Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cultural Heritage Education and Toilet Use

I have always wondered how to use a bidet. Thank you Petra Development and Tourism Authority  for providing instructions. 

Just another reason to travel the world.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Delta and AirFrance Lounge and Cabin Upgrades

Thank you Delta for the free upgrade to first class on the domestic leg of my TDY. Then your partner, AirFrance, gave me free lounge access in Paris. Just when I thought you were a cheap and uncomfortable ride, you presented these gifts. Thank you.

This blog post is dedicated to Delta and Fly America people. Those who are required to purchase the cheapest possible flight on the lowest class of ticket, receiving the fewest perks and reduced frequent flier miles. Yeah, you know who you are.

The upgrade notice arrived before check in. Something nice to look forward to. I greatly enjoyed my gin and tonic pre-take-off and curling up like a cat in my spacious, first class seat. I am not eligible for upgrades on international flights as I have the cheapest, non-upgradable ticket and Delta partners with other airlines for these flights. The plane to Amman was an AirBus 320 with no distinct First Class. The upgrade would have been a waste.

As Silver/Elite I am eligible for domestic flight upgrades, but not the domestic lounge. I thought that the lounge was a perk associated with a first class ticket and with one in hand I headed to the Delta lounge. I was not granted access to the JFK lounge, Delta said that the First or Business Class ticket had to be for international travel. The lounge looked nice from the outside.

Determined to figure out this lounge thing, I presented my passport and tickets to the AirFrance lounge desk, L terminal (I think it was L), Charles de Gaulle. There was a discussion amongst the attendants in French, as I haven’t lived in France since I was 19 I could not understand a word at that speed. They decided that I was eligible for free admission. I will not argue with the attendants and will definitely try this again.  

Details on Delta's SkyLounge policy can be found here. As Silver/Elite (just a few miles shy of Gold!) the one day international pass is $45. The year membership is $450.  According to Delta, free admittance is only associated with a Business or First Class ticket, or Gold Elite see reference below.

The L terminal lounge was a little less than expected, but it was fairly quite, comfortable, and had free Wi-Fi inspiring me to write this entry. Sure, the man sitting behind me was snoring like you wouldn’t believe and yes, upon sitting I promptly spilled my coke into my nice comfy seat dousing my nice lumpy ass. Damn it.

Upon my return flight the following week, I used the M terminal lounge. M is the lounge to use. It is beautiful, spacious, has showers, and semi-private loungers were I was able to get a little nap. Moving over to the business center, the chairs and tables were quite comfortable and the area very nice. The space was quiet except for the soft sound of conversation and the pleas for help from a caged cat.

Two hours before boarding, I shifted to my departure gate in K. Ha, this was not a lounge, it was a "pop up lounge" according to the signs. Colorful and uncomfortable chairs sit under beach umbrellas near gate K30. Yes free wine, yes small snacks, no ad-free Wi-Fi, no champagne, no privacy, no comfort. 

I took the opportunity in the business lounge to do what I should on this business trip, wash off the plane ick, charge all my stuff, download a new audiobook, yes my Bill Bryson obsession continues, clean up my laptop, download new music, and cull the drafts in blogger. Yes, a good use of my Delta/Air France lounge time. Thank you!

Please note- Monkeys, rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, reptiles, frogs, mice, rats, sugar gliders, and spiders are not permitted.

Monday, August 11, 2014

5 Reasons to Visit the Maguire Wire in Shanghai

More than three years ago we wrote a post listing the 5 reasons to come to Lesotho. Seems like a nice tradition. Here follows the top five reasons, in no particular order, to dare the transoceanic flight to China.

5. The Great Wall of China. More than 21,000km long; construction on this wonder started during the 7th century BC.

4. Have any piece of clothing custom made. The purple velvet tuxedo you have always wanted can be made right here in China. Bring a pattern or have them create something original just for you.

3. The Terracotta Warriors. The Nelson-Atkins Museum has one of our country's best collections of Chinese art, but the collection does not compare to that found in China. Come see the 2,000 warriors buried with Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

2. Walk the stairs in Mount Huang. Ancient people carved about 60,000 steps into the Yellow Mountains. See the mountains that inspired centuries of art.

