Every Little Things

The morning breeze blow softly through my bedroom window; carrying over the smell of Lavender as it softly caresses me, whispering “Wake up, wake up”

But the sky is still dark when I opened my eyes, darker than any night, but before I decided to follow my nature, the cat of the wind rub itself against the bamboo trees, leaving the soft rustling of its leaves in my ear; “Wake up, wake up”

I shifted over, letting myself slide through the end of the bed, so that my body will fall into standing position in defense of itself against gravity, and open the door.

Two of Tamarin’s kitten bolted through my legs into the room as I do so. Though I can’t see them but two tiny specs on the floor, I can feel their soft baby fur, and I can hear the gentle crackle behind me. They are cliff climbing to get on to my bed.

Sky at the front porch is also dark; it made the tiny sparkling lamps from Bandung city looks like stars over milky way. Again the cat of the wind came over and rub itself against me, against my bare feet on the floor, “Wake up, wake up”

It’s still 3 am, the time that people made into the wisdom of “It’s always darkest before dawn” and it is Saturday also, but if I am to catch the wholeness of the day, I ought to wake up.

A few steps from the living room is my little kitchen. Tamarin herself jumped down from the stove table and rub against my feet. The new queen has been living with me for about a year now, so she knows it best that I always turn on the stove first, heating water that turned into warm milk for her kittens.

At the back of my mind I remembered a friend once said that she wants to have a house from which she can watch the sunrise from her bedroom window, and watch sunset from the porch. She told me she will start her morning with a cut of hot coffee and stand still with her silky bed garments blown by the wind as she watch the sun rises. She said she will have a romantic husband who wakes her up every morning with a kiss.

She didn’t know that I have that house she dreamed of; not in a dream, but now, for real. To chase such dream she moved away to capital Jakarta where the big bucks were last spotted. We kept in touch and she visits twice before, but that was when I still live in a small rent with wholesale quantity of street cats.

I wondered what would she said if I told her that right now, I was just about to watch the sky burns red, and the sun raises? Here I am standing at the kitchen window, simmering water for warm drink, letting the morning breeze blowing my garments. Not the silky one that flows in the air like those shoot in the movie, but the experience is still great.

And I didn’t have to marry a romantic husband. Every morning, the Wind God and his cat will slip into my room, and wake me up with a gentle caress on my cheek, and kiss me with the sweet smell of wild flowers from the backyard. At some days it will be rosemary, at the other day gardenia, and some other day like today, it’s Lavender in full bloom.

If someone told you that heaven is within you, believe them, because no one but yourself is the one who can attest to the grandness of nature when it grant your dream come true. No one but myself can attest to the beauty of heaven when people think I lived in a small shelter for street animals with no tangible value but powerful force to drain your wallet.

Aren’t money the source of happiness? Maybe yes. For four and a half years now I have been joining the filthy nation that give another function for the street. The homeless: people, animal, plants, those who had made street into parallel world where the cold concrete a bed, the sky as roof, and the cold wind a friend. They play hunger game endlessly in this universe, a popular sport lately. Money can buy them food, can buy them blankets, and sometimes, just sometimes, money can lift them up a little bit to better face the loveless glare of the other people that use the street as it is: for transport.

Money can buy me more cat food to cure my addiction to hearing little purrs on the streets of my homeland.

Still when I don’t have them, I still consider myself extremely lucky that I can have such heavenly house for some of them that were disqualified from the perpetual hunger game, or those who lost their bets and has to face deformity as result of the loss.

They are in my backyard now. Fifty shades of gray with a few Calico, some stripes of orange, a little Whites, and a large, slow moving Tortie. The other blacks blends too well into the darkness. I can slowly see the round eyes on their faces as they lined up for their breakfast. Sun is not going to rise until two more hours, but they are creature of the twilight and I live for them 24/7.

Twenty four hours a day, Seven days a week. I am notorious between vets because whenever their phone rang in odd hours of the day, it will be me.

They should have known that I also rang human doctors, when I can no longer bear the pain on my left knee. Years ago when I was in Junior high, I joined a basketball competition, an amateur competition. When I was up in the air for a shoot, one of my opponent got impatient for her turn, and she jacked off my left leg, forcing me to land back on the ground knee first. My knee cap cracked and though I can walk and run like normal, it is no longer spheric so I have to watch my limit because my calf bone will slid off (just a bit) the center and I will end up with swollen legs for months (unless I took a complete rest, of course)

And I rang the human doctor more often lately. He is young, attractive looking, toned body, and get masters’ degree in bone surgery from United States of America. He also smiles and wave his hand to me when he saw me waiting in front of his practice and that drive the middle aged ladies behind me go nuts with jealousy. It’s not my fault we are at the same age and happened to have our higher education stick to our head. Most of Indonesian ladies drop their degree as soon as they graduate and married the next bachelor coming or ended up working in a completely different field for the sake of social acceptance.

