The Importance Of Being Earnest

By the time this post goes on air, I’d be out of work for almost the whole month. I am standing at the threshold of a chapter in my life in which I will define my purpose in life, and re-write my legacy.

During the fourteen years in the rat race, I have grown nothing but discontent of its glass roof syndrome. The bosses manipulate their power for personal and professional greed while the workers – choked with every words of wisdom to do their best so they can climb the corporate ladder – work to the end of their lives to be just like their bosses. With brand new car every turn of the year, brand new gadgets with every turn of the week, huge bonuses, luxurious clothing, morning golf plays (and claim the expenses of their enjoyment as “entertaining the customer” or “lobby expenses”

I am not going to say that I fail the race. I climbed the corporate ladder enough during the 14 years. I started as a clerk, and finished as the personal assistant to the president commissioner, but it only make me see the glass roof clearer. If you can’t get inside the circle of those 1% (regardless of your way to get in there), you’ll finish second.

The hard fact is, the harder you work, the richer the 1%. Time and energy in the corporate were spend from the bottom to the top, but the income went to the top first while we are like the dogs who eats the crumbs that fell from their table.

So, when the hypocrisy of the corporate become unbearable, I quit the race. I ripped the numbers from my chest and turn away from the crowded running lanes. I choose to run through the green pastures, the wet soil, and breathe fresh air.

I was wrong about the green pastures, and the wet soil, and the fresh air.

In fact, the first that I have to handle was my shop’s sales flop. The shop will be my only means of income after I retire; but it seems like I had simply forgotten that God had never promises that the sky is always blue and the sun is always shining. In my haste I have forgotten to look left and right before I cross the street and I am hit right on my first step.

I got panic and the devil shows up in the body of a business associate who called me to say how shocked he was to hear that I left the company, and that if possible, he want me to join his newly found curtain factory.

I didn’t know him. He is a friend of the new boss of the company (which I just quit) who showed up in my compartment once and a while to ask for a help with his own business. See what I mean? He is not even part of the company, but because he is a friend of the boss he can roam carefree into someone else’s office and told some employee to do this and that for his own purposes; and we workers can’t do anything but do what he said because if he was displeased and talk about us to the boss, we might lose our job.

However at that time, it felt like God had taken me out from the valley of darkness and put me into the green meadow, so I jumped in and again, forget to look left and right before I cross the street.

I got the job, and I thought that God had forsaken my plea, and the only way to survive with my sanctuary was to see the glass roof again.

The new boss is a complete miser.  He paid the factory worker very low, with working standard very high, he delay payment to the suppliers, and almost all other things, he made an agreement for one thing and when that one thing is delivered he suddenly backed off and re-negotiate the price, and all over places he deal with he gave my number so people flocked to me for an explanation of the most ridiculous set of action I ever met on earth.

After the incidence when he sat on Tealca, which sparked an intense argument between us, the forbidden apple effect started to wane. The new job is at the end of the entire Bandung, and I have to go out at 6 am in the morning if I am to reach the factory on time, so I have to wake up at 2 am in the morning in order to take care of the Syndicate first. I went home immediately at 5 pm, when the work’s over, but the terrible traffic made me reach home no earlier than 8 pm. No more feeding the street cat, no more delivery blankets to them when it rains, no more time to play with the Syndicate, and I skip food even more often than before because I am too tired to just turn on the stove and made a cup of hot cocoa. I also forget my liver.

My relatives and readers remind me to get enough rest and food, and my mother text-ed me like crazy to remember my liver but the snowball already rolled. I felt like my life is going out of control and that I am gasping for air trying to handle everything all by myself.

I contracted Chicken Pox on April Fool’s day. A true gift of my ignorance.

It is the result of degraded immune system due to my exhaustion, and my condition was so bad that my fever was so high, I can barely stand, and ulcers were everywhere, including inside my mouth, that rendered me unable to eat. I survive for three days drinking water with glucose that I always keep in spare. It is only my immense will that drag me out of the house to the nearest hospital for treatment.

A few minutes after I went home, I heard a ruckus from the stall across the house, someone telling the other to “get it” but I ignore them.

cursed stall
Stall across the house. Kids ran away from school to smoke, thugs, and pickpockets often lounged there. The lady owner offered free information about nearby households.

It took me a few minutes to realize that Chase slipped out when I went back home.

Chase side
Chase

Chase was rescued from her ‘thrilling’ life as a bait for dog race, and because of this fate she learn to move with ultimate stealth and velocity, so she often slips out of the house before, but she was never far. She was always waiting for me in an empty lot just two houses away, waiting for me to frantically looking and calling out for her. It’s her signature way to get my attention, and it never failed.

With red dots all over my body I ran out. I ran out and call out her name, but no answer. I rushed back to get the keys, and go out to the street, with people looking at me like leper, but Chase was gone. All the thug-looking people in front of the stall dispersed immediately after they see me, and Chase was nowhere to be found.

I called out for her all the way back to the empty lot but no answer, and as I walked home with even higher fever, the woman who owns the stall have the guts to appear innocent and ask “Lost your cat?”

I knew that “Get it get it” voice came from her stall back then, so she must have known what happened, and she dared scratching me for a response so she can gawk on her customer with ‘a new story’

I looked at her, and hiss “Curse thee who knows evil but do nothing. Curse thee and may thy loved one be stolen in front of thy eyes”

I curse with all my heart. I have never been more serious – take my word for it – and the woman had never see me with such fear in her eyes. I must have looked like devil.

I was at that time, and I don’t even wear Prada.

Inside the house, however, this devil cried. It is me who was cursed. Chase was stolen right in front of my eyes, and I can’t do anything to help her. I got Chicken pox, a petty illness that unfortunately take awful long time to heal, doubtless I will lose a lot of income because I can’t go out. I was made a complete fool in April’s fool day. God has great sense of humor.

Against doctor’s order, I gone out to the street anyway. Every morning and evening, the time when the cats got their rations, I put on my jacket and go round the block and nearby areas calling out her name. I was worried to death about her and besides, things can’t be worse than it already is.

Two days later, as I went out to look for Chase and bought some medicine, I caught up under the sudden rain and my cellphone was soaked dead.

I had no means of communication, nor internet for a week.

Yeah right, and I thought things can’t go any worse.

Well, things can get worse after all. And of all things that God can do, He took me down instead of up.

I was distressed; and as result I spend the whole day, and every day after that trashing around swearing at God for what He had done to me. When I am not angry I’d cry loudly like a crazy man, and in between my madness I even swear I’d stop believing in Him.

After I ran out of energy, the remaining of the next week gave me the quiet I needed.

For the first time in my life boys stop teasing me when I pass by. For the first time in my life all those men stop offering me a ride to their bed and giving me the joy of my life, for the first time in my life I own the element of power through fear, and for the first time in my life people take me as something they should not interfere, even though I was yelling with sore voice calling a cat, peeking under every car and inside every trash.

When you are happy, your friends know you, when you are sad you know your friends.

It’s true. I am very happy to know that the ones who stays are the street cats. I gave my life for them, and in return, they become the only ones who actually come over, despite my look, and the only ones to rub all over me, unchanged.

At night, when I was sleepless thinking of Chase, I remembered that last year I asked God if I can just quit my job and live from writing and crafting, the way Saint Peter did, and one of those days God actually listened. He gave me enough retirement bonus to fall back to during drier days, but it is I who panicked from the absence of the constant paycheck and jumped right into the fire, only because of one hurdle.

