Saturday, March 18, 2017

To Set the Record Straight

Last post made me sound like I was seriously considering staying in China, in Wuhan, at this school, right? This post will set the record straight.

When I quit my job in America, sold just about everything I owned and moved here, it was intended to be a permanent move. Like so many other expats, I meant to retire abroad, probably in China – in Ezhou, where I felt so comfortable, but maybe even somewhere else, now that China seems so unwelcoming. And now that it is obvious that I will not earn a fabled Green Card, a D-visa, no matter how passionate I am about contributing to Chinese society, the possibility of living out my years here seems dubious at best.

I had my reasons for leaving America, and I wonder if my mother had the similar reasons. She lived her life out in Germany and refused her children's request to even visit America, so disdainful was she of that country. I am (probably) not that disdainful, seeing as I make my way back, every year, to visit.  

When my mother died, we had to scramble to settle her affairs. It was difficult to manage, transatlantically, not just because of the language barrier but because my siblings squabbled over her estate. A squabble that leaves us divided to this day.

My mother's passing, on another continent, causes me to reflect on how my dying on the other side of the world would affect my children – the settlers of my affairs. Most likely they would not fight over my few things, but it would inconvenience them greatly should they have to jump on a plane and come to a country they've never been to, where they don't speak the language and know nothing about its culture and customs. Where they might find themselves paying through the nose for the least little thing and getting stymied at every turn.

I can't do that to them. 

Once I realized how difficult it would be for my children to settle my affairs, I put off dying in China in favor of seeking a more amenable locale outside of America for them to manage my passing. They had other ideas.

With the world in turmoil, they expressed concern over my physical safety. That is a valid point: where, outside of China, might I be guaranteed the level of security that I have here? Answer: nowhere.

And the ongoing question: how can I make my passing as effortless as possible for my kids?

A compromise was struck: when my passport expires, which coincides with my sixtieth year, I will hang up my global traveling shoes and return to America to live. In light of that compromise, it is no longer necessary to find a place to retire and die. That puts this school's backdoor offer (see last post) in a new perspective: I need a place to live and work until I am sixty; they are offering a place to live and work until I am sixty.

I was willing to endure petty frustrations for the privilege of being here; couldn't I endure them for another 5 years? The outrageous limitations placed on expats, such as foreign remittance and travel accommodations: with Alipay, I can travel on the cheap and transfer money. Thus, those aggravations have been rendered moot.

Other things like: that bacon I love. Cheap cigarettes (yes, I've outed myself as a smoker!). The coffee I drink. Using Alipay. I will have to give all of those up, missing them while I search for comparable replacements, wherever I end up. Is there even a comparable replacement for Alipay? What about the life I have made for myself? Knowing this town backwards and forwards: entire bus routes memorized, every fun hangout marked and returned to again and again.   

Friends. Where could I find another Gary? A dear child as solicitous as Lancy? A progressive thinker like Tony? At this point in my life, do I even want to forge new relationships, knowing I will leave them when I keep my promise to return to America?

Work. Let's face it: even though my heart is still only about 21 years old, my body isn't getting any younger. Fantastic job opportunities don't exactly flock to 'golden year'ers. No matter where I go, what am I going to do for work?

Can you see why it is so tempting to accept this school's offer?

I won't. I still sting from Sam's betrayals, not the least of which was his causing me to lose several thousand Yuan through sheer negligence. And then, there is the frustration of being the only foreign teacher here, even having my classes doubled up, when other qualified foreign teachers are available and want to work here.

Eddie and Tanza are the reasons I will not take Sam up on his offer, not matter how suitable it would be for me.

Two years ago, Sam asked if I knew of any foreign teachers looking for a position. Immediately, I forwarded Eddie and Tanza's resumes. They both hold Master's degrees from China's premier teacher university. They both come from countries whose official language is English. They both currently live in Wuhan and they both have teaching jobs. However, Eddie's position is on the outskirts of the city, necessitating him being away from his wife during the week: the commute would otherwise be too long. I thought that they would be perfectly suited for this school's needs. The school rejected them out of hand, seemingly because neither of them are Caucasian.

If you are not part of the solution, then you must be part of the problem.