He just can’t stop shaking his head every time he wrote me a prescription after seeing my left knee. “You have a long leg, and your skin is fair. Really, if only there’s not too much scratch mark over there… You should watch yourself”

I always said that the mark is a proof of mature woman, but he always get back to me half angry with a big grin and a small chuckle “That’s stretch mark, lady, it’s a different thing”

Honestly, though, I don’t think my knee will never heal, that’s why I don’t stress over it.

When the last builder stepped out of our house, I realized that the water went out with them, and the manners with which the developers deal with me when I asked them about it explains it all.

It isn’t their fault. It’s mine. They want to finish the house as soon as possible because I needed to moved in fast, so they send more people to work on the house, and open the tap clock round. But unless I pay the balance of the down payment, they can’t open the tap for me, not that often. They give me water, every day for two hours, six days a week, at random time.

If I stay at the house all the time it’s no problem. I can just leave a tab open and when the water runs out, be ready with all the buckets that I have. However, since I have to go to work, the only thing I can do is leave a tap on the bathroom tub open, close the bathroom door, and pray hard that the cats won’t be too curious to sneak in and end up drowned.

The head builder told me that I can go round the penalty at low cost. He suggested that I can have him build underground water reservoir so whenever the water comes out, I will have a huge bucket ready for it. The water then drawn into a water tower at the back of the house and I will have water running whenever I need.

But it will cost me USD 600.

Honestly USD 600 is nothing compared to remaining balance in the down payment and I have that USD 600, though it is the last of the saving I have. Eid Holiday is coming the next week and the whole country will shut down for a week. There will be virtually no shop, much less pet shop open so I need to stock up cat food, both for the mobster or for the street cats. There will be no trash for them to dig up because majority of people will be away from town, so I have to go round and feed them twice a day instead of once.

So I shake my head while thanking him for his kind suggestion. I secured enough cat food, and embrace the fate of having to buy water from a merchant downhill, and carry it all the way up back and forth.

Just in case, have I told anyone that the road toward the house is slanted 45 degrees?

house from the hill
The Syndicate’s house from across the street
street from house
The other way around: the street from the front porch

I did it anyway. I know I will blow my knee away but I carry those gallons of water up every day, so the cats can have enough water to drink, and since August is dry season here in Indonesia, we will have enough water to keep the backyard a little bit wet, otherwise the dust and dirt will fly over everywhere.

To keep myself away from the pain, whenever I have to carry water, I pray. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, all over again. I keep in mind that Jesus had to carry a hefty cross all the way up just to be hung onto it, so although I am not Jesus, I can at least cope with the water.

On the third day of Eid my prayers were answered. There’s this email from Canada telling me that quite a number of people wrote to SPCA International requesting help on my behalf, and despite my aching nerves I replied to the email immediately.

Twenty or so emails later, a message came in 2 am in the morning, saying that Whiskers’ Syndicate is chosen as SPCAI Shelter of The Month, August 2012. In effect, we are given a grant for our operation and featured on their website. (If you decide to follow the link, please take time to share our page so other people can help us too)

Between sleeping and awake, I learned how Virgin Mary must have felt when Angel Gabriel told Her she was going to be the mother of the World’s Savior.

It was huge; deliverance, hope, blessings, everything. My heart was overflowed with gratefulness that I can’t go back to sleep and ended up carrying a headache through out my working day.

The grant is not necessarily solve the problem. There are still a couple of days delay because someone wrote my name wrongly, but when the grant finally come, it come with a cheerful fate because some of the businesses start to re-open and I came to find a building material shop that are open and even offered a discount.

I wasted no time buying all the materials needed for the watering system. The water tower is right beside my room in the backyard, so whenever I wake up in the morning, whenever I look out from my bedroom window and see the tower I remember to praise the Lord, and thank all my friends and supporters who wrote to the SPCAI about our situation.

water tower
The water tower from my bedroom window

One down, more to go, and that would be the cat’s housing. I’ve got a pleasant surprise when my mother suddenly showed up in front of my door a few days after the tower was done, and since she is an animal rescuer herself, she has no difficulties hanging out with the cats. She even (accidentally) pointed out a place that is going to be the Syndicate’s first TNR project.