I found out that it is I who made myself into a fool. I want one thing but go to the other direction. I dream of being independent but is fearful of the variable checks (that might be bigger than the regular pay, if only I keep trying). I want to go through the road less taken but demand a highway covered with red carpet and fragrant roses. I promise to just do what I can, but depended on other people to provide me with food on the table, in exchange of excruciating working hour and horrendous commute.

If I were God, I’d be tad confused with the half-ass Josie, but Thank God His mercy is everlasting. Instead of striking me with lightning, I got to live another day, and another, and another.

Then, as days pass by, I regained my composure, and one by one, my anger was replaced by gratefulness.

I am not sorry to go into the job deal. It is because I took the job that I was able to meet Monday. It is because of this job that I was able to help Tealca, and Seven. While truly terrible, this job is only that “path less taken” that deliver me to the precious souls that never fails to enrich my life.

I am not sorry for the Chicken Pox either. For most, it stops the rolling snowball. It serves as a brake that I needed to stop and see where I was actually going, sans hallucination or paranoia. It’s a crossroad that take me away from the wrong path into the right one, and through it God had given me my second chance to choose where I want to end my race. Besides, hadn’t for the illness I wouldn’t have been able to help Estebel (her story coming soon) deliver her (complicated) babies, and I will be late to save Blossom (also coming soon) from going panic and step on her newborn to death.

estebel maternity
Estebel, a few hours after delivering four babies (plus one stillborn)

I decided that I need to make space for something new to enter my life, aside from new rescues. As a gratefulness for everything that has been given to me, in turn, I gave a lot of things away. I finally am able to live just with one suitcase (of daily wear) and was very happy when I found myself not panicking with what I am going to wear the next working day. I can work with shirt and short if I want to.

I come to truly enjoy my many additional flecks all over my face – a fact that my mother was horrified with.

She sent me a recipe to make soap out of natural ingredients, to help my skin heal and asked me if I can make it, otherwise she will make it and send it to me. I told her that I might not want to use that, since I am truly happy to be ugly. With this spots on my face people stop harassing me and I am now free to roam the street, feed the cats, and even gone out at night to tend to more street cats without worrying someone will try to touch me.

Of course she yells at me. Any given woman will go to all length to preserve her beauty, and I enjoy being ugly. So to calm her down, I made the gel soap, use some (it’s really nice) and send the rest over to some of my best friends all over the world. I went to some free internet and send my brothers news about my cell phone, in case they know someone to repair it. Within a few days one of my brothers sent me his old cellphone, and the other told me to send my phone over so he can ask someone to repair it.

And all of the troubles that drove me insane in the past two weeks were settled. The gift from getting yourself a quiet time that allow your every busy brain to sort things out in its own way, without the need for the latest computer with Intel I7 attached to it.

To celebrate, the first number I dialed is the meanie boss. I quit my job after only a month.

I spend a few days after my jobless day answering the phone calls of acquaintances expressing how sorry they are that I left the company, because I have been truly a blessing for them to work with (compared to a miser); catching up to emails and re-educating myself about handcraft marketing.

Along that way I got to know one of the greatest woman in the world, who – almost single handedly – spay and neuter the entire street cats in Sioux City, Iowa, USA. From a home made shelter, she now has an adoption center downtown. I was utterly embarrassed and humbled when she told me how much she admire my work, while it is her who inspired me to follow her lead.

I read a lot about sewing and making soft toys, and along the way I meet a lot lot LOT crafter who happily share their gift to their will-be-competitor (that’s me). I have always interested in soft toys and when I study, I come to realize that there’s still a lot to tap into and expand instead of cursing my dormant shop.

But the thing I am most grateful of is: I can write. As much as I want, when I want, the way I want.

The only thing I truly regret is that I lost Chase. She left a huge black hole in my heart that sucks all the happiness whenever I remember her, and that would be: every time. Even so I do not want to forget her, not even learning to let her go. Every weekend I will go around the city, where backyard breeders and pet thieves would sell their victims, from the filthiest to the fanciest, with money in my pocket, hoping to find her. I still call out her name every meal time. I still prepare Chase’s food. I live as if she is still around, because she still is. Every day the hope is suppose to get dimmer, but I still want her back. Chase is a smart cat, so I prayed that she can go home. All over the internet there are stories about lost pet got found miles and years after, and if it happened to someone else, it can happen to me. I have never forget to mention her name in my prayers, asking that she be returned.

My mother put Chase on her facebook and invite many people who had lost their pet to share their heart and come together. Now she has even more friends than I am. It’s the gift of being 60 years old animal rescuer.

I figured that learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought with ardor, and attended to with diligence.

It’s not my words. It’s Abigail Adams (1744-1818) First Second Lady of USA and Second First Lady of USA. Like I said, God has great sense of humor, right down to the wordplay.

Now that I decide on what I really want to do, and cast away all my worries, things are starting to go on a straight line.

A few days ago on one of my sleepless nights, I read newspapers online, and read about so many environmental devastation all in a row, as if it’s been lined up for me to read, and I figured God calls me to step back into the fight, by giving back to what caters to my soul.

I wrote an open letter to the Minister of Bioenvironment, cc the President, to intervene with the plan to cut down Leuser conservatory rainforest in Aceh, that will render many orangutans homeless. I also wrote him that the local authority in simplemindedly decided to close down the only conservatory for Sun bears in Balikpapan because “it is not financially profitable for the region” and plan to build a new mall on that land. The entire city, all of them, sent out a protest for that plan, because the Sun bear is their much tenderly loved “Pooh Bear” (in Indonesia, Sun bear is called Beruang Madu – meaning honey bear) but those authorities, who call themself “people’s representative” close it down already, and even boasted on their powers when facing National Geographic’s camera, citing that “all those bear were crippled, it’s not giving us any financial value”

The Sun Bear conservatory had five bears, all of them had been poached and commercialized during one point of their lives.

I am not sure if they are going to listen at all. This country has no respect of other things but their own money, but I fight anyway. I am keeping my promise to Monday: I’ll just do what I can.

Then I learn about Diane Rowles in Bulgaria, and I see a part of me in her in the past.  I can’t donate money, because I am also struggling financially to keep the Whiskers’ Syndicate alive; but I can sew, and I recently learn about so very many new tricks. So why not put them into practice?

Hence what I am going to do: I am going to make blankets and toys for the dogs and cats under Diane’s care and ship them to Bulgaria (with the help of Animal Rescue Chase). Numerous times, whenever I reached out for a volunteer, I receive a note that it is impossible to volunteer internationally. Now I am going to prove, earnestly, that it is completely wrong.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal

~Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

Two of the people I quote are Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson. You know what? they are enemies (at least politically). Thomas Jefferson beat Abigail’s husband re-election and become the third president of United States. Yes, God has great sense of humor.

I know there will be some emails asking why I decided to help other shelter while I myself am struggling. Here is the answer:

I am hungry, Diane is hungry, my cats are hungry, Diane’s cats and dogs are hungry. We are both oppressed, we are the same.  So why not?

If you cannot donate, but find it in your heart to help Diane Rowles, join me in contributing your used clothing, blankets, towels. I will turn them into toys and bedding for the animals in Bulgaria. Better yet, if you want to donate toys you made, or quilt, or whatever craft you are mastering, contact Laura Simpson (info[at]animalrescuechase.com) and she will make suitable arrangement for you.