Sam's/this school's offer would suit me perfectly. Accepting would mean that I am, at the very least, turning a blind eye to racial discrimination. You might even go so far as to say I condone it. In a very real sense, by indulging in a situation that benefits me, I am compounding the problem of racial discrimination in China, in Wuhan and in this school. I cannot abide by that.

Seven years ago, I sold/gave away everything I owned. I have nothing left but morality and principles. If I give those away, or worse: barter them, I will be as empty as this apartment will be in 4 months.

You might wonder why Eddie and Tanza's not teaching here hasn't bothered me for the past 2 years. It has, but there was little I could do other than hope to sway the powers that be in order to get them hired. What has changed now is the lengths the school is willing to go to keep me here, as opposed to the simpler option of hiring Eddie and Tanza, whose diplomas do not need to be certified by any Chinese embassy, who are already in Wuhan and intend to stay, who do not have to worry about their remains once they pass on.   

Fake desperation is the deal-breaker for me. If there were absoutely no other teachers to be had, I would certainly consider the underhanded, backdoor-ed offer made to me via Gary. But there are other teachers looking for jobs, teachers who are far more qualified than I am, me with my measly 2-year degree that requires certification. In light of that, Sam's offer is more than underhanded; it is downright vile.

It made me sad to learn that Eddie was turned down for a position 2 years ago. Now I am angry about it. Yes, angry enough walk away. Or, at least to maintain my resolve to walk away in spite of the desperation of my own situation and the sorrow of leaving everything/everyone behind.

Unless I could bargain Eddie and Tanza into my agreement to stay. Hmmm...  

Adding Insult to Injury

I hadn't seen Gary since last weekend, when he dropped his car off for overnight parking because he was going to enjoy a night of revelry and his apartment is too far out of the way to catch public transportation to where he was to revel. 

I saw Sam last Wednesday. After the first 2 Wednesdays this school year, when he dropped by unannounced, interrupting my lunch, I started inviting him. Sam has an odd quirk: while he shows no compunction about dropping in, he is more reserved when it comes to being invited, often saying he has something to do. Thus I make it a point of inviting to lunch him every single Wednesday, virtually guaranteeing I will eat undisturbed.

However, this past hump day, he did come but seemed preoccupied and bowed out hastily. We conversed little, as he was mostly focused on his phone.

At no point did he say anything about my tenure here, but he did mention wishing to expand the school's partnership with Gary's firm: establishing a cooperative work experience in international trade.  (See Gary's New Hat entry, posted June, 2015). The school is prepared to offer him an office on campus and set up a course, with him as teacher. Of course, they would pay him for his services.

When Gary texted me yesterday about us going out this weekend, I quickly agreed, and then asked if Sam had contacted him. I was excited for him and wanted to know if he knew about this new development Sam outlined. The answer Gary gave was completely out of the blue:

“Yes, he asked me to plead you to stay. He said the school will pay for validating your diploma and guarantees you employment until 60 years old (China's mandatory retirement age).”

The 'validating diploma' reference calls to China's new law about foreign teachers having to take their diplomas to the Chinese embassy in their home country for certification (see 7-Year Itch entry, posted September 2016). 'Garanteeing employment' refers to China's '5-year rule', where foreigners can only obtain work visas for five consecutive years, after which they must sojourn outside of the country for a minimum of six months before applying for another work visa. According to Gary, that requirement can be waived if the teacher is extraordinary. In my case, it has been waived for the last two years. 

I am not extraordinary, at least not in the teaching arena (or any other arena, as far as I know). I am remarkable in the sense that I am still here while other foreigners are fleeing the country. And, as the proverb goes, a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush. Or: a teacher in the classroom is better than 2 teachers looking for classrooms. I can see why the school wants to keep me.

Because only 'desirable' foreigners are fleeing China. 'Desirable' meaning 'white'. Prospective teachers from African nations that are approved to teach in China are clogging headhunter websites and job postings but nobody in China wants to hire teachers from Nigeria. Not when an American teacher (with white skin) is present, and could be pressured into staying by, say... her best friend? And a bribe? And a guarantee that any reasonable person would realize might not be fulfilled?

This is business, Chinese-style. Goods are bartered based on Guanxi, China's true business currency. Gary, knowing that the school was seeking to replace me when I broke my leg, made use of it when entering in partnership with this school 2 years ago: “Keep Sophia or I walk and take my business with me.” It is quite typical in China for negotiations to involve valuable pawns.

