Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Evolution of The Maguire Wire

Dear readers,

Much has happened since our last blog post four years ago. The Maguire Wire as we know it is no more. The Traveling Maguires are still traveling, but traveling in separate directions. Details do no one good, but it is well known that the Foreign Service lifestyle will exacerbate existing problems.     Where are we now? The FSO is overseas and with a little public support may be encouraged to write his own blog. I, the FSS, is posted to TBD. The diplobrats are growing up fast as they fly back-and-forth between parents and cultures, thriving on learning new languages and manipulating their parents in order to get purple hair.

Now don’t be fooled. When I say “cultures”, I don’t necessarily mean different countries. Our adventures in the last three years ranged from New England to the Midwest. We live in one amazing country, but not one homogenous culture. What it means to be an American changes from town to town and state to state, with variations in language and values. It is just as shocking to go from the East Coast to the Midwest and back again as to another country. The kids and I, keen observers of culture, took it all in. Then moved on before settling down.

This new blog focuses on me, the Diplobrats, and two new additions, Dog and Cat. Or maybe we won’t focus on them at all, and I might just write about my random thoughts and feelings as we travel through this crazy lifestyle, as before. Let’s hope the dog and cat travel with us to more places than the bunnies did. Shh, don’t tell White Dog and Black Cat what happened to White Bunny and Black Bunny.

Join us on our next adventure as we transverse the flooded plains of the Midwest on our way to the political quagmire of Northern Virginia.  Read on at The Traveling Dog and Cat. 

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.