The Cliffhanger

A mountain climber on his/her way to the top, will often stop along the way. Sometimes it’s because he needs to look for a legitimate footing, sometimes to rest, and sometimes, just because the look of the nature is spectacular; and that part of the celebration of purpose is to just hang in there for a while and enjoy the view.

When PayPal froze my account two months ago, I keep myself calm and take it as time to get solid footing. I have been living in terminal velocity for two years that the point of legally registering, or at least try, kept being pushed back into the dusty shelf. I dutifully researched about the process, about my options, and most importantly how The Whiskers’ Syndicate and I are going to stay alive during the process. I lost income from my Etsy shop, which is 30% of my entire income, I lost 98% of monthly sponsorship for the mobsters, which is another 15% of my income, and I was cut from all access to the many supplements and vitamins unavailable in Indonesia that I bought online to sustain the special need cats. There will be several donors who would just walk away in silence and that will be another cut in our income; but I take my calculated chances and after one week of battling my own insecurities, I gave in and let everyone just use Lori’s PayPal.

The lawyer told me that appealing to the government to allow us register as “general non-profit” will take a few days, one week more or less; I took the chance but that one week was two months ago.

After one week that turned into three weeks, the registration is approved, and I have to submit a notarial legal document to receive my registration number. It supposed to take just one or two days;  I got it four days later.

Then I have to send it over to my hometown, where my brothers are, and since they are all marketing (and business owner) they are usually traveling, often the whole week, and only available on weekends.

So I send the documents on Thursday afternoon. It supposed to take only one day, but the courier company has internal problems and they take the whole week to have the documents delivered to my family. Instead of start breathing again the next day, I held my breath for another week while crossing fingers on all four hoping that nothing happened to my document; an original, one and only legal document.

I am lucky to have my mother exerting her authority so everyone sign in one day. In theory they can post it to Jakarta, where my friend is, on Friday and she will have it on Saturday, and then it will only be days before this whole ordeal is over.

But Saturday is a public holiday and everyone left early on Friday so we have to wait until the next Monday.

My friend take only overnight to get everything done and gave the document to her office’s errand boy, asking him to post it express (one day service) to my PO Box so I can retrieve it even in the middle of the night if I have to. I seriously want to speed things up so I can get my life back up and running, but when this errand boy arrived at the post office, the officer looked at the PO Box address and said “For job application, no need to use express. it’s a waste of money. Use regular service instead. It will be there in 3 working days”

The errand boy erased my friend’s “Express” sign and send it over to Bandung with regular service.

Bandung – Jakarta is four hours drive, six if it’s jam packed like sardines in the can; and this errand boy send a document that will sit in a warehouse or crumpled in the sack for three days before I can retrieve it.

I just didn’t know what to say to my friend when she told me what happened.

I had thought the whole process will be done in one week the longest, but two months almost ended, and I am still in the middle of nowhere.

I still try to enjoy the view. Everything happened for a purpose. I just need to find the correct one and learn the lesson. There is fee to pay every time Lori send money to me, so we don’t want to be excessive and she will transfer whatever we get over the week every Sunday. I will receive the money by Wednesday.

I think of it as a new lesson to enhance my financial acrobatic skill. I have to live with whatever comes that week, sometimes more, sometimes less than the USD 400 that I need every week, so expenditure is never an easy decision. Can I go to the vet now? Will there be enough money next week if I buy the supplement? I can get a discount on the cat litter sand if I buy today, but the money will be thin. What if someone needs medical attention?

Sometimes when I jumped at the wrong place I just have to improvise with granola, chocolate and nuts sent to me by a friend for a couple of days. I don’t mind. It’s the price I have to pay for a new level in life. Besides, it’s life. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not.


I am losing my bargaining power to the pet shops, because; not knowing how much I will have next week, I buy retail so if any emergency happened, I still have some money left. And then since I don’t buy in bulk, pet shops don’t want to deliver, so I have to go back and forth and spend more money because I can only carry so much with my two hands (and huge bag).

I have to spend extra money for transport.

I have to spend extra money for the registration.

I have to spend extra money for food,  because I am on the road the whole day, under the scorching sun or pouring rain, often times carrying heap of stuffs and have both my arms (no, not hand, arm) full, so bringing lunch from home is not a practical option, if at all an option; while finding healthy food on budget is a challenge in itself.

I spend almost twice as much time on the street because I have to go from one end of the town to get some documents and go to the other end for some signature and go right back to the starting point only to have to come back the next day because our lovely government officers usually slip out of their seat after lunch and not coming back to their office. At those times they can be found in the mall, but obviously they won’t tell me which one.

I cannot stack as many jobs as I want to because I spend so much time elsewhere. I don’t have private vehicle and public transport is not always reliable.

