assessment.

1. Mostly they are composite aircraft. Hard to identify damage to the airframe (often hidden by the gel coat)

2. Large wingspan makes off field landing spots hard to find.

3. Not able to land at the busy airports due to inablity to 'follow instructions' when gliding in, often in thermal conditions, and unable to clear the runway under own power (if motor glider maybe).

4. Undercarriage light or one wheel, not strong enough for an off-field landing.

5. COST. Over Euro 100,000 for the sleek machines. They are so high tech that they really are for the connisseur.

Verdict: Not for our operations.

We see the new fleets of Autogyros - magnificent machines, hybrid plane-helicopters. There performances are amazing, and the newer designs eye catching. However, they lack load carrying capacity, proven life on the long rotor blades and, most importantly, there is no working legislation for them in Ghana at this time. Remember, we started the concept of what we do now in 1994! It takes time! So, much as these machines are showing promise:

Verdict: Not for our operations at this time.

Helicopters took another hall. It is a simple thing with helicopters - 'if you have to ask the price, you cant afford it'. If they cost less, drank less and went further, I would order one tomorrow.

Verdict: Not for out operations at this time.

Next we see the plethora of 2 seat aircraft. These made the biggest display segment. Most of them powered by Rotax 912 engines. We see a wonderful little bird, low wing but with a tall undercarriage. Paul and Patricia were drawn to the irridescent pink plane, begging to be admired and stroked under the cowling.

Bog-eyed looks into the cockpit revealed the latest in glass TV screen instruments, and the cruise speed magnifilourous! We saw some sporty looking Formula One look-alike machines that looked fun, and tube and fabric as well as tube and cloth machines boasting incredible lives of their coverings - and of course strengths that would make Popeye feel as if he needs more spinach! There were plenty of aluminium machines too, but their construction methods varied considerably, as did their layouts.

Of course, to make a plane look nice is easy, to make a plane fly nice is harder, to make a plane fly nice, be strong and easily maintained is the tough part. So, we take the criteria that makes it work at our end. Let us start by ruling out:-

1. Avoid composites (apart from fairings, tips, cowlings and small parts). Reasons above.

2. Avoid welded tube constructions. Hard to inspect and although we have Argon Gas Welding (thanks to the Stieber family), it is not yet a time where we can say we have the expertise to handle, inspect and maintain such construction methods in the bush.

3. Avoid fabric and dope covering - too many issues with temperatures and storage of dope. There are some modern fabrics, but there are still issues with our facilities, temperatures, humidity and appropriate application use at this time.

4. Tube and cloth, provided for light applications still are valid, but appear to be going out of fashion on the marketplace, at least looking at the offerings at AERO. None of the tube and cloth aircraft on display came close to the X-Airs that we currently use (do remember we have special thicker cloths on our machines than the standard offerings).

5. Avoid tail-draggers. With the strong winds nasty tendancy to swing around on you. Plus issue of low hours pilots and prop strikes.

6. Aluminium is good, but it needs to be able to be built using simple tools and have full plans available to make parts as needed in country. Rules out certain machines.

7. Low structural strength. For example, seeing an engine held on with 4 x M6 bolts on a popular brand.
Of course, they all CLAIM massive strength, easy flying, and speeds beyond the light-barrier, but one look at a machine below skin deep values, and you can see what you are getting into! Some are sleek and fast, some are sturdy and slow, but what makes it suitable for 'bush work'?

We need/prefer

1. High wing, braced struts, preferably two per wing with jury struts.

2. STOL capabilities.

3. Aluminium construction. Preferable with a corrosion resistant and flexible aluminium.

4. Solid construction methods that are easily carried out in rural Africa.

5. Full plans.

6. Established company behind the design.

7. Felxibility in build adaptations (drop hatches, stowage systems, etc)

8. Tricycle gear

9. Good prop clearance

So, we are down to a few machines, of course we are hunting the 2 and 4 seat category. The head and shoulders winner is still, way ahead of the pack, the Zenith CH701, CH750 and CH801 machines. Hands down. With all of the many companies out there, there really is only one that offers the machines, design, support, materials, construction method etc that fit our needs.

Verdict: WE are with the best airframe provider on the market (Zenith) for our applications, and little seems likely to change that, since most are not seeking the 'bush' and 'STOL' approaches, rather 'sleeky and speedy'. So, yes, we have made the right choice of airframe.

Now, to engines. If popularity decides it for the 2 seat aircraft, it is the Rotax 912. If proven reliability is the criteria, it is still the 912. If a company with extensive engineering expertise, strength and security of their 'establishment' is the key, the Rotax 912 still wins.

