HAKUNA MATATA, GARBY!

Yet Garby made it a point to never lose anymore a beat of his life.

Nobody knows when he started to exist. What everyone knows was that he had always been around that landfill. Climbing left, scraping right, sleep at the corner, playing on the heap, missing one inch off the wheel of garbage truck that often put his peers to end.

It just so happened that he chose to lay and enjoy the sun in relatively cleaner place (well, there was no heap of rubbish) when he was spotted, taken, and found himself in a setting he never knew in his whole 15 weeks of life on earth.

Surely what was life for him then – dirty fur, filthy face, horrible smell, fleas of the whole universe, worms of entire planet- become unacceptable.

While he usually ate off the garbage bag, he now has to use a plate. While he usually ate what he wanted, he can now only have rations.

But what he used to know as “food” then, was completely different, and he likes his new place’s rations a lot better. Fresh fish, minced beef, ground chicken, scrambled egg. Kibbles ina large bowl he can swim in, and milk is just one heck of a terrorizing meow away. So “excessive” cleaning (as in bath) and “disinfecting” (as in deworming and flea medication) is acceptable, though never understandable.

He fits in just fine…

Not.

He climbs the kitchen counter, he charged on a full running grinder, he licks on the blades of the chopper. He spilt the whole bowl of (kitty) milk when he push one off the table because he cannot resist the wonderful smell. He tried to swim into a pot of hot home-made food, he walked through a hot stove (with effort). He swatted the little ones and took their food, he scratches the back of old ladies (and gentlemen) also to steal their food, and even though he was deep in the other side of universe during his sleep, as soon as he heard the spoon, or the knife, or the plate, or the cutting board, or whatever he knows associated with food, we can bet at the count of three he’d be right on the back of our hand.

Have anyone seen a cat fly? I mean, fly, like Superman off the edge of a tall building and up up and away? Garby climbed the kitchen cabinet and jump right down head first into the pot of food as it boiled!

I was too far away but there was a ladle in my had so I batted him off. He crash landed on a pile of plates, but at least he’s not dead. Me? Close!

This cat house on the hills become the cat horror house on the hills with screams from cats and human alike whenever Garby was on site with his eyes set on food.

That was the last straw that broke my back (we have no camel here, just me and Sheilla), so Garby stays locked in the bathroom until everything is safe to be trotted on or swum in.

I asked him how hungry he had been anyway, that he become so fearsome in his pursuit of happiness? He just looked at me with lips filled with cream cheese and I knew I’d never know.

It will just be a tug of war in patience; a level up challenge in anger management, or a life exercise in handling temper. Garby is a cat. A three and a half months old cat with no experience of good life, at least until he found us.

Just like what I thought would happen, one day he woke up with very bad indigestion that lasts for two days and cost him whatever food he gobbled down to the T.

Then, he changed. A little.

When I sat down on the floor, he sat with me. Quietly, neatly, with manners. No meowing, no hissing, no swatting, nothing. When I hold him he doesn’t squirm. He stays put and enjoy the view. When it’s time for him to go into quarantine, he walks into the bathroom and stays on the mat, right through the end.

If anyone was asking whether we tried leaving him around when we cook after his changes, we did. His demon came back to possess him and we’d scream our way in horror throughout the night, trying to keep him from killing himself and blow the entire house to ashes along the way.

Hence, until we find proper exorcism for his possession, he stays in the bathroom whenever we hold cooking utensils.

Hopefully someday he will realize that he is not going anywhere; and that he will find security in knowing (and remembering long enough) that he can eat whenever he likes, whatever he likes, and never to worry of hunger haunting him ever again. Hopefully someday he will realize that he has friends, not competitors. Hopefully someday he will realize that he has life, not struggle; he has family, not frenemy.

Hopefully, as fast as he learns his name (within 24 hours), he will learn that life is not always the hunger game, or catching fire.

Life can be Hakuna Matata.

What a wonderful day.

~ Josie

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Where we were, where we are, and our thanks to you

How long has it been, since the good old days? Covid 19 did not only bring change. It uprooted the lives we all know, and replanted it upside down somewhere else we barely recognize.