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Fry Me To The Moon

for our angel Trish And Heinz Geidel

A friend wrote me an email after she read the story on Monday. She wishes that Monday will have a friend to play with so that she doesn’t have to be alone the whole day when I go to work.

A few days later I heard that she lost one of her beloved furry family: Tealca, after 14 years of life and brief illness. I tried the best I can to console her, though I know the loss of a beloved family is irreplaceable. I have lost many lives during my rescue years, but they have never become just number, no matter how short their time with me, so I can understand the enormous grief that befell her once she has to let go of Tealca.

BEAUTIFUL TEALCA blog
The original beautiful Tealca

Taking the decision to let go of someone so dear to you take enormous amount of courage, unimaginable strength, and fathomless love that not everyone would understand. I know some people will certainly ask and brought forth the moral rhetoric, and as the epic battle of ethical conduct goes, the animal were left in agony.

I do hope that sort of thing will not happen to my friend, though as my story with Monday went international, I do feel the sting of sceptic society in my action.

Among the very many comments expressing gladness that Monday survived, there are a few that question why didn’t I just stop the car right away, some goes into detail telling me to pretend the car was broken. Other readers sympathetically (and I am totally grateful of) explain that in the third world like Indonesia, and many other part in South East Asia, traffic can be very bad that you can’t get out from the car, much less stop the car right in the middle of the street, without creating a chain crash. Other reminded the commenter that I was in someone else’s car.

And I clearly admit I didn’t wrote that the former business associate (not my co-worker, he is an acquaintance of the new boss in my previous work that sometimes drop by to ask for help) do not like animal. He despise them.

But still, I share the guilt. I have that guilt because I can’t run fast enough, because I was being such a coward that I have to wait 30 minutes while I can just say that I have other business so I can’t be polite to my possible future boss, and until today I still can’t forgive myself for allowing such tragedy to happen that Monday was the only survivor of three that call out for help.

So I made another promise. I made another promise that the next time, whatever I do, whatever happened, when a kitten yells for help, I’ll jump out and help. Period.

And then God listen, again.

A few days after Tealca’s passing I was rushing to work, even though it’s still 5 something in the morning. The traffic was very bad and I was afraid I am going to be late. Yes, I got the job after I saved Monday, but it was at – quoting my new co-worker – the end of the world. There’s only one way leading to that industrial area, and it was so rural that the only thing you can find there is dying farming land, factories, gawker stall (that sells food made of who-knows-what) that most of the time stands up on top of garbage mound and endless bus and truck and flood.

I know it’s excruciating. Having to go out for work at 5 – 6 am and reach home no earlier than 8-9 pm, but I needed the money. After only one month resigning from my previous company I lost my confidence and faith that God will provide so I swallow whatever that comes next that spells like “income”. And it’s not only me. Numerous time, suppliers complained about the bad traffic and how much they loathe having to come over to the factory because they will spend endless time in a traffic jam only to go to one place.

So I stop one of the many bike taxis. In Bandung, it’s called “ojek”. It’s like taxi, but with motorcycle. There’s no meter, so you approach the rider, tell them where you want to go, and bargain your price. When you got deal, you ride on the back and they drive you to destination.

The one I got told me that the traffic is very bad, even though it’s still early, because there’s only one way to my working place, and offered to take a little short cut, but that’s through an old cemetery.

I laughed. If there’s some kind of evil spirit that still roam a cemetery on the sunrise, I hope it will be a visiting Edward Cullen, or some Casper who went home late.

However, since it’s cemetery, the road is rather empty, so it’s plain weird that some motorcycles in front of us abruptly turn to the left or the right, as if avoiding something.

When I peek through the shoulder of my rider, I saw a bright yellow, tiny kitten, jumped out from a small ravine straight to the street, calling out for his mother.

Tealca day one

I keep my promise. The road is steeply climbing but I ask the motorcycle rider to pull over anyway. He replied to me in confusion, but I keep saying “pull over” until he did so five minutes ahead, thinking that I might dropped something because I look back all the time.

I grabbed the kitten, push him inside my bag and go to the side where he jumped out, in case he has sibling. A bad corpse-y smell erase my hope, and looking at the filthy kitten, I am sure someone must have throw him there, or he got lost long and far enough to see her mother.

And I am under pressure for being late to work.

So I brought the kitten to the factory. I always have kitten food in my bag so I feed her along the way, inside my bag, while riding at the back of a motorcycle, with my rider grinning because it seems like it’s a first time a passenger ask for a pull over to retrieve a street kitten.

Don’t try this stunt by yourself unless you are highly accustomed to.

The food trick worked. Little kitten fell asleep inside my bag so I can bring him in without a commotion, until my boss (that business associate that offer me a job in Monday’s story) neglect to see where’ he was going and sit on my bag in the meeting room.

The next is a bitter argue. He clearly stated that his factory is not a zoo and that I shouldn’t have smuggled an animal into a clean facility. I didn’t say much because I was worried about the kitten, so I only say that the kitten hasn’t done anything or anybody harm, not even a noise, and that if he didn’t like what I do then I have no objection to leave the company.

My bluff worked. It was a new factory, so that business associate need someone with experience, and I was the only one he knows that can speak Japanese and is available in such a short time. The other co-worker watch with their mouth open because no one dared to defy the director before.

When I brought the kitten home that night, I remembered my friend’s wish that Monday will have a friend, and I wrote her saying that God had listened to her prayer and that I wish I was granted the honour to name the small kitten Tealca.

Unfortunately, however, the friendship part didn’t work. Monday is a princess. Serene, demure, and gentle with everything. Tealca is like a burning sun. He jumps everywhere, run to every corner, drag Monday’s blanket away from her, ambush her while she was asleep, took her food, bite on her tail, and make Monday got a severe headache (I think so, from her face)

So Tealca stays outside my bedroom, while Monday stays in. But he didn’t want to give back Monday’s blanket (actually it’s mine T_T) and instead bring it with him. He made such a ruckus when I took the blanket away, that I finally relented and buy Monday a new blanket.

 

tealca basket
Look at me in the eye, This is MY blanket!
tealca look up
What!

Perhaps, living as a stray for some time in a vast cemetery, away from loving care of a mother, made little Tealca a tough guy. Other kittens that I met along the way used to be meek, but Tealca is demanding. He yells for his food, he take what he wants, and he made clear he is well understood.

my bowlsempty
My bowl is empty

Of course, it might be that I personified the cats too much, but Tealca brings about a unique personality that is hard to ignore. He has his own way telling the others of his intention, unlike any cat who usually use their rubbing and kneading, but still, despite his “my way” persona, it’s still hard to resist him. He is like a compact version of Charlie.

One more thing: his favourite spot is the stove.

tealca stove

He likes to sleep in a used up frying pan (hence the title of this post, given his personality). The frying pan has been the only cooking utensil I have when I first move to Bandung (until a friend buy me a pot), and I still haven’t replace it even after Charlie use it as his toy and broke its handle.

P2201549

So I put his blanket inside, and have him sleep there. Occasionally he will drag his blanket out and sleep on the floor, clawing any cat that pass by, regardless of their size.

While Tealca is busy frying us to the moon; Monday, is back to her peaceful days in my room, with her new blanket.

monday sleeping

Some things are better left to their own devices.

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My Sister’s Keeper

 for our beloved friend Christine Stewart

and our beautiful sister Ekeim Teeuwisse

Until a few months ago, I would still be asking how it feels to have a sister. I was born first and the only female out of four siblings, and I always think how nice it should have been to have someone to share a lot of commons.