VERDICT: We use only Rotax 912 on our 2 seat aircraft, so we did good from the outset there too!
For the four seater, I have to say that we struggle still. We have the Superior XP360 which is better suited to our operations than the original Lycoming O360, and fully parts compatible, but the market needs a better 180/200Hp engine. Until that point, we are confident that the XP360 (re-entering availability later this year) is our best option at this time.

VERDICT: We are using the best offering at this time, but the market needs to change. This is a 1950s design of engine - it is bulky, thirsty and heavy, but it is what it is and does the job.
So, we pat our selves on the back and get back into the workshop to maintain and build as we can, finances permitting, the aircraft we need to change lives, one flight at a time...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Fulani school class

By Mathew Porter

This was our five session in a row with the kids in the Fulani camp. We have managed to meet for 5 Mondays in a row with most of the children at around the same time - 9ish for the same amount of time - 2 hours-ish...

Such consistencies are impressive considering all the factors involved - namely, nomads' children and busy airfield operators!

It would not have been possible to get the consistency without Cindy, the AVTECH teacher though, so let's give her due now...!

Cindy's partner has been Audrey for some of the weeks who has been managing to get out of Accra and up to Kpong by 8.30 - also impressive, with a young child in the house too!

I am not sure if I can stress enough to anyone who has not been there first hand how most kids in the camp have had no exposure to numbers, letters or any visual/educational stimulation... A few of the kids here have stumbled upon a bit of schooling - the most being Ilias, a 14 year old boy in the camp who has done a couple of years in Agomeda nearby - he acts as translator for the ladies when needed.

The rest of the children have never held a pencil, a piece of chalk, a crayon. We have about 20 kids in the camp, most under 10. The children under 3 don't come to the education hut, and after the first couple of sessions, Cindy and Audrey split the children up into groups according to levels. We have also had a couple of young ladies who has been very dedicated and attended sessions as well, who are around 16 years old.

The classes start with a song and little dance in English - the kids are picking it! We are working on health songs as well - get the kids singing about washing your hands! We had extra hands this session - Akuia, Audrey's sister, and two AVTECH girls, Lyida and Emmanuella!

We have seen a couple of cowboys in there as well - but they have erratic times of coming and going, making it very difficult to get them to join in. Most of the kids are there early, but quite a few are late. I think once they hear songs, they run and join! Most of the children all know the alphabet by now. They can recite it. But identification of the letters is very poor. We were looking at some of the ways we can instil this with some materials Audrey brought up - such as getting the children to make a scrapbook and make the letters in them using different materials.

On the left here, we have Issifu - I always thought he was a troublesome kid, always fighting. But once we started teaching them under Alai's tree, i realised he was just very smart and bored. Here he gets the attention he needs to grow. It is also nice to see Asamau with a smile! Here we are doing the Lion song!

Remember also, that we have an added challenge here - we are trying to teach these kids to read English, write English - and also learn English at the same time! So it is all integrated. It has been very funny for me to go into the camp since this started, as the kids now come up and greet in English - Me; "How are you?" Kids;"I am fine!"  Me;"And you?  Kids; "And you?" !!! So they are getting there - and most importantly, they are enjoying being there and want to learn. It is pretty intense, as Cindy and Audrey will tell you. This time is actually the first time I have been there for the whole session, due to other work - and it is a bit crazy. A lot of squabbling and fighting, crying... Probably normal from kids. We had some great materials brought over by Rex and Melissa - flipcharts, excercise books, pencils etc - found though that when they took the excercise books home, they came back next session with them covered in dirt - literally! These kids do live outside 90% of the time - some huts are dirt floors as well. So we got some local A4 slates for them to take home, and chalk for practising, which they have been eating...!? Eating of chalk is probably a sign of a bad diet, and the body craving for deficiencies, but its not encouraged...Especially the coloured ones... So the excercise books are for use with teacher supervision for now.

Here the kids are showing us their 1,2,3 efforts. Barkisu, on the right, sharp as a button, is catching on fast. The boy on the right is doing well too. The girl second from left has just been brought down from the North to help her older sister who is about to give birth around the house. She has been to school a bit up North, but is lucky to be getting this while she stays here. In the middle we have Ishaitu, Asamau's sister. Her father, Dramani, was having a good job up to this January in Akuse. You can see her wearing her old school uniform for these sessions as she peers over her slate! The last girl, 2nd from right, another Barkisu, is Barkisu number 1's partner in crime, and thankfully is also keeping up with her in schooling as well as mischief. She used to run a mile when she first saw me!