1. It will be home to The Maguire Wire for the next two years, of course. 


Map of Shanghai

For those that follow us, how many of our Lesotho five did we accomplish? Reasons to Visit the Maguire Wire in Lesotho

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Home Leave Before Moving Abroad, Going to School, and Starting Normal Life All Over Again

Traveling and living abroad, I tend to idealize American childhood. I know that my summers were terribly boring, but my memories are full of fishing with sticks and cold cuts, climbing trees, and walking in the woods. Maybe some of those memories have been polished with time, but they are confidence building. I want to give the kids the same thing.

My goals for the summer were never written, but included camping, fishing, and hiking. We only tramped around the backyard woods twice and never made permanent trails. They did fish, though I tried to avoid the worms, fish, hooks, dock, and everything associated with it. We did camp once in the backyard.
Hiking through undergrowth takes concentration, but camping is a bit slow and my mind wanders. I start to think of all the trips that came before. My first camping trips were with the girl scouts. Will the kids experience scouts? There must be troops all over the world. They need to experience that distinctive scent of the green plastic platform tents and the sound of girls trapped inside that large A-frame being catty and mean.

Ah, the memories. The gates are open and the memories rush through too fast to collect: hash campouts (which my phone autocorrected to vampires), Marceline and Toon-Fest, kayak and canoe trips- remember kids people go in the kayaks and the beer and gear go in the canoe! Glimpses into the torrent reveal funny memories and inside jokes. The kind of stuff that is mine to hold onto and at times not hold in, like marshmallows. One of life great mysteries explained.

These are the thoughts that helped me smile as I laid on the cold ground, because someone didn’t want to use the air mattress; at the bottom of a downhill slope, because that is where the tent was pegged; and being kicked by three pairs of feet, because four people don’t fit into a 2-man tent no matter what size those people are, and living in fear because pee flows downhill.

The mosquitoes were terrible, so we all ran and jumped in the tent. The inside of the tent glowed red with light from the star watching app. Star Walk was my frequent companion in Africa, but rarely used during the bright city nights in DC.  Ted turned it into a game, blinding us with close-ups of stars and the moon. He played with the app and we never would know what stars were above us. It was a full moon, so maybe we would not have seen much anyway.

Lightning bugs are great to watch from the porch, but nearly invisible through the white, synthetic walls of the tent. The other bugs mobilized, ignoring the bug spray soaking our skin and attacked looking for blood. The bombardment continued as they tested the tent fabric for weaknesses. Lying quietly trying to ignore the discomfort and inevitable flood, I heard creaking. Did the mosquitoes join forces with a ground insect in order to tunnel in? Creak. Creak. I felt around the bottom of the tent. Nothing was moving. Listening carefully I found the spot. Slowly I put my finger down and pushed until, crack! Creaking stopped and I was a little freaked out by the size of the something that cracked under the tent.

At around 11pm I snuck out of the tent to use the bathroom, modern conveniences just steps away. There was something odd about the air. On the way back to the tent it hit me- nothing hit me. There were no bugs biting, wings and legs humming. No bats above. The air was perfectly still. Do I wake the kids and look at the stars? Nope, tell them tomorrow. I tried to sleep. At 2am I bailed on my loving family and went to sleep on the couch downstairs rather than the bed, just in case a coyote attacked them.

The old stories of people sleeping under the stars are romanticized. Cowboys sleeping with a saddle for a pillow, elves and men sleeping in abandoned watchtowers. Are there not Tolkien-size bugs out there? Snakes? Other creepy crawlies that slither, wiggle, and fly during the night? Romantic? In my younger, tentless days I tried it once and would never again. Sleeping under the stars is cold, rocky, and buggy. 

A week after tenting, when the family was caught up on sleep, we took down the tent. The large, crushed, critter was not found. The tent, now on its way to Shanghai, has been retired for the season. We have hit everything on the list and the kids had a good, memorable summer. Ted's only disappointment, still no pocket knife. 
Making trails in the backyard.

Swimming at Grandma's.

Fishing with cousins and the aunts who bravely face hooks and worms.

Embedded deer tick.

Climbing trees.

Berries from the backyard.

Running with no purpose and no direction.