Of course, I have heard about the sibling rivalry, and it can went really messy with girls, but still, I guess, even though I would occasionally fight with my sister, if I ever have one, it would still be great to have one. I imagine what we would talk about to each other, what we would share, what we would fight over, and how would we make up with the other.

Ten minutes walk from our new sanctuary, you will meet a valley. A huge green bowl spotted with little orange dots where the houses’ rooftop stand.

green valley

I found that place when I was looking for a house, and I went there again a few days after we finished building the water tower for the sanctuary, as a little reward for our accomplishment. I took the above picture while standing on top of a big rock at the edge of the hills, when I heard some noise from the bushes below me, and moved away as soon as possible fearing that I might step onto some animal’s nest.

A few minutes later, the ruler of the land poked out from the bushes, probably thinking that it chases away the intruder.

ruler of the land

My adventure began at that point. I wonder why a cat would want to live at the edge of a ravine, and I am interested in offering her a better place in the sanctuary, so every morning after that sunny Sunday I went out earlier to leave cat food by the rock before I left for the office.

After a week I learned that the bushes – growing on the erect wall of the valley – is home to a small colony of cats. Five kittens and a calico teenager, or so I thought.

 

queuing

They always run away when I tried to get nearer, so I am trying to be as still as I can because I am afraid that one of them can trip and fall all the way down and kill himself. I am happy enough that they finally begin to trust me, because looking from their filthy condition, they lived there long enough – alone.

So I want to at least offer them some kindness. I know my sanctuary is much too full for another six cats, much less ideal for a batch of kinderkittengarten. I want to gain enough of their trust to be able to spay and neuter them when they are old enough, and release them back where they are, because they seems to be more familiar with the ravine, and more adept to climbing it than me.

But that was before I realize that something is weird about the teenage cat. She is a beautiful tabby-calico, and sometimes she moves real fast I thought she was the daughter of Spiderman and Catwoman. At other time, however, she was totally a different cat. She stares at me with a round, fearful eyes, and her stand was so wobbly I thought she can fall down any moment. Some other time she was walking with a tremor, and at other time she seems to always trip when walking. Then, all of a sudden, when I see her again, she is completely fine.

I thought she was probably epileptic, but the possibility just make me more curious about know how she survived in such steep terrain. I praise God for His grace and protection, and – needless to say – change my mind about letting them stay feral, at least the teenage cat.

Then all of a sudden, the kitten stop coming. One day, three days, a week; and my concern becomes worry. I continue to come, in the hope that the kittens’ mother, who never appeared, will take her children back to the hillside if she finds food, or if the kittens are on their own, they will decide to come back if they know there’s plenty of food, and no threat.

My hope diminish as days past and only small amount of food were eaten, maybe by other cat. I thought I lost them forever, when one Sunday, a lady called out to me as I turned back home empty handed.

She hurled a huge plastic bag full of traditional Indonesian snacks when I turned around.

“Thank you for feeding my cats when I wasn’t around”, she said, “I went to a hajj journey and was worried that the cats would die without me but thank Allah He sent you. My neighbour told me about you”

It is I who thank God, actually. At least I now I know that those little babies were save after all.

Then I learned that she is the owner of a big house across the street, overlooking the rock, and that she always left food on her large terrace for the stray cats around the area, and also that all five kittens and their mother were always there as soon as she came home from the hajj.

I asked her immediately if she knows a teenage calico cat that walk with a limp, and before she answered, I saw that cat sitting on the sofa inside her house.

“I thought you were fooled too”, the lady laughed, “It wasn’t her, it’s her twin”

Hmmm…..A twin cat? Is that even possible?

“That’s the one with the limp”, she pointed behind me.

I looked around, and saw the exact same cat, limping quietly trying to go pass me into the lady’s living room where her sister was sitting.

Heck, no wonder sometimes she is a cliffhanger, the other time a heart breaker. It’s not a teenage cat that I saw, it was two.

It made me feels like reading Jekyll and Hyde, cat version.

Since the lady is nice, it takes only a short time before we know each other better. She was a midwife, a daughter of a farmer in a village a few hours from Bandung, and her father like cats and keep many of them in his barn. It’s how she came to like cats, because her father’s barn gang done a great job exterminating rats and keep their rice safe. She thinks cats are a gift from God that contribute to her present prosperity.

And then, for some unknown reason, we talked about birth control one day. We just drifted there I think, because we chit chat about whatever while feeding the feral cats. I took the opportunity to start campaigning about spaying or neutering her cats.

She said she knows that cats can have birth control, but she was made convinced that spay/neuter equals mutilation to a living being, and thus, a sin.

Don’t laugh. Some vets (and especially breeder vets) said so. I am sure those breeder vets are lying, though I am not sure about the sin. If it is then I myself will definitely go to hell, considering the very many street cats that I spay and neuter all these years. But then, since I won’t know for sure anyway, I just do what I can.

I told the lady that that at this moment, trap, neuter and returning feral cats is the most effective and humane way to handle overpopulation, avoid epidemic, and definitely curb the chance of street-tragedies.

Besides, since this lady seems to genuinely love cats, I might as well try to make the colony into a living example of how feral animals can live in harmony with humans.

A few visits and a couple afternoon tea convinced her that spay and neutering, when done correctly by a caring vet, will guarantee a better living for a cat, and of course, less burden for her (who provide food for the entire colony). I am still not sure whether or not it’s a sin, though.

So, we made a deal. I will pay for the spay and neutering for every one of the colony, and she will continue to feed them, with additional term that I will adopt the tremor-ing teenage cat.

She refused.

She said, if I am to adopt the calico teen, I have to adopt both. She told me that she knows the twin at birth, and that the two cats have been inseparable, and she also told me that since I know more about cat care, I should try to cure the one with limps.

The lady named the two calicos Kunyit and Unyit (both means ‘tumeric’), but when you call one, the other tag along and vice versa, so I only need one name for both of them. They eat from the same bowl (refusing a second bowl), they drink together, play together, sleep together, at the same place, scratch together… They even go to toilet together! Imagine a pair of twin cat defecating side by side…

When I took them for spaying, they were spayed at the same time, by two vets who happened to share the same first name (One is vet Dewi Maria, the other is vet Dewi Sumaryatin).

God sure has a big sense of humor.

twin in basket

The Unyit who has a black spot near her whiskers is the limp one.

twin on top of container

Between the two, Unyit who walks with a limp is the more courageous one, but her sister usually followed one step behind. When she sense danger, however, the healthy one hiss first, and the limp Unyit will back off. When they were given food, the limp Unyit will arrive first, but she won’t eat until her sister come and sniff, and if the food pass her test then the two will eat together, from one bowl, and no matter how little the portion, they never quarrel.

Healthy Unyit only plays with other cats with whom limp Unyit play with, and limp Unyit will avoid all other cats whom healthy Unyit avoids.

unyit and tamarin look front
Unyit and Tamarin
unyit and tamarin look side
My mom dropped a spoon
unyit and tamarin look front again
We figured the twin are perfectly synchronized

I don’t know how they communicate with each other, but the two always seems to understand each other, count on each other, and naturally drawn to each other.

One day, when watching them playing, I wondered if healthy Unyit ever felt burdened with her extra job as her sister’s keeper, if she ever have her own different mind from her sister.

My mother told me that, while I was at work, there were several time when healthy Tumeric managed to slip out of the house, and my mother was too slow to catch her. However, halfway to the stairs she always look back through the window, where limp Tumeric watched her sister in silence.