I fell back to the time when I first moved into the house two years ago. Residing in one end of town and working in the other, I barreled into the backyard with the whole bucket of cat food in the morning, dole them out, run back in while the horde of mobsters is still clickety clackety grinding their dry food,  vanish into thin air to catch the bus; and left the cats with themselves, their toys, and the wind.

I will see them again after dark, when I send them dinner, and back vanishing into the house, cleaning up, prepare food for the colonies and onto the road.

When I eventually get home; it’s usually near midnight. I am already dead tired. I want to write about what happened, I want to share and let my heart flow out. I want to reach out to all my friends, supporter and tell everyone the whole story because you are all the only family I have, but when I made myself sit in front of the computer, my mind went blank, or my eyes won’t open.

Lori would otherwise try to convince me to sleep and write tomorrow; but that tomorrow was two weeks ago. Sometimes I would tell her I am going to sleep, but in actuality just turn the browser off, and try to type over MS Word until my eyes can’t hold open any longer. Sometimes I’ll find myself sleeping on top of my laptop in the morning.

I am very happy I am not a drool-er in my sleep.

I know what Lori is going to say; but need some outlet. I live alone, I keep things by myself, I don’t have many friends here because no one seems to comprehend my “attitude toward life”, I have different lifestyle and mindset than most if not all of my cohort, if they have mindset about anything at all. I am minority and even in that closed cycle of minority, not everyone, if any, can understand why I do what I do. Let alone help.

The archaic, patriarchal community is famous for bullying whoever stand out of the crowd and they bully to death. Often time just because the different one is there.

Blogging is my only way to extend my hands, holding coffee, asking all of you “Hey, cuppa coffee? say, c’est la vie up here, what about your life?”

Otherwise my worry will seep down under and the subconscious will kick it back up as nightmares. In such cases I’ll wake up even more tired. I lack energy for the next day and it make me grumpy, and I still have to barrel all over the sanctuary like Taz if I want to get everything done by the end of the day.

You know what? cats are fast learner.

Before long one or two will finish their meal early and watch me with their forlorn eyes as I bid them farewell for the day. Then three, four, five, and then half of them will be sitting under the kitchen window watching me running on fire trying to get everything ready because I won’t be back before evening and there won’t be enough time to prepare tuna, for example.

If possible I wish I can give them tuna every other day, or once a week, or as a treat; but since Taste of The Wild had been acquired by you know who, the once clean cat food had been recalled twice within the span of few months (for salmonella), and the only pet shop that carry that brand here is selling (few days) expired product.

Pet shop is blaming distributor. Distributor blames the pier for holding their containers for a ridiculous amount of time, pier blames smugglers and we have very very many here in Indonesia. We are very proud to be on top of the list of the most corrupted country in Asia Pacific for extended time.

The bottom line is, it’s not my choice. Like all buyers, I am not the king. I want cat food I buy it, however it comes, or I don’t buy at all. So I buy and mix it with tuna. That’s just the way it is in Bandung, the seller is the king, not the other way around.

But I try to learn my lesson. I convince myself that this too shall pass, when I gain back access to my own life and resources, and when this pass I will have a new level of financial and multitasking intellect.

When I went out of the house I’d say good bye to the cats so they know I won’t be available until dinner. I try very hard not to look into their eyes, because I can’t answer that silent question.

Are you leaving us again?

Aren’t you going to stay and play with us?

Are we going to be alone today?

What about that catnip party you promised us a while back?

Sometimes I ran out of my house holding up my tears.  I am guilty of abandoning them.

And it’s not getting easier.

Just when I finally get to sit down in peace to write, or just sit down, for crissake, a pair of cats will start yelling at each other. The won’t fight, they just yell at each other, incessantly, in crescendo, until I can’t hold it any longer and have to get up from my seat and go to the back. They won’t listen when I just tell them off. When I poke my head through the window and talk nicely they only twitch their ear; some peered from the corner of their eyes, and keep yelling.

When they heard the door handle, they’d run like crazy.

When I go back to my room and sit, another pair will start their round.

For the whole night, I will be going back and forth my room – backyard, chasing cats. If I almost get one, the rest of the mobsters will run haphazardly, criss crossing in front of me and occasionally, managed to make me trip and fall apart.

They make me look like Three Stooges, three in one.

I am almost convinced they are trying to get even for abandoning them the whole day.

They’d finally run out of energy and slump onto the pile of their fellow gangster; but it’d be two am the next morning, and I usually started at three or four.

That’s how I am infamous for living 24 hours a day, especially lately.

Then comes the refrain. I wake up or resume my life tired, and when I am tired I am grumpy, when I am grumpy it gets to the cat’s nerves and they got stressed, When the cats are stressed, they act up, and when they act up, I am more stressed.

We are all deadlocked in this evil circle; whoever dies first.