I don't enjoy the thought of being reduced to a bargaining chip, especially one that has nothing to do with my teaching abilities and everything to do with something I have no control over: the color of my skin. I didn't particularly like it when Gary 'protected' me 2 years ago and I am outraged that my friend would be called on to put pressure on me instead of Sam telling me the terms of his alleged guarantees himself. Especially as, only 2 days ago, he was sitting in my house, eating my soup.  

In February's post Beginnings, I listed some things I was beginning to wonder about, now that my departure from China is imminent. As I clean out my cabinets and sort through 7 years of accumulation, as I enjoy the ease and convenience of Alipay, as I smoke the evening's last cigarette, I reflect...

There's no doubt that I seriously compromised my future financial and social security by walking away from a desirable, high-paying job in America seven years ago, but I don't regret my move. Still: where can I go and how will my life be once I leave China? Returning to America offers a host of challenges, not the least of which would be securing health care. I have my sights set on Germany, but…

Here I am, in the same situation as the school is in: the one in hand is better than the two in the bush. Wouldn't it make sense to pursue it?

Here, I have a job, a home, medical care (of sorts). There are downsides to living in China, some only recently discovered. It is true that foreigners have restrictions imposed by the government. Limits on travel, for example: a strong factor in my decision to leave. However, with the world of online trading now open to me, travel wouldn't be limited: Alipay has partnered with Airbnb, meaning I would not have to stay in expensive hotels should I decide to vagabond around.

As far as day-to-day living is concerned, at this point the 'staying in China' pros outweigh the cons. And, quite frankly, I still can't really imagine living anywhere else – and that's scary, seeing as I am mere months from uprooting myself and HAVE to choose someplace to live.    

Or DO I? Do I truly intend to once again cut my nose off to spite my face?

Open, Sesame!

This command, lifted from the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, is apt not because I discovered treasure, but because I discovered Alibaba: the Chinese Internet marketing powerhouse founded and led by multi-billionaire Jack Ma. Don't get me wrong: I knew of it. I just couldn't make use of it. Till now.

Last entry I alluded to an electronic wallet called Alipay, a subsidiary of Mr. Ma's brainchild. I'd like to expound on that topic in this entry.

Ever since it became mainstream I've longed for something every Chinese enjoys: the convenience of online shopping, for anything from train tickets to western goods. I've been frustrated and stymied at every turn, first trying to get my bank card to cooperate and then, to get the SmartPhone applications to accept my bank card. Not that the applications were in any way unmanageable; the bank card itself provided limitations on its usage. Eventually, I gave up on the idea of shopping online by myself. The few times I needed something available only online,  Sam, Gary and once, even Summer obliged.

How kind of them to do for me! How resentful I grew because I couldn't do for myself.

All of that changed last month when, in sheer desperation, I opened a new bank account, separate from anything that has to do with the school (see A Logistical Nightmare entry, posted last month.) Because I was not able to send that bank card abroad, I figured I would make use of it myself.

As soon as I married that bank card to Alibaba's electronic wallet, a whole new world of convenience and commerce opened to me. It was like commanding 'Open, Sesame!'. By linking my newly-established TaoBao account to Alipay, a simpler process than entering credit card information into Amazon's personal data page, I can rely on Alipay to function as a subsystem of TaoBao, China's largest online retailer. All it takes is using my electronic wallet's buit-in QR scanner to read the shopping page's code on my computer screen: Presto! I am logged in, and can shop till I drop. Or, better yet: use my phone's TaoBao app, which automatically 'talks' to the Alipay app come time to check out. Still more convenient: use TaoBao's link right from the Alipay menu selection.

Alipay is accepted everywhere in China, from restaurants to stores at the mall. Here is how it works: each Alipay account is assigned its own unique QR code. Come time to pay for my purchases, I pull up my account's code on my phone and the cashier scans it with the same scanner used to read line-type barcodes. Funds are automatically debited. An extra bonus: I get a text message from the bank, stating a debit has just occurred in the amount of...