Then she said that healthy Tumeric always turn back into the house.

Now I know why the two Unyit never got out of the house again, even when the front door was opened in front of them.

When healthy Unyit fell severely sick last month, I saw the other Unyit tried hard to keep her comfortable. She sat by her sister, she comforted her by licking behind her sister’s ear, and she bit my hand when I tried to keep her away because she might catch the same cold. In turn, limp Unyit tested the food for her sister, hiss when other cats try to get into their basket, and refuse to play with other cats until her sister is back healthy again.

And then when I register limp Tumeric into physiotherapy and acupuncture classes to heal her wobbly stand, healthy Tumeric voluntarily jump into the basket, and join her sister’s session. Combined with my mother’s magical Chinese herbs, Limp Tumeric’s condition is getting better, albeit very slowly (I say this because she is fatter faster than she heals).

2012-12-28 08.19.00
waiting for vet exam (with the same style)

When Limp Tumeric can finally jump over a table and land on her legs (instead of her tummy) I can sense her sister’s happiness. When the limp Tumeric start to stand more steadily, has less tremor, and even run straight (without bumping or tripping), they start to be more lively. They play longer, and more mischievous, as if a whole new world – sans limitations – is opened for them to explore.

dendeng alone
You think limp Unyit finally left alone?
dendeng and unyit watching bucket
Look again

Last week when my friend wrote me to say how much she missed me, and how much she has been looking forward to my writings, I was looking at the twins as they work together trying to rip my floor mat apart.

Then I realize that, without I know it, I have been looking at the answer of my questions about how it feels to have a sister.  All this time I have been living at the side of the greatest sisterhood that can be defined. A loving companionship, sheer loyalty, genuine trust, unconditional giving. Since the days when they lived at the lip of a ravine, to the days when they share a soft fleece bed in a warm home, they never change. All the good things about having a sister, has been taught to me, in real time, by a pair of a feral twin.

And then I remembered I once read that the most valuable treasure a girl can have is a sister.

Looking back at the twin, who chase each other back and forth around my refrigerator, I guess I don’t even need to wonder if it’s true.

unyit red basket

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Lion Dance Magic

 

white-dragon-lion-dance-slant

For Chinese in the world, January 23 is the most important Chinese holiday. It is the beginning of the new year of Water dragon.

 Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China , it is known as “Spring Festival,” the literal translation of the Chinese name, since the spring season in Chinese calendar starts with lichun, the first solar term in a Chinese calendar year. It marks the end of the winter season, analogous to the Western Carnival. The festival begins on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. 

 Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese calendar. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, such as Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Vietnam, Phillipines and also in Chinatowns elsewhere. Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the lunar new year celebrations of its geographic neighbors. In Indonesia, that fifteenth day or the Lantern Festival is call Cap Go Meh. Cap Go means 15, and Meh means ‘night’.

During the Chinese New Year, lion dancer troupes from the Chinese martial art schools or Chinese guild and associations will visit the houses and shops of the Chinese community to perform the traditional custom of “cai ching” (採青), literally means “plucking the greens”, a quest by the ‘lion’ to pluck the auspicious green normally ‘vegetables’ like lettuce which in Chinese called ‘cái'()that sound like ‘cái'()(fortune) and auspicious fruit like oranges tied to a red envelope containing money; either hang highly or just put on a table in front of the premises. The “lion” will dance and approach the “green” and “red evelope” like a curious cat, to “eat the green” and “spit” it out leave it in a nice arrangement, like an auspicious character but keep the “red envelope”. The lion dance is believed to bring good luck and fortune to the business and the troupe is rewarded with the “red envelope”.

450px-ChinNewYr-dragon1

In modern day, however, people who come to watch lion dance can wave the red envelope in the air, for which the lion will come and, after “eating” the envelope, will bow down in gratitude and the patron (who give the envelope) can touch the head of the lion. Giving red envelope (containing money) to the lion and touching the lion’s head is considered auspicious.

Now onto another story.

I once read an article by a Catholic Filipino lay missionary about “giving back to God” The impression that article left me is that if Robert Kiyosaki (author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad) said “pay yourself first” this Filipino evangelist say “pay God first” by giving a part of our income back to God through charity. He said in the article that most people think they are too poor for charity, especially those in debts, or with small wage who always worry about what to eat tomorrow. However, he believed (by citing some verse in the Bible) that giving back to the Lord is a great exercise to feel of “abundant” and that “God give enough” as well as training us to “cast our worry to God because He cares for us”, and that the more we give for charity, the more God will bless us abundantly. Long story short, I promised God that I will give part of my income – regardless of how small – to Him, regardless I never have enough for the whole month, and I always take a few percent of my salary since then, and anonymously put it in the charity box at the church.

Partly, I felt challenged by St. Francis of Assisi’s first student and follower: St. Bernard, a very rich nobleman who actually sold all his belonging, give it to the poor and live just by what people give him as he begs on the street with the poor. Stupid? surely, but I did it anyway.

Believe it or not, my luck changed since then. Before I set apart my salary, I have always run out of money, sometimes as early as the first week of the month, leaving me with meager to eat and none to spend for all other things; but after I start to set it apart, there’s always something coming: a small donation, a pet store allowing me to pay on credit, a lending from one of my brother, or an order from the Whiskers’ Syndicate’s on-line shop. I always have nothing left by the last day of the month, but whenever the last dime were spent, and I have no idea how we are going to eat the next day, there’s always something just enough to fill our stomach and therefore, to live another day.

Fast forward to now: Last week my half-dead rice cooker had finally gone over the rainbow bridge. I said it was half dead because it can still cook, though the rice it cooks is never well done (there are part of it that still half cooked). I have no money to buy a new one yet, and I promised one of my significant person that I would never survive on instant noodle and water again, so for several days I live with rice flour mixed with soy milk and made into a porridge. I got myself a severe diarrhea that way, so at the end I borrowed money and went buy one at the weekend.

I read it in a big advertisement on the streets that Bandung will celebrate Cap Go Meh 3 days in a row starting Friday (Feb 9) to Sunday (Feb 12) in an extravagant 70 lion dances, parade of the statues of Buddhist/Taoist/Confucianism Gods and venerated persons, as well as lantern festival from Temples/Groups/school across West Java. The parade will pass on every main street with major Chinese populations. That means detours, traffic jams, and waste of time. Worst part is, since my rent is in the city center, all main street around my area will be passed by the parade. So if I am to buy the rice cooker, I need to do it in utmost rush, or got caught in the crowd.

I was stuck in the crowd anyway, and ended up being pushed around to the front row of the sea of people that comes watching. Children were lifted up on their parent’s shoulder, and some of them is crazy enough to step on the head of people below them, including mine. Bandung people has no sense of respect, that is ultimate truth, so I can’t expect their children to be respectful to others.

At my side and front, Chinese with bundles of red envelope are waiting in excitement. It is auspicious to give an envelope to one lion, so I think it is naturally abundant to give them to all 70 lions. I sometimes give red envelope, when I have some change to spare, but that was long time ago.

Beyond my expectation, the lions, as well as the dances were skillfully beautiful, so as I watch the parade I keep groaning that I don’t have any money left except for two thousand Rupiah, that will be spent when I took a the bus home. At one point, however, my attention was drawn by an elderly lady beside me, who open her purse in secret (there got to be more than a dozen freelance pick pocket there, I suppose) and wave her hand timidly. So shy that some of the lions can’t see her waving and come pick her gift. She knew that I was watching her, so she told me, with a crimson cheek, that she didn’t have a red envelope, hence fold the money and have the lion eat it “raw”.