Perhaps I should just enjoy the view anyway? I am still stuck anyway. My youngest brother, donated his PayPal address. It takes the whole week just to establish a specific bank account where I can withdraw money from PayPal and transfer it to my bank. And when I think I finally get one problem solved, I have to deal with PayPal yet again because the name he used when creating his PayPal account is different from the one he used when opening bank account.

So, no footing yet God? No moving forward? I still have to hang in here? It’s getting cold.

On one rainy day Hanshin unusually paced by the front door after the sun set. I thought he is just stressed and bored. He used to frolic under the sun in the front yard and go back into the house after six.

I told him it’s raining and I am not going to let him out of the house in the evening because he tend to chase smaller passerby cats; I looked out of the window to make (unnecessary) point that it is indeed raining and saw a bottled water box just under the fence.


Someone in the kampong nearby sold used boxes by the kilo. He’d pass my house every day from nine am to two pm, back and forth with his old motorcycle transporting bulk of used boxes. He’d drop one or two on his way sometimes, so I thought that box belonged to him.

I decided I’d do nothing about that box. I am sure that guy will pick it up tomorrow.

I just can’t believe my eyes because I thought the box was moving.

It must be the wind, I dismissed. Hanshin is still going back and forth trying to open the door; sometimes he’d climb the window and look out anxiously.

Then it dawned on me the box might not have fell down from the heap, someone put it there, and I suspected they put it down with a cat in it.

I took my flashlight, and camera, and headed out. Hanshin burst out like wild fire; bolting down the stairs and vanish into the other side of the fence.


See a fat, grey tail with black stripes on the left? That’s Hanshin.

I took the box in, put it on the porch and open it. Most of the time a cat or two will spring out of the box and run for their lives. This one decided to stay.


The cat seems friendly, so with Hanshin watching like a hungry predator I took her in. She made herself at home in another box I kept in the living room.


I don’t mind she staying. I just can’t figure out how am I suppose to take in another pregnant cat when my house is full to the roof and ready to blow, mentally (as in stress) and physically (as in numbers)


She gray lady came in Sierra bottled water box, so I call her Sierra. Vet approved, and the cat agreed.

A few days later, also on rainy day, I gingerly walked down the stairs to the fence to check on the water reservoir and I found this:


I bet you all know what’s inside.

But look, here is a picture showing my field of vision from the front door:


Smart, don’t you think? How am I suppose to know there’s a present left for me? What if I didn’t come out? What if the rain doesn’t stop? What if the cat suffocate in there? What if the cat died?

But honestly, I have seen worse; so the depravity of this place and this people no longer surprise me.

I just take a deep breath, and pull the rope.



See that white leg on the right? That’s Hanshin.

This one is also pregnant, and she also decided to stay. Well, I am not sure about the later; but I think she didn’t do anything because she is visibly distressed.

Well, if you are tied in a sack, brought somewhere without being able to see anything, dumped under the rain with no guarantee if someone ever found you, and no guarantee that if you are found you are going to live, anyone will be distressed.

So from the initial prediction of one week, I ended up cliff hanging for two months; and I’ve enjoyed many, many view. I have seen how companies and organizations, no matter how much public service they should be, remorselessly taking it easy on someone else’s matter of life. It’s not theirs, and even if it cause some trouble, why do they care? It’s not affecting them.

I have seen how government try to run their post according to the law, but give the law a new meaning to excuse themselves of their doing.

I have seen the cats stressed out and I am helpless because currently, I am hanging on a thin rope and if I move too much, rope will snap and I’ll fall. I am not afraid of falling, I am just afraid of dragging many lives, humans and cats into trouble if I fall now.

I have seen people take it easy on their promises. Promises are words, and words are, well, words.

I have seen my savings dwindled from USD 1,000 to USD 250, and when it’s over, it’s over. I don’t even have anything left for my retirement, or medical care, or food, or whatever. There will be zero in my bank account and it will take millions of working hours to get it back.

I have seen myself in shame because in one or two occasion, there is not enough money for every feral I passed by. I have limited the amount of food I carry around and sometimes when I was ready to go home because I ran out of ransom, one or two will meow at me and ask.

I have seen the desperation and disappointment when I show them my empty bowl and ask if they would like to wait because I have to run back to the house and get something, anything.

I have seen some of them turn back and walk away, silently surrendering their fate to the night.

I have seen my hope of deliverance flicker, and burst stronger every time something seems to move forward, and dimmed when it turns out some other thing is wrong, just when I thought I have it on my fingertips.

I have seen my patience put into test when I ask and there’s no answer; when I knock but the door remained shut. When I am asking for bread, and get a rock; when I asked for meat and get scorpion.

I have seen that I am alive, but I don’t have my life in my control.