Through the entrance of the shutdown, early in March, toward the end of this June, I have barely known my home. At opening my eyes the first, after a glass of water, is bagging up as much cat food as I can possibly carry, the front door, and alley after alley, rows after rows of closed down restaurants – big or small, markets, hypermarts. From the outskirts of town, to the hall of the governor, the house of the mayor, to the end of castle like elites throughout the hillside.

Even if I still recognize the little faces who lined up behind my door as I go back home, either for just a sip of tea and reload my supplies, or to dole rations for my own, it was still seeing the world in a completely different lens.

Now that Bandung finally started to embrace the new normal: people peeking out, and lives gradually restarted, I am looking through the window of my bedroom to the whole hillside that still looks the way it was before everything, yet so different.

There was a sense of longing seeping in; of the days long gone before we know death were so close, but alongside it, a burst of gratitude.

Appreciation of the things that we all – I for one – used to take for granted. Fresh air in a bright Sunday morning. Peeking like little thieves out of my bed so I won’t interrupt the calming sound of cats purring in choir, the bubbles in boiling water, the stain of tea as it brews, just like the cloud moving across the sky.

How many have we lost through the pandemic? The lives that don’t matter to anyone. The lives that everyone so easily forgot; the lives who came to life as they heard the sound of my steps, our motorcycle, the clapping of Sheilla’s hands, or the chiming of her keys. The little feet who came running, so that they don’t run out of life, the rubs on our legs and arms before we stand back up, as tired and bedraggled as we might be, to wage the next war nobody would see.

But, how many walk through with us and live to see the new moonlight, and enjoy that same sunlight that now kisess my cheek? Mothers, kittens, teens, cast away. Those who started three months old and now reach adulthood. Those who just delivered a litter of babies now manage a ‘kittengarten’, those who timidly hide behind the furthest trash bin have now become a hunter. Those at the end of the queue to safety, now a survivor. Those who used to be clean, fragrant, friendly, now dirty, smelly, and alert; but strong and tough as their ancestors have always been.

Some days it is bitter, even in our own home. A small place by the hillside made for only 80 cats, forced to host 160 (real data, we do have 160 now). Some days a little bit sweet, but we hope the rest will be victorious.

Just a short while before the whole mess with SARS-COV2 began, Wei Ling was a 3 months old kitten, locked in a wooden box without an air hole, wailing for her life. This morning, when the last piece of strawberry landed on my pancake, she jumps like a heroine in the Marvel universe, with the permanent wink she attained in her early days after joining us.

I pick up the same cellphone that has been taking moments throughout my journey as a rescuer, and snap a picture.

I upload it now, pancake still on the kitchen counter – waiting for my crime partner to wake up – to share my gratitude with you; my gratitude for you.

Thank you for waging their unsung war with us; in every struggle, in every loss, in every gain, in all the wins. Thank you for your unwavering courage that gave us bravery, thank you for your never ending prayers, thank you for all your support, which have been the rock and mountains that kept us standing.

Some of these survivors will slowly regain the lives they almost lost. Some will stay with us until their turn comes, or grow old with us through the new normal until the next wage of war.

As we walk, hopefully still together, to the new world the Covid 19 carved for us, I am placing my hand on my beating chest, and bow to you all my respect.

And then, invite you to still walk with us, as we answer the pleas and prayers of many others still waiting in the dark.

Josie
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Help for ferals

Today, one more time we are bidding for better future for the stray, abused, neglected cats; more of them found themselves on the streets, parks and markets as their parents choose their own and reconsider the list of the family to exclude the least of their brethren who have been so devotedly brighten their lives.

It will be a certain doom for these cats, once they breed and continue to increase in numbers. At times when food source is very limited, and help is far in between, competition will be deadly. Many of them, if they survive the curse of the pandemic, will sustain injury, crippled, afraid, and traumatized, enough for them to shun away when better days finally come.

So, although we don’t know how we will pay the vet who kindly and generously donate her Sunday to spay and neuter the cats (and with reduced price), we know that as painful as it will be for our depleted finances, we have to make the right choice.

The right choice would be spaying/neutering them before returning them to where they were. The right choice would be to train them to survive, even though they are the wrong cat in the wrong time at the wrong place.

The right choice would be training them, that no matter how hard things might be, they can be sure that at certain hour every day, they can always run to us when we come and visit to distribute food and medicine.

The right choice would be holding their hope, when all other are lost.