It was certainly laugh inducing, at least for Asians who are familiar with the tradition. However, I was touched by her sincerity, and simultaneously remembered that I have a small envelope I keep in my wallet. I always keep one or two ready in case I need to leave the Syndicate’s business card somewhere, or happen to pass an under-maintained church in need of charity.

It shocked me when I realize that there are 50 thousand Rupiah bill inside each envelope. I got 100 thousand when I thought I don’t have even a dime left! It’s a miracle!

Well, perhaps no, maybe it was just me, actually. I put that money there as the part of charity that I promised God, but I ended up giving my charity to a sick baby by a bank transfer last week, and I forgot that I put money in that envelope, but at that moment it does feel like a miracle for me: a good fortune fall straight from heaven as a reply from my endless groaning as each lion passed.

I was terribly thirsty for having to walk a long distant (the bus stopped halfway due to the crowd) So I slipped into the back, with much effort, and buy bottled water from a merchant with one of the 50 thousand, and the merchant gave me a lot of small change in return. He has a lot of bigger bills, and gawker merchant usually keep the small change for later transactions, but this one give me all his small change. A peculiar happening that I take as another divine sign.

I think you can guess where the change goes. To the lions. I don’t have envelope, so I gave it to the lion “raw”, just like the lady, who was encouraged to give more because she is not alone.

It is ridiculous, really, to give part of my money to someone else when even I don’t have left over, but lion dancers are all volunteers; they have never received payment, and all the money from the envelope goes to support the life of their group. I saw their eyes. Those dancers are tired, and hungry, and confused to be surrounded by such wild spectators (who most of them are not Chinese nor Buddhist but unknowing and often time disrespectful spectator of majority religion in this country), but they still move on. Throughout the dance they cannot drink or eat, and have to continue moving throughout the route: a long 10 kilometers (around 12 miles). A small change bill as a token of appreciation and respect is nothing compared to their dedication.

Besides, I felt that heaven is reminding me. Those dancers came from even the most remote area of West Java, some even comes from another island. Given the organizer pay their transport and accommodation, they still have a lot to pay from their own pocket, and they still perform their best do it in their faithfulness to their religion and belief. My tribulation is trivial in comparison.

I feel warm, actually, and less lonely. I don’t feel like I am the saddest person in the city: away from family, in an unsympathetic town, defending a deviant cause, of little means, and definitely cobbling down confidence. For that time being those dancers and I, albeit strangers, are in the same boat.

So, I am doing it for the syndicate. Every time I “fed” one lion, I prayed for one mobster that had left me to the other side. Not to Buddha, to my own Lord Jesus. The lion is just a symbol, part of the tradition. I whisper the name of all my sisters and brothers who are no longer with me: River Phoenix, Edward, Trea, Koge Pan, Tanenah, Eden, Picassa, Kaitou, Orange Pekoe, and many other, and asked that God took care of them wherever they now are.

Every time I wave my hand to give another I prayed that He’d bless my service toward Him saving animals. Because I heed His word that, to the extent that we did kindness to one of these brothers of Him, even the least of them, we did it to God.’ (Matthew 25:40). Aren’t animals considered the least of God’s creature? And so far I have found my greatest joy in working with them.

Every time I touched the head of a lion I wish the generic wish that other people do: that this year is prosperous, though I ask for prosperity because my rent will be over in June, and I have no money to pay the next term, much less buying a piece of permanent property that the Syndicate and I can stop moving around all over again (moving is stressful to cats) and stay in peace, away from evil neighbors or cruel majority, as we continue to save the lives of less fortunate kins.

Even as I left the parade I am still praying, in gratitude for the 100 thousand miracle, and wish that as much as I haven’t forget my promise to give part of my income back to God, God too will not forsake His promise, that whoever faithful to Him shall not perish, but live abundantly to the end of time. I will remember to cast all my anxiety on Him, because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).

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One hour that lasts forever

as featured in:
Love Meow
Care2 by Laura Simpson of Animal Rescue Chase
Katzenreporter by Coco Katzenreporter (in German)

As January creep away, the hype of the holiday vanishes back into the routine; and so is my confidence.

While taking various part time jobs to keep the cat food bag full, I re-established Whiscraft, a handmade-gift shop that I started in 2010, but soon abandoned due to the increasing hectic wave of my day job. The shop was a hit during Christmas, so our savings went a little bit thicker, and I kind of think that it might be enough for the drier days.

But as soon as the holiday rush ended, so is the sales, and the revenue graph is still flat until today. All the revenues that we have been making during the holidays are dwindling fast, and before long finding myself scraping for extra cash to pay the bills.

Soon enough, I am facing the same intersection that I always been facing: go find a regular pay check again (and make the rescue an after-work job), or stick with my current path and continue to make Whiskers’ Syndicate my ultimate and permanent job. Deep in my heart I can’t believe it. It’s been only a month and gone are the days where I wake up in gratefulness because I do not have to do the long commute any more.

At that time, an email from a past business associate (from my previous job) offering a (good) position in the newly opened branch, seems like a promising way out. I don’t believe in coincidence, only fate, so while I knit my eyebrow in front of His cross, I answered the email and arrange a meeting last Monday.

We went into a deadlock negotiating my salary, and I told the other side to consider and give me a yes or no decision next Monday. He offered to drive me halfway home, and I joined him so I can save transport.

He live in an apartment down town, in a legendary street called Braga. It is the street that originally give Bandung the title of “Paris Van Java” because the road technically has endless row of hotels, and pubs, and other sort of night entertainment (e.g: life pretty girls), just like Champ Elysée in Paris. The location is surrounded by one-way roads, and since it’s the city centre the street and the surrounding areas are always dense, if not tightly packed.

The problem started when I heard a kitten’s panic mew from inside the car.

Looking out, I saw a box right at the lip of the heavy traffic, at a bus shelter. At the side of the box I saw a white tiny kitten yelling endlessly in terror calling for its mother.

I hate that moment the most. I can’t jump out from the car, I cant help the kitten, and I can’t do anything to solve the situation. The best I can muster is go back to the shelter as soon as my associate drop me off in front of the apartment building; and during that awfully long time (despite just 30 minutes) I beg and pray and demand that God took care of the kitten until I am back there to pick him/her up.

When the car finally pulled over, I jumped out, politely declined his courtesy of a cup of tea, show my sincere appreciation of his willingness to drive me all the way, remind him that he has one week time to think about the job offer, and hit the road.

I told you that the area is surrounded by one-way roads right? If I took public transport it will go round and it took long time, not to mention the traffic jam, so I cast my bag to the back and do what I always do when I need to act fast: run.

I ran against the flowing, honking, speeding, uncaring cars, and motorcycle, and whatever. My ear was filled with the sound of the kitten’s pleading, and I eventually prayed Hail Mary out loud just to keep my mind focused while continue to run against road flow.

Half an hour later, I was panting right in front of the bus shelter, but the box is gone. It’s getting dark, and the only hope is the faint mew that I heard from the bushes behind the shelter, so I fall on my knee and start to crawl. Heck with people thinking I am crazy. That time, I am.

I got one. A tiny calico who has been yelling all along, and a lifeless tuxedo, just as tiny, not far away from her. I didn’t realize that all the while, a pair of eyes was watching me.