Last week, Sierra born three babies prematurely; all died. We found an abscess at her side; she’s been stabbed while pregnant and the vet and I thought it was a trauma. But when we spay her we found out that she is full of granulation, so we removed everything and were very glad we found out about it before it got worse.

The stressed lady was not getting better. She won’t eat, she drink occasionally but very little, she just curl up and sleep and don’t care even when Hanshin clearly looking for trouble poking her on the belly.

Her depression will affect her pregnancy, so we decided to remove the baby and let her start a new life, permanently single.

I’ve seen tragedy unfold in front of me and if it is not because I force opened my retirement, and intervene my life, two more will spin out of control.

The snare kitty is healthy and she is quiet, self sufficient girl, and she remains one of the very best thing every happened during my cliff hanging session. Never fight, play by herself, sleep by herself, do clean business in the box, come down to the bowl, eat, and not peeking or taking someone else bowl. Accepting to the kittens, never make trouble. Oh what precious cat!

A friend of mine offered to be my shipping point. I send her my stuffs, and she will send it out to the buyer when someone buy.

My thoughts: How do we tell Etsy about that system? Etsy requires seller to handle their stuffs by themselves, and if we collaborate, we should include the other party as one of the operator of the shop. She has her own shop. How about tax? Income will be via her PayPal and she transfer it to mine. Sending money personally is one thing, receiving or transferring money from sales is the other. How about shipping? Surely everyone will pay shipping from Indonesia but if she ship out from US it will be a different price. Mostly cheaper but I will have to communicate with the buyer about it and ask if buyer want to keep the change or want me to keep the change. What if someone want to return? Where should the returned item be shipped? her address or mine? (she is in USA, I am in Indonesia).

And she said no heavy stuffs. She can buy envelope online. My signature shipping style that set my shop apart is colorful bags and hand styled shipping address, but let’s set that aside. What about my brochures? labels? newsletter? business cards? bonuses?

And then, if we decided to do it guerrilla style, looking at the way things tend to get stuck, how long can we do this?

She also keeps saying that she lives in relative poverty, that she must think carefully about every spending, that she rely on credit card and that her sales is tight. I read that she has hard times on other things from her long term mourning (of her pets) to bad weather to friend’s pet loss to another. Tell me, now, how can I add into her so many restrictive situations?

I have been trying to think as fast I used to as she repeatedly offered and since I took so long and try to hold her off while I think, she took my stalling as “resistant”, took offense, retract her offer and go away.

I must have hurt her when I try to think for the both of us. Insult, judgement, prejudice, and labeling is part of my life but I never got used to it. It’s my fault for not taking that offer immediately and I deserve the harsh rebuttal? Maybe. But I guess no one wants to know. It’s part of the view.

Another friend asked me where she should send the proceeds from her Zazzle shop and I stalled there too. Will my PayPal be returned to normal by the time she transfer? Should I just let her send to Lori’s PayPal anyway? She is in financial difficulties and have a challenging illness. Should I just let her keep that proceed and use it until she gets better?

Meanwhile I have to switch from thinking about one thing to the other that at the end she just transfer it to Lori’s account.

And then another friend offered some help with Whiscraft. It can be done, but the team leader was still away after our harsh showdown (see above, about friend offering help with shipping) and I have been thinking of the best way to tell our leader about it. This friend has sister who just been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, stage three. She is on disability, how am I suppose to tell this story without “capitalizing” her situation? How am I suppose to tell her gracefully enough that I took X offer after “rejecting” her offer without creating a misunderstanding? How am I…

This friend message me a short while after, saying that she already told the leader and the leader seems OK, and that the leader have to be OK with this and she will just go on as planned.

Lori’s answer: Sometimes, you have to let your friends to step in on your behalf Josie.

OK. I see that too then. It’s part of the view.

So, what else I have to see now, God?. Are we going to go on and reach the destination or are you just gonna leave me this way and have people exercising their free will by robbing mine? Am I suppose to catch cold first?

You require me to leave my worry into Your hand. So I have been falling back to my faith and keep that faith as much as I can, no matter how recklessly You test it. How much longer? Like things are going to change if I am a different person?

And seriously, what about the cats?

I was approached by a FenghShui master when I took a shortcut via a book store. He said I got bad luck in January, February, March, and October and if I want to escape that bad luck I should free big catfish to the river in those month. As much as possible.

OK. I am still cliff hanging here enjoying the view and now I have to go to the river with a bucket of cat fishes; and March is only a few days left. I should be thinking about my mortgage; and cats. Not cat fish.

But what if that cat fish is the key to the next level?

Somebody, knock me off.

~ Josie



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Josie And The Whiskers' Syndicate

The first and only cat refuge in Bandung (West Java - Indonesia) a capital breeder of a nation without animal welfare law. We care for Bandung's unwanted animals, operate a TNR as much as our budget allows, and continue to educate people about compassion to animals

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