Even the farmer's market accepts Alipay! There, I simply add a vendor on the assigned page and transfer money from my 'wallet' to theirs. And speaking of pages: Alipay has considerately found and listed every single food vendor that delivers in my neighborhood. By selecting any vendor on that page, I can see a menu, order food and pay for it, all with a few swipes on my phones screen, and then sit back and wait for dinner to be delivered. Alipay functions are endless! Ordering a car, buying train tickets, paying for utilities... I can recharge (add prepaid minutes to) my phone without having to find a phone store to do so. I can even send money abroad, using its international function – but only because my phone is not registered to me. It is registered to a Chinese person. This function is blocked for foreigners without a residence permit.

In a remarkably short time, China has gone from a cash-based society to a (nearly) cashless society. When I first arrived here, the local grocery stores wouldn't accept even a bank card. It had become routine to count my money or stock up on bills at the campus ATM before venturing out, or marking banks in my more frequent haunts, around Metro or other areas I tend toward, for possible cash withdrawals. Gone now is the need to carry funds or locate banks; 'have phone will shop' is the phrase of the day. 

And is it secure? Each Alipay user must create a 6-digit PIN, to be entered with each transaction. If there is any confusion or a mistake, or if you are using your PC to shop instead of your phone, the system will prompt an extra keycode entry.

The greatest dangers with Alipay are losing your phone or forgetting your PIN. This app is far safer than carrying wads of cash around or whipping out a bank card for each transaction. Whereas either of those could be lost or stolen, or your card information lifted while you use the ATM, you are not likely to lose your electronic wallet. Of course, you could lose your phone, but with a 6-digit PIN being harder to crack than a 4-digit one, your bank balance is likely still safe should someone with hacking skills find your device.

Now I shop TaoBao by myself. My first foray was to buy deodorant, something near impossible to find in Chinese stores. Being just about out of deodorant is what drove me to try the whole online shopping venture to begin with.

In the short time I've been privy to this utility, I haven't exactly gone nuts, shopping at all hours and ordering all manner of mundane or superfluous things, as I suspect my students do (as I know Gary does: he will cruise the virtual mall on his phone no matter where we're at, ordering whatever strikes his fancy). However, I did manage to score a plane ticket out of China, and only yesterday, bought four loaves of high-fiber German bread, essential for my stomach's well-being.

Today, I got a text message from a courier: my bread has arrived: that was quick! I can pick it up at a parcel depot on campus. As there are 3 such stations on campus alone – and several just outside of campus, the depot doyenne had to specify which one to go to. I guess you could say the high number of outlets serving this tiny community is testament to our students' love of online shopping.

The downside of ordering online in China is that seldom do parcels make it to your door, even though complete addresses are required for any order. 

As I've been under the weather all weekend, I didn't retrieve my package today. I sent a text that I would be by tomorrow. And then, all while struggling to breathe, I agonized...

One reason I came to China was to live a simple life (another was to experience life in China as fully as possible). Maybe I envisioned going back in time where society is not so modern, competitive or encumbered. Where one does their shopping strictly in local markets, and whatever is available is good enough. By my very desire to shop online, have I turned hypocrite? Or should I ascribe using this app as in keeping with my (secondary) goal?

I hope I've not turned hypocritical. After all, I do live as simply as I can, but I need deodorant: you really don't want to be around me when I don't wear any. And, if I didn't buy the German bread online, I would be buying it at Metro, where there is less variety and what is available costs more (and I would have to go much further to get it, and it is not always in stock).

Which leads me to ponder another question: what do the Chinese do for dietary fiber? It's not like their diet is rife with fiber-rich foods. In fact, I think that might have started all the trouble with my stomach. The first few years I was here, I did buy local and make do. My stomach didn't like it. 

However, judging by the array of laxatives available on TaoBao (and in pharmacies), I'm guessing the Chinese have as much trouble with their stomachs as I do. Lucky for them, they can shop online: relief is only a few SmartPhone swipes (and one parcel depot) away.

Unlucky for me, I will have to give up Alipay Wallet and all of its associated features when I leave here. After only just having discovered it!     

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Getting Around

Years ago, I had the privilege of attending a Beach Boys concert. I realize I am dating myself by admitting that but, to my credit, the fabled Boys were past their prime when I saw them, so maybe I am not dating myself too badly. Mike Wilson introduced their next number by saying: “I can't imagine putting a song out called 'I Get Around' these days...”. The concert was in the early 80s, when the AIDS epidemic was at its height and people were assiduously abstaining from 'getting around'. Just to put his comment into context.

