Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Don't be the Bunny

I am resisting the urge to title this post Dumb Bunnies, as it carries the double meaning of non-noise making creatures and their collective nickname. "Those dumb bunnies knocked over their food again." And Fucking Bunnies, as an adjective and a verb heard frequently as in, "Those fucking bunnies are doing it again!" I attempt to attach to our new pets, the as yet unnamed, brown bunny and black bunny.

It has been more than a year since the cats moved in with my parents. The expense of travel, the risk of losing them, or leaving them behind, was too much. I love animals and miss having pets. A trip to the Flower and Bird Market in Hongqiao in September provided two baby bunnies to fill the pet void in the Maguire home.

Just like my two black kitties, I suspect this black bunny will be big and fat. Adventurous and friendly, she even sleeps in my lap and jumps on my keyboard inspiring bunny centric posts. Yes, I have a favorite. Don’t tell brown bunny. 

On the Internet people love them. In person, people hate their bunnies and are sad, but kind of happy when the bunny dies. I get that. According to Google, they are litter trainable. I think they poop every time they hop. Watching one do a silly side hop/jump and poop combination, I recall something from the outdoor bunny I had as a kid. I remember something about that bunny pooping when jumping, or jumping with excitement when he pooped. Litter training is taking several months. My house smells like poop. 

I had the idea they were like cats, but better because they don’t scratch furniture. Then I look across my floor and see poop. I can see the whole hardwood floor because the zebra rug is folded on the chair. Who knew bunnies would eat zebra? Fucking bunnies.

My house also smells like teenage male rodent. Oh, and if you are wondering, they do it like bunnies. Turns out what we thought was litter play was juvenile sexual exploration that required a human chaperone. At long last, our splayed-legged, brown bunny’s testicles descended and were removed at Pet Zoo on New Year's Day. Guess how much I love you now, No Nut Brown Hare? If you are still wondering, it is more than before.

In order to determine the sex I would flip them over and examine their bunny parts while searching Yahoo for detailed photos. The search terms led to Brown Bunny. “Quick children look over there, a unicorn!” I shouted as I slammed down the laptop cover. That was close. Turns out Brown Bunny is not a children’s movie. Henceforth brown bunny will be referred to as white bunny. 

Every 12 hours they act like I haven’t fed them in days. Pouring food I mock them, “Hey dumb bunnies, in the last 12 hours you ate some, knocked some onto the bottom of your cage, and then shit and peed on the rest. Let this be a lesson to you. It is not my fault if you are hungry bunnies. Shit goes in the litter box!” I may be obsessed with the poop problem.

What will happen to the bunnies a year and a half from now? Within 24 hours of moving into our house they were attacked by the neighborhood pack of wild 4, 5, and 6-year-old humans and survived. Option one, we will attempt to find an adoptive family. Option two, bunny-boo, includes earmuffs and stew. I have a friend here who raised rabbits as a kid and has offered to help if we follow through on this option. No joke, that's why it's funny. The kids look at the zebra and then at me and cry. The FSO isn’t laughing either.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The East Asian High Speed Train or The True Orient Express

I booked the sleeper train for our first big trip out of Shanghai. The adventure started in the taxi, in truth just getting a taxi; those fuckers.

We had Thanksgiving dinner with friends. While we said our goodbyes the guard at the compound attempted to get us a taxi. As we were cutting it close, our friends helped. We spread out covering all sides of the road, on foot and on bike, attempting to flag down one damn taxi.

Finally in a taxi and on our way, we headed to one of two railway stations in Shanghai. Or at least I thought there were two. Apparently there is a third and 30 minutes before departure, that station is where we found ourselves. Rushed and confused, we studied the departure board. No train. The attendant tried to explain the mistake. He pantomimed and pointed down while yelling in Chinese. A sympothetic fellow traveler jumped in to translate. He was far more experienced in translation techniques, yelling louder and using more exaggerated hand gestures. Another Chinese traveler walked by and in perfect English said to his companion, “They are lost.” You speak English and won’t help? “You jerk!” I wanted to holler after him, but focused on extricating myself from well meaning idiots.

Having wasted 10 minutes we ran from the station and gave a waiting driver 100RMB to get us to the right station. Rocketing through downtown traffic at 100KM/hr (no exaggeration, I was watching the dial) we got to the station with 5 minutes to spare. We got through security and jumped on the last car, the door shutting behind us. That was ¥100 well spent.

If I were a writer I would set a story on the sleeper. It was awesome.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Shanghai Air Quality Index (AQI) Apps and Links

China is notorious for poor air quality. About two years ago world newspapers wrote about political fireworks (Get it? Fireworks and China? No? Okay, blog on that later.) set off by State Department Mission to China into the smog filled Chinese skies. China, too, had a system to determine air quality, but the readings differed in substances monitored, and frequency. Air quality rumors still abound, but the political differences were worked out long before the Maguires arrived in Shanghai.

The State AQI is located somewhere on the US Consulate compound. This is public knowledge, but I have no idea where the monitor is and don’t really care. On ground level, after I have stopped, dropped, and rolled, I find the air to be fresh and clean there as it is filtered by a park-like abundance of trees, plants and flowers. Still, the shafts of sunlight highlight millions of particles floating in air and the air I breathe tastes gritty.

The air in the outlying neighborhoods appears to be worse than at the Consulate. This is not proven true, but completely antidotal. I don’t electronically check the air quality every day. When I walk the children to school in the morning we observe the buildings in the distance. How distinct are the outlines? What color is the sky? We can usually guess within 30 PPM. This may seem like a wide margin of error, but we are really talking about the difference between unhealthy and unhealthy. See below.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Throwing Rocks at Taxis

The neighborhood kids having been using the word "hate" a lot. They throw it at each each other causing tears and pain. All the parents have talked about removing this word from their vocabulary. "Hate" is a strong word. "Hate" is an emotional word. I have come to realize that "hate" is a word that I use frequently in Shanghai while shaking my fists and stomping my feet. It can not be removed. "I hate _________!" (Fill in the blank).

"I hate taxis!" This is my most common exclamation. Those little beat up, cigarette smelling, half-tone painted vehicles are everywhere with their honking and nosing into the pedestrian right-of-way.

Most of the drivers are from the provinces. They cannot read pinion or English, only Characters. They do not speak English and can not understand my poor pronunciation. Thinking that I have figured out the game, I hand the driver a business card or note painstakingly written in characters taken from Google Translate.