When I finally cleared out the bush, and gone back standing with two kittens as big as the palm of my hand, my eyes met those of an old man.

He just stand there, watch me in silence, and follow me with his eyes when I walk toward the box that I saw earlier and peeked inside. The box was empty.

“There was three”, he said, cautiously. Older Chinese generation in Bandung always told us to be careful with strangers.

I looked at him, not saying anything, but I guess my eyes said it all. He pointed his finger toward the road behind me, where cars sped up like tomorrow is the end of the world.

At the end of the pointing finger, I saw a remain of a kitten, a fleck of white with black spot, flattened to the road.

It was the time the world stood still. At least my world.

“That one is also dead”

I look back at the old man. He is pointing at the tiny tuxedo in my hand. The Calico is still crying loudly. “He is too tired yelling, and it’s cold”

The old man is right. The tuxedo kitten was dead.

“Did you see everything?” I asked.

He nodded.

I want to ask why he didn’t do anything, especially when the spotted kitten went over to the road, but my tears went before me. So I just stand there, looking at the white spot on the road. Every two second, a tire went on it like an iron on a cloth.

“I can’t walk fast, I am old” said the man with a low voice. “I asked the parking guy to take the remaining kittens and the box under the bush so they won’t go over to the road”

My speech hasn’t come back, and my tears are still falling, so I tried my best to smile, and nod. “Thank you”, I whispered and walk away.

I saw a bus coming, and wave my hand to stop it; but as soon as the driver heard a kitten crying from inside my jacket, he closed the door before I stepped in and went rushing ahead, brushing my arms.

I am not surprised.  Bus drivers or other public transport had been rejecting me all the time when they know I bring a cat with me.

I don’t have money to take a taxi home, so I just stand there, who knows for how long, waiting for the kitten to get tired and sleep. Then I took a ride home.

The new baby of the Whiskers’ Syndicate is called Monday.

2013-01-21 21.44.362013-01-21 21.48.00

She lives off kitten formula, and unusually quiet at the first two days, but she seems to catch up.

2013-01-23 09.06.44
More please….
2013-01-22 06.32.24
Cleaning up

But I haven’t catch up, by the way. The little kitten cheers me up with her cutesy antics all the time, especially since she lives in my bedroom (Charlie the dog is outside, remember?, but her antics won’t bring food to the table and pay the bill. I have to find another way of getting paid, or we won’t have anything left by the end of the month.

Until today, when she just sit there, looking at me, while I was answering email, and got mad that Care2 still lock me out.

2013-01-24 20.51.28

I didn’t realize she was staring at me until I accidentally look over to the window to check on the other cats at the backyard. I don’t know what she was thinking while looking at me, but I was sucked by the bottomless sincerity that overflow her tiny dark eyes.

All of a sudden, tears start to flow on my cheek again.

This little baby probably doesn’t know what is going on. She probably just sensed that she was in danger, but is helpless to resolve it. So she did what she can: cry. Like her tuxedo sibling, they just cry. Whether they make it or not, they just do what they can do.

And then it dawn on me that I want to keep that sinless eyes shining. I want to keep those small breath blowing, I want to keep the little step going, I want to see her made it through. I want her to know that because she asked, it will be given, because she knocked (or make some noise) the door will be opened.

That one hour, two prayers went to heaven, and answered. God sent me to her, and at the same time, sent His answer to me through her.

Maybe I just need to do what I can, and let the other follow by itself. Whether at the end I make it or not, I just do what I can.

This afternoon in church, I looked at the giant cross above, and made my promise. I will keep on writing, it’s my calling, it’s what I can do, so I will keep on writing, and rescuing.

One hour that change the lives of two. One hour that last forever.

2013-01-27 16.38.26

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Charlie’s Home Run

It’s three am, Sunday morning.

At usual day, dawn will come in another hour, and I will be watching the sun rise through the kitchen window as I hustle around preparing the cats’ breakfast.

Actually, starting Christmas, I don’t have to, because I no longer bound to the long commute to the office, but the cats got use to have breakfast at wee hour in the morning.

But today is my best friend’s wedding. We know each other since Junior High School and she can’t pass one day without telling me that she wants me to come over to Jakarta. She is not an animal rescuer, though she does have one rescued dog as pet. However, an email I received last midnight about Charlie powerfully changed my mind.

In fact, Charlie has been drastically changed the way I lived since he enter the house on October. Charlie has been the world I go round aside from the cats. Charlie is the blessings that often gives me more frown than smile; but I love him none the less, and it’s not temporary.

I growled to the sting of the cold wind, the prince of the morning that I usually embrace with gratefulness for a brand new day, because the rain hasn’t stop since last night, and the long pour sent the temperature way lower. Some cats sleep longer, or so I think, because usually they will climb my bedroom window and never failed to wake me up. I peeked from the gaps between the window’s blind, but it still dark and the glass is foggy enough that I can’t see clearly. Those who are already awake, move about or choose to lounge at the edge of their baskets, holding on to the warmth of the cuddle of their sleeping mate, or shifting not to lose the comfort of the new heater I bought them from a generous grant of Animal Rescue Chase.

Several bumps on the room door told me that Charlie is awake, and he is probably playing around with the toddlers, who shares no fear toward him the way older cats does.

Sweeping my blanket aside, I remembered that eventful October last year, when I still have my day job. The bus ride always include passing this street, full of poachers selling exotic fishes in tiny plastic bags that hang loose in their packed and smelly stalls. These poachers know me, and they hate me a lot.

There was time when I spotted one of them selling sea tortoises, babies, tens of them, and some even put together with carnivorous Brazilian turtle (and be eaten alive). I kind of get the idea. For uneducated people like them, who don’t really care as long as they can get some money to buy some cigarette, or booze, or girls, or all of the above, turtle is a turtle. And they are poachers. They took from the nature for free, and and get bucks in return. Wonderful idea.

I asked them if they know what they sell, and what their merchants’ food is.

“Yeah of course! They eat rice!”, one said, “Give them rice and they will grow as big as your plate”, said the other. I just sent out a short huff and left.

But I sent some emails and the next few days come back with a bunch of wildlife activists, the big ones with dark skin and body full of tattoos. The ones that can crush their empty skull like crackers. One of their wives is a dog rescuer in Jakarta, and I know her since high school. The activists raided the stall and though the poachers are out on the street again within a few days (spotted them selling goldfish in the same stall).

The past two weeks that October, however, I saw something different than fish. A thin, fur-less white dog chained into a tree on a roadside and left there without roof or food, be it sunny or rainy.

charlie sitting under tree

I was wrong about the food. Someone gave the dog some food. Rotten rice and water from the sewer for drink.

At first I thought the dog will be gone in a few days, like the usual stolen dogs that got caught by street people, but this one stays there, and get skinnier. He does nothing but sit, but when I pass through him, however, he stands and moves forward as much as his chain allowed, managed to touch my swinging hand with his dry nose.

I wouldn’t be surprise. Bad food, no roof, this dog had been ripped off all his life.

charlie nudging

That day, I kneel to God and be grateful that I don’t have a DSLR and left with only my cell phone, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to steal a click or two.

So I wrote an email again, to the same high school mate in Jakarta, with the pictures as attachment; And she duly replied with a bunch of $%#*@!!! in the email. She contacted her network, but no one stepped forward for a large dog.

That friend email back and ask “Can you foster him while I scramble about for another foster, or adopter?”