~ Josie
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SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME

Since the start of the lockdown, restrictions, social distancing, whatever the name, us having dinner at 2 am the next day is the new normal. End our day on the 27th hour at 4 am and restart at 7 am is the new normal.

Masks and gloves help, glasses as well. They hide our pale complexions, coarse skin, and red eyes. They muffled our croaky voice, and a little bit of an effort to sound a little bit more cheerful distracts the beholder and make the smile of the listener.

On June 6, some sort of miracle. Despite the seemingly never ending day we somehow finished an hour early, went to our regular, hidden food stall to have a piece of meal, and a peace of mind as we enjoy our 6 hours late dinner, and whistle home. We wouldn’t ask for more. We know the whole world is in pain now and most of all we know full well the animals bear the worse brunt. We only have two hands, but when everyone worried about their own tummies, we can share, because it’s all we have.

Whistling home on ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ won’t distract us from dead roads and dark streets. Actually it lead us to two tiny shadows dancing around as if the background of our performance.

Actually it’s one. One two months old black kitten that will never distract anyone dancing by a small waterway toward the sewer. Next to him sat another, watching.

It’s not that she didn’t want to play, I think; but with mange all over her tiny self and fungus and yeast no less than any other, empty tummy and no mother, There’s a somebody she is longin’ to see, hoping that someone turns out to be someone who’ll watch over her.

Her black little sibling ran away as I stepped down from the motorbike and walked over, but she stayed there, looking straight into my eyes, with that pair of eyes full of melancholy.

When I extended my hand she took it carefully. His black sibling came back, and they both rode with us.

Only two ounces in weight, we couldn’t bathe her though we had goosebumps running through our spine touching her bumpy skin. We couldn’t give her spot on treatment, it can only be used once she is four pounds in weight or four months in age. Our best bet is flea spray. At least one or two parasite gone.

The rest is good food, in the hope she will found the will and build the strength to fight the legion of her demons.

The rest is her, voice inaudible, sitting as close as possible to our foot whenever we had chance to stand still. The rest is her looking at us with her tiny, round, yellow face.

She is like a mini sunflower trying to bloom in the winter, she is like a dainty daisy bracing the wind of the autumn, she is like a budding hope waiting for the summer.

But what if, summer never come? Declining donations force us to degrade from pure wet food to rice and fish, or less than best food we usually give.

But what if we keep going? If we cannot run, we walk, if we cannot walk we crawl; on our hands and knees, or on our tummy.

Just like little Hana (little flower) waiting in her box until we fell silent in our short lived sleep, and creep up to the bed.

When we wake up we will find her curling in peace by our cheek.

Someone to watch over me.

~ Josie

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Post Script:
“Someone to Watch Over Me” is a 1926 song composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. It was written for singer Gertrude Lawrence in the musical Oh, Kay! (1926). Originally, “Someone to Watch Over Me” was an up-tempo swing, but while experimenting one day, George Gershwin played the song as a ballad, and it stuck ever since.

The song was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1946 for his first album The Voice Of Frank Sinatra, and again by him in 1954 for the film “Young At Heart” (that inspired us to whistle on our way home the day we met Hana)

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Questions, and some answers

If there was a sound piercing the sky louder than the thunder, it was her call.

If there was tears pouring down to earth more than the storm that just passed by, it was her cry.

If there were questions that even God Himself wouldn’t be able to answer, it was her inquiry.

Her cries, fearful and incessant, pierced through the night on that row of shops, with doors as colourful as their vibrant lives; but just like the two months partial lockdown had covered their doors with dust, her hope sunk and dimmed that no one answered her calls.

She just stood there, unsure whether to run toward or away from me, when I finally found her. It was so empty, it’s difficult to separate her real cry and its echoes.

A newly homeless young man peeked from behind the utility station, irritated by all the noises. At least, he did not pick her up and throw her somewhere else to get his peace.

I took her, nodded at the man out of sympathy, and went away. If I cannot help him as much, at least I did not prolong his pain.

She was all bald patches from bad fungus and yeast; not to mention the whole town worth of fleas. She was all growls and spats as she gobbled down the first plate of soft, warm steamed fish, who knows after how long.