This article has nothing to do with 'getting around' and everything to do with getting around. Getting around Wuhan, that is. And, presumably, other cities in China – which I can only visit if I wish to pay exhorbitant rates for hotel rooms, something I am unwilling to do.

In my early days here, means of getting around Wuhan consisted of bus, taxi, assorted personal conveyances from POVs to electric scooters to human-powered bikes. There were also bike rentals: green machines tethered to stands sprinkled all over the city. I never rented such a bike; I had no idea how to.

And, my first few years here did not see me in the best of health. Last thing I wanted was to jump on a bike and pedal myself all over the city.

People made good use of those 'city bikes'. From my bus window, I could see green Wuhan Bikes rolling everywhere. As I understood the system, one could rent a bike for a set per-hour fee – no idea how much, and dock it at whichever station they came closest to when they were done riding. Such a concession was even set up on campus, near the housing area. I never saw anyone rent a bike from that outlet, and within 6 months, it was taken out again.

Early last year, all of the green Wuhan Bike stands were taken out, to be replaced by a high-tech, sophisicated, blue Wuhan Bike system. By this time I had my own bike, but thought I might try the new bikes, just for the experience. They were substantially upgraded from  the green bike system: a basket attached to the handlebars, for one. Another, more important feature for me, was that the seat could be adjusted. I really don't fit on tiny Chinese bikes.

The new, fancy Wuhan Bike system.

I wondered why it seemed that so few people rode these new bikes, but soon learned: one has to enroll in the government program, which permits you to download and install their app on your SmartPhone, from where the fees for riding would be deducted. Also, you had to return the bike to its original docking station; no longer could you ride to your destination and end your rental there. All over the city, the blue bikes languished, becoming dusty from the same pervasive, persistent particles that afflict my home.

The bikes started appearing last summer, first in ones and twos, and then in hordes, especially around subway exits and major bus stops. They are of simple construction: a brushed silver frame with black handlebars and bright orange, 5-spoked wheels. A bell is integrated into the handlebars, where maybe a gearshift would be. They are coaster bikes with disc brakes, and the seat is not adjustable. They are called MoBikes.   

A first-generation MoBike

Yes, these days there are 5 subway lines in Wuhan, vastly increasing the transportation options available when I first came here. And more are underway – pun intended. Their ongoing construction explains the dust problem. In part, at least.

At first, people seemed wary of MoBikes. Looking both enticing for their design and color scheme, and sinister for their appearing magically, out of nowhere, it took a while before the first brave soul would endeavor to ride one. Or maybe directions on how to rent one simply hadn't published yet.

One has to download an app, as with the government bikes, but no one is required to register for permission to ride. The app permits you to scan the QR code on the bike's gooseneck. A 250 Yuan deposit is deducted from your bank card – which, for most people is tied to their Alipay virtual wallet, another app. The actual rental fee is only 1 Yuan, and some weekends, you can ride for free!

Once you scan the QR code, the bike unlocks and you are free to ride to your heart's content. When you are done riding, simply scan the code again, and the bike will lock, chirping like a car's locking system, and your deposit, minus 1 Yuan, is credited back to your virtual wallet. You can leave the bike anywhere you choose; MoBikes have no docking stations.

I have ridden a MoBike. Thanks to my friend Shane, who has the app, and rode one from the bus station to my house, I saw my chance to conduct research and report.

The handlebars are narrow but the grips felt divine in my hands, negating the possible shoulder ache from holding my arms so narrowly. The seat is incorporated into the frame; no height adjustment possible. The bike feels sturdy: I challenged it as best I could over pavement and dirt path alike, even though my knees were up to my chest on each pedal upstroke.

There are now 2 generations of MoBikes. The first, with its orange-spoked wheels and low seat, and the second, which has traditional spokes, an adjustable seat and a basket on the handlebars, which are of normal width. I've not ridden a new generation MoBike, but I've seen them.  

A second-generation MoBike

These days, in spite of all of the buses, and five subway lines (more underway!), and the taxis, Uber cars and POVs, people everywhere in Wuhan are riding MoBikes. Our campus is lousy with them! Students, instead of rushing out of the classroom to grab some food (or out of sheer boredom) when the bell rings, are fleeing their seats in order to grab a MoBike before anyone else. People are learning to ride on MoBikes. Just yesterday, astride my own sleek machine, I shouted encouragement to a fledgling MoBike rider.