There is also the desires to make circles, and random lines, which are normal for those beginning to use chalk, pencils to start. We really encourage the parents we see to let the children draw at home - the parent, in good intentions, sometimes try and tell them off for anything other that A B C on their slates! There is also a lot of challenge with writing in any particular place in the board - and, for those exposed to Muslim teachings, left to right.

Below we can see Asamau doodling - her right index, still swollen and wounded held out.

We have started with the children, and really been trying to get the ladies involved as well - we want to have a ladies class first, around 8 or 8.30, then the kids. But monday is a market day, and we have tried several times now to get the ladies to come to the hut before going there... We managed to get a couple this session...

Here we have on the left, Rahinatu, 26 years old, mother of two - speaks good basic French, articulate and serious; Bintu, in the middle, 17 years old, not yet married, trying hard, and the lovely Amina, Alai's wife who is very keen and sharp. You can see the challenge we have here - no tables. The guys there bring benches, and if they had tables, they would bring them. They have not one table in the whole camp for any house.... This is something they can't afford, and something we can't afford to sub for them either right now. It would probably cost GHS250 to get enough tables and benches for the hut.

Amina has never held a pen or pencil. Bintu has never tried writing between lines in a book. Rahinatu seems to have the right idea. Kick your boy off the bench and use his seat!

Below, Ilias was lucky today - with 6 teachers around, he got some one on one attention. Like I said, Ilias has had some schooling. He has done up to class 3 in Agomeda of JSS (Junior Secondary School) - but when he went to the local school, they asked for his reports to know which class to put him in, and he doesnt have them. He actually needs to go back to school. We need to sit down with his parents and explain the importance. We are happy to help him if we can - but there needs to be willingness to co-operate. Audrey has lent him "The Gingerbread man" to practice his reading. We will find out soon if he knows what gingerbread is...! He is a good kid, and deserves education. Getting the parents in the hut for some literacy will help to sink in the importance of this.

So. That is that. The children are learning slowly, but we are seeing improvements - we really need to get there more than once a week. We have been looking at getting a full-time teacher that we have had an offer to have paid, and then we can maybe do classes for everybody, and another site as well. We are still working on the women. Maybe have to change to day to meet them to a non-market day. However, the fact we got 3 there this time is encouraging. Will they convince the others to take 1 hour out of their day? Then, we need to get the men in there. In the meantime, thanks to Cindy, Audrey, Akuia, Lydia and Emmanuella, Mr. Solo, Rex and Melissa and anyone else who has helped this to happen! We are seeing progress, and their brains are being developed and exposed in ways they would not be seeing otherwise.
I think we all appreciate how the kids feel after 2 hours there!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Talking till the cows come home...