When I came back to work a week later, she asked around and found herself the help of a gardener to turn my backyard into a green field in which the cats can enjoy themselves better. She even got the help of the Syndicate themselves.

jane marple grass
Miss Jane Marple supervises grass planting
work on the garden
Goldie, Nina and Mini were checking for loose grass, Constantine made sure the food is not contaminated by dirt, and Chase is guarding the fertilizer pot.
end result
The end result
playing under the sun
Checking if all part is functioning
me at the back
My mom and the Syndicate

Through an associate I also got a reference of someone who can help build some cat house, but the limited budget can only buy the roof.

unfinished cattery
Floorless cat house

But when I worried sick about how I can get some money to finish the cat house, the Syndicate has their own way of saying cat house is not yet necessary (as long as they can have mine).

While the Syndicate can now enjoy their afternoon nap, I have to deal with my new boss.

In March, my old boss made an announcement that she is reaching retirement, and along with her husband (both owner of the family company) appointed the Director of Finance to assume their post as CEO. The Director of Finance has been serving the company for over 25 years and therefore they are convinced that she will be able to carry on the company growth.

Apparently they forget to check inner beauty.

Unlike the owners, who values hard work, dedication, and the skill of their employee, the new CEO, twenty years younger than the previous owner (the owners are 63), values lipstick reporting (red, hot, sexy, but all lies), ass licking, and verbal bribery, while those who had proven to give their utmost loyalty to the company by genuine skill and professionalism will be pushed over the edge or ironed flat to the wall corner. She herself is a natural born politician, the type that has the sweetest word and the straightest face so we don’t know if she really means what she said or just eating us alive.

Within six months after her appointment, I got triple amount of job I originally have, and every week she took a little more job from her favorite staff and send  it over to my desk with harsher ultimatum and ever contracting deadline.

At first I tried to keep up with her challenge. Not because I enjoy it, but because I need the salary. It’s not the kind of job I would truly love, but the pay is nice, and I got free time at lunch which I can use to browse for latest information about cat care or take care of my online shop for additional income. If I don’t feel like staying at the office during lunch I can go round the block and feet street cats. I got Saturday off so I can take extra job whenever I need more money (and when do I not?), or just spend time with the cats. But with new tasks coming, I start to go home later and later, and even go to the office at weekend just so I can keep up with the extreme deadline. I lose all of my side job and at the end even abandon my online shop. This past few weeks I no longer have access to the internet at the office because what I do (replying personal email at lunch hour) is contra productive. Lunch hour is for lunch, so as soon as I finish lunch, I have to go back to work and just in case I finish all, there will be more coming because productivity shows who I really am. At least that’s what she said. So Gmail is off, Blogger is off, Google is monitored and Care2 was blocked. The only thing that left on my computer internet now is office email (monitored) and Wikipedia.

I stop making hadmade pet toys or beds that I always enjoy and spend less and less time with the Syndicate, and all this extra time and attention is not paid.

One day my mother called in midday Sunday, asking why it takes me longer and longer just to reply to her text, and why I never return her call. When I told her what happened, I thought she would understand because she is the kind of person who likes stability and security; but instead she blasted me for being an idiot. I take this job so I can care for the cat, so when this job no longer allow me time, and even rob me from the cats, what is left to hold on to? And I even sacrifice all of my side income to take an unpaid overtime!

She is more mad when she found out that I haven’t been eating properly and that my left knee are swollen again for running all over places trying to please a bitch that I know doesn’t even worth my time.

Thursday, 15th of November is a public holiday, and the government made Friday the 16th as a national paid leave. It is the longest holiday in the whole year, and my mother told me to drop everything and catch up with Whiskers’ Syndicate. She reminded me that Whiskers’ Syndicate is a dream that I worked so hard for, and it is only natural that I hold on to it more than anything else. She reminded me that I used to be an idealist with a realistic approach, and that she missed my energy and charm with which I fill my writing.

So I took my old laptop, that broke somewhere last month because of its age. I do not have money to make a proper house for the cats yet, much less buying myself a new laptop (although I use it to work and make money from my craft shop), but I can try to re-program it to run basic function like typing and browsing.

Because I realize now that; while looking at the big picture is important, every little things matter: the happy look of the cats when I brought their toy basket over, the loud purr when they sleep next to me in the backyard, the love and support of my friends around the world, the silent encouragement from my family, and the prince of the Wind who kiss me every morning with the sweet smell of Lavender.