Meanwhile, the government's high-tech, sophisticated bike system gathers dust.

As an aside: China's virtual world is so advanced, I wonder how I will adjust to limited social functions, once I leave here. I've recently discovered the convenience and security of an electronic wallet, for example. I can use Alipay to transfer money as well as pay at point of sale locations, from high end shops in malls to vegetable stands at the farmer's market. And now I have to give it up?

Check out this BBC article, that talks about how advanced China's virtual world really is:

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Destination Unknown

As I inch ever closer to my departure date, leaving China and everything I've built up behind, I focus more and more on where I'd like to end up. Well, not specifically where, but trying to find a place with all desired qualities a vagabond could want.

·         Lots of travel options with interesing destinations.
·         No restrictions on traveling or lodging while doing so.
·         A means to support myself while there.
·         Relatively low cost of living.
·         A degree of physical safety.

A lot of countries in the Middle East are out of the running. As an unattached (as in: no accompanying  male) Caucasian female, my moves and activities might be severely curtailed. Also, my physical safety could be compromised, if news reports are to be believed.

I am open to other countries in Asia, but I have to consider my health. My finicky stomach might find it difficult to adapt to local foods, so I am inclined to seek locations that have a Metro store, where I can buy foods that work well with my body. According to the Metro website, that leaves only India, Japan and Vietnam as options.

Certain countries in South America sound appealing, like Ecuador – which boasts a large expat population and is in Eastern Standard time zone; or Uruguay, the most progressive of South American countries, but there are few travel options, and no trains.

How can one vagabond around with no trains?

Africa: while some countries on the west coast sound appealing, I worry about food and physical safety. I would want to stay away from central and eastern countries as they are in political turmoil and scored with violence. South Africa might have been a suitable destination a year ago; since then it has become politically unstable.

Western Europe fits the bill well: lots of trains and plenty of enticing destinations, suitable diet, generally safe. I can find work there, but the cost of living tends to be high. Still, I think I could manage it. If only...

I am finding a disturbing global trend: a reversion to nationalism with a populist undertone.

Since the Brexit vote last year, and emphasized by Mr. Trump's 'America first!' rallying cry, more and more countries are turning away from openness and inter-nations cooperation. Far right politics are coming to the forefront: France's Marine LePen stands strong in the polls, poised to lead her country into a shuttering of global policy. She espouses a 'France First!' doctrine.

Germany is also seeing a move toward nationalism. Angela Merkel is under heavy fire from other political parties within her country (and from America) for having thrown the doors open to Syrian refugees at the height of the crisis. Her opponents maintain that refugees taking more and more social welfare takes away from German citizens who have paid into that system and are rightly entitled to benefits.

The emerging sentiment on that continent is that the European Union is undervaluing individual nations' solidarity.

Even Europe's more open, progressive countries are starting to close their borders. Friendly Denmark's  immigrants are currently suffering race-motivated attacks from natural born citizens. Sweden is pondering their citizenship policies in an attempt to cull out undesirables who might want to settle there. And Britain, who led the nationalist ticket with Brexit – are deporting more people faster. Meanwhile, hate crimes are on the rise all over the place.

What does all of this mean for this vagabond, who is, at heart, a global citizen? Who fervently wishes there were an actual status, a document, a law, a passport, proclaiming her as such?

What is happening in the world is a total reversal of everything civilization and politics stands for. Think about it: as children, weren't we taught to share and share alike? Isn't that something we, in turn, teach our children? And how does this philosophy play out on the world stage? All around the globe we're seeing (figurative) doors closing on the sharing mentality. What is the point of global politics if each nation is only out for itself?

Should we amend the lesson we teach our children to: “Share only with your own kind.”?

The news reports are scary. Passengers flying into America from overseas can be interrogated and/or detained, if not barred from entry altogether. What will that mean for me, with 7 years of Chinese visas in my passport? Will I also be interrogated? And what about having to hand over my phone and give up social media passwords, as reported by the latest news?

A year from now, will my American passport be accepted in other countries who are embracing nationalist views? Will they want or welcome me? Will they permit me to work? To travel?

“My country first!” just might be the death knell of the vagabond life.