Submitted by Mathew Porter
With the trouble and confusion we have been having at the Fulani camp over NHIS cards, Nurse Lydia suggested that we do a session with everybody so that we can all be clear on what is needed - the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is a system to get healthcare for most common sicknesses and pregnant women, and children, elderly etc.
To be eligible, one has to either be paying SSNIT - Social Security and National Insurance Trust - or pay membership fees. There are national and local levels and cards... It sounds simple enough, but you have to go and get cards sorted out, and renew them. This is very difficult for non-literate people. Also, the fees they have to pay seem to change a lot...
We invited the ladies and the men to come and listen to what Lydia had to say.
The turn out was pretty good. I think we had all the women with children there. After getting talking for a while, Lydia asked them if they all had NHIS cards. Saying they did, Lydia sent them all back to their houses to get them. We looked through them to see who was in date and who wasn't.
You can see in my left hand are those up to date, in my right hand those out of date. Almost all of the children had been registered - I think it is only some of the cowboys who had not been sick had not been registered - but some were out of date by 2 or 3 years. If they don't go to hospital, they don't update them. They don't realise they are out of date, and don't need to update them by paying, as they aren't sick...
These guys, remember, really can't tell the dates on their cards. They have phones, yes, with date on, but can't figure out what date it is - often not even the day of the week. Adding to the confusion, there is the national card, as you can see in Lydia's hand, and the local ones - some of the booklets. When they go to the offices to have their cards renewed, they don't really know what fees to pay - and what I hear from them is second hand info - translated to me from English/Twi into Fulani and then back into English/French/Twi... So I can't take much to heart from it all.
Lydia deals with the NHIS through her clinic. But she doesn't deal with renewals and applications... so she was also getting confused with what is supposed to happen! She is going to find out though - and even try and get someone from the District Assembly to come and register everyone in the camp for the national card as a one-off thing. It then also means that as national card holders, they can go to her clinic and get care where they are explained everything and people take the time to understand them better, not just processed as they are in the government hospitals.
I have been to the government website - http://www.nhis.gov.gh/ - and it is a bit confusing. It looks to me like the Fulanis should be eligible for free healthcare, under "Indigent"
Are the Very Poor (Indigent) covered under NHIS ?
1. person is classified as Indigent and exempted from payment of premium if she/he meets the following:
Does not have any visible source of income.
Does not have a fixed place of residence.
Does not live with a person who is employed and has a fixed place of residence.
Does not have a consistent source of support from another person."
I don't know what "premium" is, and if the fact that some of the Fulanis have a boss means they are not covered. But I know that Asamau's father should be classed as "Indigent" - but how does one prove it?
I was happy to see Asamau's father made it. He was a bit late, but he was there and listening. Lydia also got a chance to talk to him - tried to make him understand that we are doing this for the girl, not for ourselves! I was happy to see 5 men there - Alai, Karim, Abu, Dramani and Dramani. The fact they took the time to come and listen was great. It means they want to know more. They are all men with families.
Lydia was telling them that we want to get their health under control so we are free for a start, and so are they, and also so that we can focus on other things. Lydia has been wanting to get a clay oven built for a while so they can bake bread. I want to get them growing moringa. But we can't do any of that if we keep going on about the same old stories! But as she was talking to them, and talking about WHEN they are healthy, and have it under control, I could see them thinking about it. Thinking about the future. I think I could see hope! It was also an interesting session - although it last for about 3 hours, we literally talked till the cows came home!
However, I think it was the first time that all of us who were there - the Fulanis, Lydia, Jane, myself, we were all there as friends. And that is the first time I think we have all reached that level, as I felt it. And when you go to being there to help your friends, it makes it a lot easier. It also makes it a lot easier for others to be listening to their friends. For the ladies to be listening to advice from their friend, Lydia. i think we are all, Fulanis included, looking forward to getting past this health business, and onto other ways to improve their lives and economies. On Monday, the children are meeting for their 5th class in a row. They are making progress. We are trying again to get the women there as well for literacy, so they can be reading their own cards!
I took the oppurtunity though to jot down all the card details. So I now have a log of who has a card and who needs a card, and who is due for updates. Interestingly enough, those who had cards updated and those who didn't was by family. There were families with all cards updated, like Ilias' and those with all out of date, like Asamau's. It was also interesting that all the men had no cards - Alai included!
So. Will keep posted on what goes on...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Updates on MoM garden... The Mudhut...

Submitted by Mathew Porter
Been a while since we have heard about how the MoM garden is getting on. We had the 90 day challenge, which was to build a mud-hut, wind turbine and water filter along with a medicinal garden by end of March...
We haven't been able to complete all the above in the time frame. I will start with the mud hut as lots of pictures...
Mudhut - enlisting the help of some of the masons on-site who are building accomadation, who know how to use mud. Tried talking to them to go beyond the standard mudhut, maybe using mud bricks - Capt. Yaw had some ideas on doing it Tudor style, casting the mud in, but we have ended up letting the local guys go ahead with their traditional style, mainly as they can't imagine doing anything different, and my experience of mud construction is very limited, as is my knowledge of what can and can't be done! Once they have finished, we can see if we can do anything different, applying a little science to it...
Starting with a foundation, layed with plastic, to stop the ground cracks coming up the walls...

A site is chosen to use to get clay from - ideally near the site, the clay is dug up, and mashed with water to give it an even structure.

It is then formed into balls, and carried to the wall...

Where it is thrown on and punched down to get the air out, and formed to the shape of the wall.

It should then look like this - foundation almost completed.

The layer is then left for 3 days to dry - any higher, and the mud will start to slump. After 3 days it is rock hard, and ready for another course. Right now, we have put in window and door frames, and it is looking like this...