Because I realize now that regardless of my employer or position, working in a glass cubicle Monday through Friday would never make me feel accomplished or whole, unless I truly love what I do.

Because happiness is not in our circumstances, happiness is what we are.

And I would rather fight for that cat house than running all over places dragging swollen knee for someone who won’t even understand the value of a soul.

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

New Moon

If people told me a year ago or so, that waiting is the most horrible job, I’d say no; probably because I don’t have much time spent on waiting; but when they said that to me last July, I’d say yes, with a deep nod, and a great frown.

After the deal on the house was made, I waste no time packing stuffs. One because I don’t have much time left, two because I don’t want to make myself crazy counting the days as the bank is processing the mortgage. Those and, I still have to think about how to make up for the (rather huge) lack of the down payment. I myself only carry three boxes. One for my clothing, one for my kitchen, and another for my handcraft things. The cats, however, have the whole house to pack for.

It’s been long days, both by the meaning of the proverb, and literally. I have to go to work, which aren’t getting any easier, especially with the change of management in my office. After work, I have to check on the new house, making sure that all has been tended properly, then I go round for the strays and feral, then end the day by packing. One box after another. If there’s emails or all, I’d go ahead and reply it, trying to keep it as simple as my mind can handle. On those days, don’t ask me about good food, enough rest, or whatever in between. I even forget the day and the date, and allow all the work zombified me.

What kept me conscious is one: a mortgage for us. For me and the Syndicate, and brand new hope for the first TNR operation in Bandung, and probably Indonesia. I have been trying to establish this operation for so very long, without support from whatever organizations that I appealed to, but if we get the house… if we get the house I can make a feeding station on the carport (now that I don’t have car) and that will officially start the TNR. The location on which I choose the house is perfect. It’s a hillside, with plenty of unopened land, and people literally dumping cats of all ages to any unclaimed land, from a red baby to a senior cat.

And I am too poor to reach out for them and offer them to stay in the sanctuary. Eventually I have to choose, but rather than just picking the straw and leave the rest on the street I wanted to make some changes. I wanted to left the ferals a tiny hole in their dark life, a tiny hole that will allow a ray of light to shine as brilliant as those who stays in the Syndicate’s home. That is, a slight reduce on overpopulation. I can only do one a month, but I truly hope that one day the Syndicate will grow large and strong enough financially to do one a week, or more. As time pass by, perhaps a year or so, at least those existing feral won’t have to deal with scavenging their own poop for food.

Certainly it all might be just an utopia, a distant dream, and most likely they will die before an minimum effect of the TNR is reached, considering how heartless people here think of animals, but if Sun Tzu started a journey of a thousand mile with a single step, I want to start that single step with a dream.

The dream was shattered again, then, when the bank call and they can only approve 80% of what I originally applied, with various reasons. I was taken aback, and get a fatal blow. So I just let my cat-crazy- lady personality comes out and talk to the bank for three straight hours, on the phone, until they agree to review the application and come back in two days.

Another two excruciating days. I am sick of all this but if being excruciated for two days can give the Syndicate a house, I’d do it. We are just gone too far to come back now and besides, this housing business had dragged people around the world into a roller coaster ride. It’d be lame if we all landed back on the pod with an anticlimax.

Meanwhile I got only a portion of what I need for the down payment, so that two excruciating days I slept on the floor (because the bed had already packed) all of a sudden I feel like I have to be a diplomat, a negotiator, in a mission  for a land for all the refugees – the cats.

Whether it’s sheer luck, or just my animal instinct taking over (people tend to give out their dormant skill whenever they are cornered, don’t you think?) or Heaven was lending me their favor. The developer agreed that I pay the balance of the down payment in installment. It throws me into a double debt: the mortgage, and the down payment. It’s a hefty tag on me, honestly, but at least the cats will have a new home. The cats who has been living roofless and loveless for years, perhaps the rest of their lives.

And then the bank. They called me again and say they need another two days…

Oh no, I snapped. So I am turning green into Incredible Hulk and crush them all with the palm of my hand. And then I call my friend the King Kong and together we kill the developers and claim the house for free.

I lied.

I told them that my rent is overdue by three days already, and I have to move out at the end of the week, so it’s sudden death. I told them that I know Central Bank of Indonesia give them a tough target on housing credit, I told them that I know how many percent the marketing is going to get if I got the deal, and I also told them I know that they too, as an employee, just like me, has to meet the target set by their employer or lose their promotion, or job all together.