She keeps everything to herself, for herself and shun away from the rest of the world. She slept alone, she walked alone, she played alone, she’d run away if she was not alone around the litter boxes.

Why would someone go such a long way to abandon her in an empty business district, knowing full well no one would be there, we cannot answer; but I can show her man are many different things.

Why would someone take her away from her only source of life: her mother, and leave her to die alone and slowly in the middle of nowhere, I cannot answer, but I can show her that in my household, everyone share lives with the other.

Why in this horrible time, when others lend their hands and share their shoulders, someone would have such sick thoughts, we cannot answer, but I can show her that from the time she stepped into my household, there is food in the bowl, water fresh and clean, roof over our head, and the whole living room, and kitchen, and laundry room to chase in with abandon.

How long would we be able to provide, we cannot answer, but we can show her we truly care, we truly try.

How long will she take to move on and embrace her new life, we cannot answer.

But I can show her pats, rubs and cradling, that the love will live for as long as she needs, and many more as she lives.

~ Josie
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DIAMOND CREVASSE

Had I not made that sudden change of mind in a spur of a moment, I wouldn’t have gone to that organic market event.

Had I not go to that organic market event I wouldn’t have met her.

Had I not met her, she probably wouldn’t have existed; not for long.

She was just as big as a toothpick. I can count her bones three feet away, her curves were extreme, she was skeleton at best, probably living dead at worst.

Yet she was bright as the morning sunlight, running from end to end, greeeting people among the greens and the salad, the beans, the leaves.

She was as broad as the blue sky in that beautiful Sunday morning. She was like the prancing wind among the branches of the park where she bid her life – day by day – moment by moment, in that quiet stretch of the street.

A minute or two, she will walk back, sitting away from people busy with their pick of the day, vegs and all, catching her breath and cope with her ruptured diaphragm that made her lungs hanging only at the strength of her throat muscles and the fine threads of the nerves that hold her only life support.

Who knows, whether she was really looking at the crowd, seeking for the next glimmer of hope as she greet people she seldom see, for a piece of food, or whether she just lost in her own mind, trying to figure out what other way she would live, since no one really care about her?

Her left eye were crossed to the right and the right one crossed to the left.

She couldn’t even see it clearly when I, barely capable of holding myself, swept her off her seat and on to the corner, offering her what she has been asking for – clearly to no avail.

She cannot eat much, though I offered her the whole pouch of cat food. She can only stay active for so many minutes before she runs out of breath ahd had to stop to refill her lungs.

But even after she was spirited away to a completely new place, filled completely stranger cats, she is still the sun that shine warmly every morning.

Perching on her favorite window sill near the stove, she never fails to greet us. Sitting on the kitchen counter by the stove as soon as we turn it off, she never failed to catch our attention. A pat, a rub, a kiss. She embrace it merrily just like that win prancing between the branches and the leaves just like her days in the park.

Of course, some days are better than the other, but even when her lungs acted out, when she catch cold, when the food she was trying to finish – no matter how long it would take – was taken over by impudent catlings, she is still a broad as that blue sky when we first found her, and decided she’d be part of our family.

Part of our family with the name that describe her all the way, top to bottom, inside out: Belle.

Whenever our days are long or our hearts were cloudy, Belle will look at us, with her heavy breathing. Belle will call us with her exceptionally coarse voice, Belle will prance to us

And the sky will be blue and the sun is warm and golden. Our heads are hot but Belle, still a skeleton, but a lot cleaner, will be the cooling breeze.

Belle taught us acceptance, Belle taught us to be merry. Belle taught us perserverance, even in the swamp of disabilities that should cripple every other, Belle taught us that if we keep calling, hope will come near.

Belle taught us joy. Belle taught us to be happy.

In the past few days, as illnesses that plague her immune deficiency rallied, Belle taught us strength.

Her skeletal body, her shiort breath, her bad vision, her lessening stamina. She had to wear thicker clothing every day to keep her warm enough.

Yesterday, for one last time, Belle pranced between us. If we cannot be in the same place at the same time, it’s okay, she tried again, and again, and again, just like the the day we met her, last year.

Once in a while she will walk back, catch her breath, but she will always call us back, until we finally put our overfilled platter of life down, and sat beside her.

She greeted us one more time.

Only this time, it’s not a good morning.

It’s a good bye.

~ Josie

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