The finishing is not as nice as I want - today, I went in there to find the guys had shoved a old piece of wood in front of the top of the window frame, so it could support the full width of mud. Always one to try and instill insight, I asked if it looked nice to them - "This is how we build mudhuts" I was told... Deciding not to fix it after being asked to, they paid for it, when Mr. Solo and I went back to fix it, and a chunk of mud slumped off and crashed to the floor... Hahaha!!! Still, I don't think they got insight into it...
We are still debating on the plastering - yes, debating - in Ghana there are two ways to get things done - autocratically, ie. "You do it MY way or I fire you" or the nice guy way, whereby you will waste seven times the time it will actually take to do the job debating what technique to use... The guys tell me there is absolutely no way we can plaster using the mud we have onsite. Unless I go and get silt from another source, such as the farm - silt being larger particles than clay, finer than sand... Or use normal plaster - cement and sand. I am trying to tell them I would like it to actually look like a mudhut - they are trying to tell me, if I want that, fine, I can go and fill my car with silt from the farm and bring it back for them... Might call for some autocracy...
The roof will probably be tin sheets covered with thatch, and the whole thing will be mosquito proof. They is a difference between living in a mudhut and living like someone in the village! Who will be our first guest?!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Update from the field...

Submitted By Jonathan Porter
The past few weeks have shot by quicker than superman can fly, and certainly beating any speeding bullets!
WE have had two visits so far this year; Erin Nolan from NYPD and Rex and Melissa Pemberton from California.

Erin was instrumental in the trip around Ghana and the hammering on 'reopening and improving' airstrips.  
Rex and Melissa have given us a new media to share our past, present and the vision of MoM and just how far it goes. You can see the trailer of the RPMP Productions documentary called:

The Calling

'The Calling' _Documentary Trailer from Rex Pemberton on Vimeo.

- it should be released at Oshkosh in July. We hope to make copies of the full thing available for about $25 a piece.... bulk order are welcome, order for 10 copies or more will be at $20 per copy. All of the profits from this will go towards our development of projects around Ghana and hopefully into neighbouring countries in the near future.

The 4 seat air ambulance is finally begging to look the part. As we get closer to affording the instruments it has been time to put the engine on, and soon the wings and tail bits will be added. WE have ahd to wait since the 'complete plane' takes up a lot of space.  So, the time is near. We are still cash strapped, but that has not stopped us getting this far and will not stop us moving forward, it just slows us down.

We expect to open up two new villages in the near future. We have established a 'engagement protocol', one that makes our relationships to the communities very clear.

1. 'First Contact': We spot a community from the air, or by 'recommendation' and litterarly turn up to see what it is like - unannounced. That way we see the real 'raw' village/community. If it 'feels good' we invite them to visit the airfield at Kpong - all must be at their effort.

2. They visit Kpong. They get the 'show around'. Includes the workshops and the MoM Garden. Although not finished yet, the MoM Garden has a mud hut, a wind turbine and a medicinal garden.  It will soon have its own water filter, latrine systems (pit and septic) and hopefully by year end 'alternative construction' methods section. This provides some of the understanding appreciation.  We have our own mud huts and know what village life is really like!

3. If they are happy we lay out the 'process'.  

a) We will not GIVE you any things

b) You will not ASK for money or items.

c) We will encourage and inspire You to help yourself and, if you do so

d) we will provide health education and assistance in education visits to the schools/children (of course these are health tainted - it is easier to get a group to meet a visitor and then to lace the cake with health education!)

e) You will need to write us a letter 'inviting us' to visit your community on a regular basis.

4) we start... slowly, surely, encouraging the people to make their own 'luck' to create their own 'sustainable future', then, as they make the efforts we can stimulate and encourage more growth and provide materials when they are needed, people to help make it happen and then, over the coming years they will join the ranks of Mommers taking the solutions they learned to others..

On the good news side too, the AvTech girls got awards in a writing contest, we are all so pleased that Ciara, Lydia, Juliet and Emmanuella gained prizes... Ciara has a full extra flying lesson and the others a 'part-lesson' being funded by Karlene Petit - THANK YOU Karlene! They will also get some T shirts. Here is a simple example of how OUR giving of opportunities to learn, coupled with their stimulated interest to participate in an international competition has resulted in support for their own development. These girls will be going into villages next year, as part of their curriculum, in co-operation with MoM, on health and education matters. In a few years they will be flying the missions themselves... We are all proud of their progress!

Healthwise, we are all a bit run down. I have eaten far too many antibiotics and am still not up the up... but it will come... Matthew is also overloaded, he soldiers on and makes happen what he can as and where he can, but we are limited. Added to that our very tight finances reducing mission activities and you have reasons for the reduced emissions....

We look to the next few months to bring about some exciting changes... we are looking at boat based activities, perhaps sending a boat on a two or three week mission and cycling the personnel and providing supplies by air - for we have the potential... and we will go on to make a change in people lives, one trip, one event and always, one flight at a time...

Thank you all for your support.