And, while we’re talking about time and target, I also mention that the month of August is very short, because there’s Ramadhan big holiday, and the bank, as well as everyone else, will close business until at least the beginning of September, and so they need to consider my application because although it’s small (houses in Bandung can reach millions of dollars), the larger the amount they are agreeing to, the more their target will be fulfilled. So they have to decide now or I am changing my mind and will find another house.

Of course, it’s a bluff. I’ve got nothing on my hand, really; and you know it far too well by now.

Simplified it, profession wise I turn myself from a secretary into a diplomat, into a Goddess of Gambler. All right, not a goddess, just a gambler.

They took my token and roll the dice.

They call again that evening, outside office hour, that they can adjust the amount to reach what I am applying, legally.

It means I have to skip office to go to their office and sign the contract immediately (before they changed their mind) and though I am also at a pinch in the office due to the mean new CEO (more about this later) I took my jackpot.

In Japan, there’s this time that a student call “Examination Hell”. A time when they try to graduate from their school and competing to enter higher education. Their days will be filled by study, study, study, cram school, exam preparation, and more study. Plus the pressure from their parents (who don’t want to be ashamed of their children’s grade), pressure from the teacher (who will get a point or lose their job depending on the success of their students), pressure from their peer (who can do anything to bring them down so they can go up).

The Survival Game includes those who cannot cope throwing themselves in front of a running train, hang themselves in the storage house, free-falling from the school roof or admitted into a mental hospital, or run away from home and try to figure out how to live out their lives as an outcast.

All this house business is my examination hell. Packing, negotiating, working, handling sick kittens, and pressure from the landlady’s son, pressure from my office, pressure from the money and trying to calm the already stressed out mobster of cats in my house.

They feel a change is coming, they know something different is going to happen, they know that there probably be some sort of storm, but they can’t comprehend the human side of it, so they stressed anyway.

And then all the volunteers that promised me they’d help canceled out with various reasons, or with no reasons at all. An old news, but though I made “plan A(lone)” it still take a lot of effort to figure things out all by myself.

I plan to take my leave on August 8 to move, but the house isn’t ready, still on finishing. I ran out of energy to fight, actually, so I leave it on my Lord, again. Then the supervisor called and said that my house can be finished on August 8 at night, if I am willing to pay their dinner, because they took overtime it without their superior’s consent, and even if they did ask their superior, the developer won’t want to pay anyway.

I agreed. As an appreciation on their willingness and consideration, and mostly because need to go out by Friday, August 10.

I went out at once and buy them 10 packs of dinner from the nearest canteen I can find on the area, and even have dinner with them.

You see, people like them, the builders, are considered of low class here in Indonesia, unlike their professional counterpart in USA or Europe. Listening to the whole new level of jokes, of thoughts, and learning about the whole different world, the same tight money management, the same simplified lives from different perspective teach me a lot about handling tough times and trying to go with the flow, about mixing business with pleasure. The dinner reminds me of how lucky I am to have all these things that I cherish: a work with good pay, opportunity to experience, and live, in animal welfare world, worldwide supporter (oh yes, thank YOU for that), and a possibility of a dream come true.

At August 9 I woke up very early, and set out to rent some car, a minivan, to transport the cats. They had spent the night in basket, and since the journey will be long and stressful (for them, cats are not good movers) I wanted their move to be as quick as possible.

I took them all in one way, and put them all in a room inside the house. I open a window for fresh air, but left them in their basket. As soon as they smell new air they start to shift from whining to cautious, but at least they keep their brains away from being stressed.

Then I took the bus back to my rent, feeing dizzy, get myself some lunch (breakfast, supposedly) and drag myself to a truck pool nearby to rent one to move the things. Then I rode with the truck drivers, also considered a low class here, to the new house and unload all stuffs. When I paid them their fee they told me that they are surprised that a patron are willing to help them carry the stuffs. Usually a patron, mostly female, will behave lady like and watch, and let them do whatever order she gave them about unloading. Well, I am not a lady. A cat lady, perhaps, but not the kind of a lady they have been talking about. Then I invite them for a lunch, their lunch, in nearby canteen, for the heck of it.

I tend to reply a kindness with more kindness. It runs in my family.

And, I want the cats to go out of the carriage as soon as possible. And then, I want, no, need to get this done quick, before I got a nervous breakdown. I am on my limit.