So he stuck with me, I guess, but I don’t think my finances can manage a stretch of an adult Labrador mix. I am going to lose a steady income within a month time (or two) and an additional large dog will be a hefty tag. Besides, the already noise-full cat sanctuary will be in riot. Most of the dogs here are trained to hate cat, thanks to some folklore, so it’s natural that cats hate dogs, the way rats hate cats. See the game? I didn’t reply at once.

One week after, he is still there, and he still wag his tail when I pass by every day, though I know he need more effort to do the same thing as day passed by, and the night too if he is not too scared of the thunder to crumple under the tree trying to fold himself as tiny as possible.

So I posted again to my high school friend, but this time with a little note below: “use your personal facebook”

That same night someone from her group, also a dog rescuer, contacted me and offered transport. She stop going underground – rescuing dogs – when she got married and now have a baby, but she remembered our guerilla days and wanted to help for the old time sake.

I took a deep breath, swear a lot, breathing out, and swear some more.

Three days after, there’s a dog in my house, and the Syndicate practically hate me for my infidelity.

This dog is ugly, full of mange, got demodex, worm, and whatever parasites in between.

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My transporter agreed to bring him straight to the vet, and when I stay at the clinic, she went shopping spree in our usual pet shop, the only one in Bandung that promotes adoption and spay/neutering. I can’t answer when the vet asked who his name is, so the vet call him Gringgo. The demodex, said the vet, need three months to heal.

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I gave my miraculous, animal loving mother a call, tell her I have tickets to Bandung, and she popped in front of my door again, special for Gringgo. I ask her to help me with him since she rescued much more dogs than I am and she knows first hand the magic of my grandfather in caring for dogs (in contrary she always ask me things about cats).

For the next week my house is full with the smell of traditional Chinese herbs that smells like eww and sometimes like ugh, but the eww and the ugh put Gringgo’s healing in fast track.

My eyebrow raised when one day my mother told me, “You know, for one moment there I forgot his name. So I just pick things up and call him Charlie and he came over”

Since then the dog won’t budge on “Gringgo” he only come with wagging tail with “Charlie”. And Charlie was as good as new in two weeks instead of three months.

Except for his Separation Anxiety that came when my mother go back to my home town.

Every single day, I come home to a wrecked house. Charlie is 16 kilograms (around 32 pounds) and he ripped everything no matter where I hid it. He even chew an edge of a plastic filing cabinet just to get to his brush and chew the brush into pieces. He put the cat cages in disarray with one hack, he pulls a cable with its socket from the wall, he pee on the house and play ski with it, he pooped and step on it and run all over places, he gnaw on my shoes, and within one week I spend five packs of large garbage bags just for his trash. Talking about cleaning up. I think I can rent him for house demolition.

But by cleaning up, he increase my spending because I have to buy new clothes, new shoes, new bag, new notebook… He can gnaw a can of cat food open and empty it without a single scratch on his tongue and the only evidence of his crime is a neatly flattened cat food can; and I am talking about 400g Friskies can.

The only thing he won’t touch is three baby cats that were born just a few days after he arrived.

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I hid them in my bedroom, with their mother in tow, but even when I opened the door and Charlie barged in, his destructiveness stop dead and he turned into a gentle old brother, backing out to let me close the door and feed them in peace. (Their mother, Tamarin, is The Syndicate’s cat, but she has little milk that’s barely enough for the three babies).

I am human, by the way. No matter how deep my love is for animals, I got ticked off a lot by Charlie’s destructiveness. There are innumerable times when I regret my decision to save Charlie, and more times when I think of giving him up somewhere. Even my mother shook her head and told me honestly that she had never saw a creature so badly behaved in her entire life, especially when I told her Charlie was digging cat’s grave and brought the carcasses out and sent chills over my spine the whole week because of the view, and because I have to bury them one by one, all over again, including the suddenly awakened memories of each cat.

If you like horror movie and got scared by those human corpses that extend their hand and drool at you, it’s nothing compared to the gory view of my yard when Charlie gleefully “reported” what he had done.

My nerve snapped when I spent a whole Saturday trying to finish a side job and gone out of the room to find my spectacles lay in pieces right in front of my bedroom door.

I spent half a million Rupiah for that spectacles so I can stay on the computer longer, the whole day if necessary, and since I am resigning the company, the new boss blocked me off my facilities. Meaning I have to buy new one with my own money. Half a million Rupiah can feed 40 cats and I, and him for three days.

I still have two months to go with the office, so I had no choice but leaving him with plenty of toys in the front yard. I called my neighbour in the afternoon from the office to check on Charlie and my neighbours often said he is sleeping soundly on the carport, lulled by the sweet breeze of the mountain.

That’s something he won’t get at the roadside.

Meanwhile, Charlie’s appearance ward off evil spirit.

The house is located at the outskirts of the city, but it’s not a classy suburban. Years before developers start opening the then bamboo forest and turned it into a scenic residential complexes, this place was full of bad guys. You name their kind, they have at least one here. Now most of them had become merchants. Selling food, or food supplies, or bike-taxi driver that take people to nearby areas, but I still heard news and got some warning that they like to “test” people and make a “welcome party” by breaking in and took valuable things while the house is left unattended.

And those kind of people start to keep their eyes on me. The time I go out, the time I go home, the time I sleep, the time I wake up. Sometimes they deliberately lounged right in front of the fence so I have difficulties coming in and out of my own house, but Charlie, half a meter tall, with muscle and menacing big teeth, arrived and they are gone like smoke, when neighbours start talking about how the new resident now have a “large guardian dog”

Yeah right, though I won’t tell them he’s a wuss inside.

Even with all good things Charlie brought over the household, the demolition can’t go on forever, so after I quit I started open war. Every day the same routine. Walking out, stay in the front yard, while I am inside feeding cats, making lunch or whatever, but I keep myself hidden behind the closed door and pop my head on the window with piercing eyes whenever he start chewing something. He digs the front yard and kill my sun flower, tomatoes, lettuce and strawberry, but I just won’t budge. Charlie has to learn that I had to go to work and leave him alone for hours a day, and if he didn’t behave, no one would want to adopt him. And even if he got into foster home, it won’t be long before he either dumped back on the street or kill the owner out of frustration.

After one month he seems to start getting over his craziness. I continue to contact rescuers and ask if they have place for Charlie, and every time explain them that my house is a cat shelter.

And then, my rescuer friend in Jakarta broke news at midnight last night that there’s a family in Jakarta willing to adopt him, but I have to neuter him first, and pay for the transport to the vet, and to Jakarta.

Another sweeping breeze snag me from my floating memories and back to the present. The rain seems to get heavier. I push my legs onto the cold floor and peeked from the door. Charlie is laying down leisurely in front of it, with three kittens playing on top of his side. The same kittens that he seems to fall in love with, who are now weaned, though still keep inside until they can brace harsher weather. The house around him is clean.

He looked up.

“Just in time don’t you think, Charlie? I made my best friend disappointed today because I wanted to write your story and raise some fund to neuter you, and bring you to the big city. You score a home run”

Charlie stands up and wag his tail.

UPDATE:
Charlie has been spayed last Thursday.  We did not get the fund needed for the spay and transport, but I went forward anyway. He made us wait for four hours before giving up to anaesthesia and jump right down the table as soon as the vet finishes her stitches. The vet continue to shake her head, admitting that it is her first time seeing a dog just out of surgery and already jumped everywhere like nothing happened. Way to go Charlie.

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