By 6 in the evening, the freshly done, previously empty house looked like Titanic. I push all the boxes into one room, clean the house, lock all the doors and window, then let the cats out.

I was prepare that some of them go jump around like crazy, but it seems like I undermine their adaptability and resilience. Most of them has been moving from rent to rent with me before, so they are probably not all that nervous to have to move into yet another environment.  Still, I sleep on the floor in another room (the bed is still unpacked) with the door open. All 37 of us crumpled onto a large carpet that night. I haven’t release the cats into the backyard because I don’t want them to jump out of the house, and got lost.

Besides, it’s not quite done yet. The grasses and bushes are cleaned up, but it’s still stone and dirt.

before and after

On Saturday, however, the cats are pretty much calm, so after their morning ration, I open the door to the backyard, and have them take a look on their new home.

 The first astronaut to step on the stony moon in Neil Armstrong. The first Whiskers’ Syndicate resident who touch the stony backyard is Renoir.

first cat on the moon

As the Syndicate have a sniff on their new moon, I took the chance to arrange some of the things, and as more things are out, the cats seems to be encouraged to explore.

 exploring

Some of them didn’t come back into the house that night, and choose to sleep outside. I was a little bit wary because mountain breeze at the new house is rather cold, but it seems like the cats want to enjoy their fresh new home, away from the cage. I choose to trust their instinct.

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Little House In The Prairie

I am writing this post as an apology for allowing the blog sitting idle for over a month, and especially to make the Syndicate’s followers hanging in a thin line. This is part one of three posts, each of which will detail specific part of our big move. Thank you for hanging on, and we, I, apologize for the inconvenience.

Well, on the hillside, to be precise; and I always pass that house whenever I go round the area to look for a house for the Syndicate. It’s standing there alone, barren for so many time, pinned by two larger house that already bustling with lively household. Tall grass protruding from its crack front porch, and and its gray paint dusty like the crown of an old sage up in the mountain. There’s a small, weathered sign on its front wall, silently enduring the scorching sun, the daily breeze, and torrential rains. Day and night, like a seller sitting in lonesome idleness behind his withered merchandise because no one bought from him.

house, front JPG

Despite, I have never have interest over the house. I just pass it quickly as I go uphill, and I don’t look at it twice when I go back down to my rent.

But then come a dire news from my landlady. Her daughter in law is getting pregnant, and she wanted to use the house I rent for the upcoming baby. She had said before that I have all the time I need to find a new house because she is not in a hurry, but since the pregnancy is coming sooner than she thought, I have to move by the end of July, which is just a month away.

The news ruin my schedule, and as time passed it took with it my sense of security. My searches are more frequent, and my mood is changing rapidly from a deep focus to a fearless frantic. It took one month for any bank to process a mortgage, and even if I got it, what about moving? What about settling down? What about….

What the heck. When I pass that house again late in the evening after a visit to nearby house for sale, I thought, I got nothing to lose, so I dialed the red numbers hold by the lonesome, weary sign in front of the house, and not get an answer.

“See?” I thought. “No wonder no one buy the house”

The next day a foreign lady called in and say “Someone is calling my office number last night, and I am returning the call. I am representing a developer of a house in Green Hills Residence…”

“That’s me” I said, forgetting being rude for cutting her line. “I wanted to make a schedule to see the small house”

“Um” she sounded doubtful, “You are looking for a small house? For a new family?”

I don’t get what she mean. “Why ask?”

“Well, mam, the house is somewhat small, I can say, typical house for a newly wed, but the empty land behind it is pretty large”

“And?”

“Well, the house is 36 square meters, but the overall land is 155 square meters. Would you still be interested?”

“Ah” I start to get her message, and it grows interest in me.

She told me that the developer will have an exhibition the next Saturday, and if I would like to visit their booth, they can offer me a discount on down payment.

It was Thursday, so I agree. All I need is bracing myself an excruciating Friday and another day gone when my life is hanging on a loose line.

They give me the detail on Saturday. That house is the only one unsold in the entire complex (of 88 houses) because typical type 36 (that’s how people call developers’ houses here, by the measurement. Type 36 means the house is 36 square meters; type 21 means the house is 21 square meters and so on). Let me continue. A typical type 36 house usually have overall land about 90 square meters and the price is around 200 – 300 million Rupiah (approx USD). That “little house” I am looking has excess land on the back, and since the land is kind of sloping down (the back of the house is facing a valley) they can’t build another house there, so they include the excess land into the house and naturally rise the price. They offer the house for 390 million Rupiah (approx USD)

That’s insane. I am not going to have money all that much and even if I apply for a mortgage, I will have to pay more than a half of my monthly salary for the installment. But, I look anyway. I have nothing to lose. I knew it at that time that I will ended up on the street, so…

We get into the house, and were welcomed by a standard, type 36 house.

The magic starts when the marketing opens the back door. What awaits us is a jungle of bushes, outgrown grass, dying tree and dry, rocky land, and about a dozen of brown garden spider, as big as the thumb of your toes.

backyard

I raise my eyebrow, the marketing officer shrink.

“I think I need to talk about that huge discount you are offering” I hissed slowly. I cannot go to out to that bushy jungle yet, brown spiders are everywhere and I will be scalded if they bite, though won’t die.

Now the marketing officer gape. “Huh? You want this?”

“Well” I grin at her “I know you are new. So, depending on your ability to convince me, with that discount and none other, I can or cannot buy this house. And I am sure you are also aware that this is the one and only house that hasn’t been sold in this cluster for years…”

You know what comes next. It jumped up and posted first as my previous post “Two and a half bad news or vice versa”.

After this will be a breaking dawn, no, bone, or…. whatever, it’s The Syndicate and I, our ground breaking history, and of course, we are going to share every little thing with every one. After all, with your prayers, donations, good wishes, spreading around, nomination for a grant…. whatever you might have done to help us, you own the share, the stock, of The Whiskers’ Syndicate.

two and a half bad news, or vice versa

In term of time, it’s no more than two weeks.

In term of walking through those two weeks, however, it’s been a roller coaster ride. At the end of June, I confided to some of my friends that despite my very limited (financial) reserve, I’d go with a mortgage anyway.

The Whiskers’ Syndicate had grown too large for another rent, and with the stress they have to endure during the change, I don’t think it’s wise to ask the refugees, especially the young ones, to go through just another. Besides, we all know how un-coping cats are in term of stress.

Since then I am sure a lot of people had seen my posts literally everywhere. I have been plunging on a massive campaign to raise the number of money I have never have thought I would have typed in before, and at the same trying to believe that if this is God’s will, a path will be opened for me, and especially for the Syndicate.

My first attempt of a mortgage application is a complete failure.  Despite adequate data in my part, the house I am looking for is deemed “too old” by the appraisers and I only get half the price I have to pay to buy the house. Plus, I found out that the owner of the house for sale has not been paying its tax for the past five years.

Well, at least I know I am eligible for a mortgage, it’s just that I am applying for the wrong house. So I look for another house in the same neighborhood.

I spend two weeks, right into the middle of the second week in July for another house in the neighborhood… and get nothing.

Every day after work I go round the entire hillside to look for appropriate house, and all I found are small cubicles that’s probably enough to live in alone, but too small for 30 cats.; and the other rest are – well – villas. It’s hill side, so everyone thinks that that fact can upgrade their house prices by 30%, by playing blind to another fact: it’s the outskirt of town, not the city center, much less the “suburban”

And every time I went up and down, I come to pass a small house at the fork of two roads that has been sitting idly, with tall grass protruding from its cracked carport, and paint starting to dry out and fade under the scorching sun. On it’s porch there’s a small sign saying “Marketing” with a row of numbers below it, but I didn’t pay attention to the poor house enough, because all this time, I believe that the now trendy (in Indonesia) “cluster houses” price is sky high, or so the brochures said.

I was wrong.

When I call the “marketing” just for the heck of it, she told me that their company will be joining a housing fair at the end of the week and if I can care to wait until then, I might probably get some discount, because that house is the only one left from the entire cluster.

And then within that weekend, I got a bargain for about 50 million Rupiah, that’s about USD 5,300, making the house price is “only” around USD 37,000 (instead of USD 42,000).

But that means I have to pay USD 11,000 for down payment.

I have USD 1,000 in hand, and together, we raised USD 2,200 last month, which means I now have USD 3,000 in hand. That’s still a gaping difference, but I submit my application anyway. The process take 2 weeks, and that means I only have a few days to pack and move, or be homeless, but I move onward anyway. I went too far to turn back now.

Enough with the suspense. Let’s hold breath and grip our chair a little bit now; here comes the commercial.

The house I am now applying is 36 square meter (387 square feet) living area. Smaller than the previous one I am applying.

Buuuut…

it has 155 square meters land (1668 square feet). So it means the Syndicate will have over 100 square meters (1076 square feet) all for themselves.

And why didn’t I see this before?

Because that excess land is hidden behind the house, and since the back of the house faces a hillside, there’s no way anyone can see that if they didn’t go into the house, unless they went hiking from the hill.

End of commercial. You can start breathing again now, but don’t let go of your chair grip just yet.

The developer agreed to renovate the house. That means new carport (I don’t have car but I don’t want to have grass as tall as me protruding from the front), re-paint, repair on the bathroom, and change all the moth invested windows. All new.

Then, I got a call Friday afternoon, from the bank. They say I got the mortgage, though I won’t be able to move until I pay the down payment in full.

So, there are the two bad news:

  1. My first mortgage failed, that means I won’t get a large house for the shelter, aside from losing half of the month for waiting.
  2. I don’t have enough money for the down payment yet.

and the half:

I won’t get the mortgage if I can’t raise USD 11,000 for the down payment (that means USD 7,000 more) and be homeless this end of the month.

Hence, here I am again, hanging between heaven and hell, with thirty tails of cats behind me. I know I have been reckless, and that I should have raised enough fund before I am even applying for a mortgage. I know I probably have to give in earlier and find a rent instead of pushing my luck with a permanent home.

But if I gave in, the cats won’t have home. If I back off, I might have saved 30 cat’s lives, but I won’t have enough money left to help save those who are still on the street. There will be no way I will be able to spay and neuter them, I won’t have enough money to go round and feed them, and only heaven knows how they would live until I manage to gather enough money to help them.

That’s why I made this gambling decision, and come to you literally cap-on-hand to turn the two and a half bad news, into three good ones.

The two and a half bad news:

  1. My first mortgage failed, that means I won’t get a large house for the shelter aside from wasting half of the month left for waiting (in vain!)
  2. I don’t have enough money for the down payment yet.

1/2: I won’t get the mortgage if I can’t raise USD 11,000 for the down payment (that means USD 7,000 more) and be homeless this end of the month.

The three good news:

  1. Raise USD 6,500 and allow us to get the mortgage.
  2. Give The Whiskers’ Syndicate a permanent home and save them from the deadly stress to have to settle into new place every year (and the threat of crazy neighbors who love to kill and torture animals).
  3. Build the first TNR facility for street cats in Indonesia (well, Bandung is only a start) and remember that this TNR will be the first in Indonesia, a pilot project that will determine the future of strays in the country.

Are you joining us for this last coaster ride?

New update:

Jul 23, 2012 Some of my friends nominated the Whiskers’ Syndicate for an emergency grant from SPCA International. If you’d like to join the few good men, contact us.

The nomination form requires our detailed information, hence we can’t put it on display here, especially because there will be our clear address typed in and last time someone know about it, they dump 6 baby kittens on our doorstep. Isn’t that sweet? Not that we don’t want to take them in though…. but please, contact us anyway.

Thanks in advance!

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Dad of A Lifetime

It wasn’t a good day when I first met Peta. It was a chaotic night at the newspaper office where I worked as a part time proof reader, things went wrong when a colleague slipped some saucers and broke a dozen of them, sending us into the cafe owner’s madness, I ended up going home too late at night, and got caught under the rain.

I was totally focused on pedaling as fast as I can, and get home as soon as possible. I don’t care being hungry, I don’t care being cold, or wet. It’s almost midnight and I am still at the other end of the city. My mind was fixed. I will stop at nothing.

But when I heard a faint meow from the roadside, I changed my mind. So much for a resolution.

I got down my bike. There’s a deep sewer line by that road, and I peeked in there helplessly thinking that after I’ve been showered under the rain, I still got to dive into the sewer.

Nothing. It’s empty. Still I heard another faint meow, like a hopeless plea, so I looked around, and soon enough, the street punks around start to walk toward me with their usual treatment for a cheap chick. I can’t blame them. It’s almost midnight, and no girl on her right mind is still on the road, alone.

“What cha lookin?”, asked one of them.

I didn’t answer. I just keep looking.

He was about to tackle my arm when I heard another meow and immediately ran toward the voice.

“She’s looking for a cat” said another one.

I can hear them follow me, but I don’t care. I just want to take the kitten, the sooner, the better.

But that was until I realize that the small kitten was pinned under a hawker’s stall. One of the stall’s foot seems to broke, because it tilted to one side, and the opening below is too small for me to reach in.

The meow stop. The kitten must have been afraid and tried to hide, but I was using my cell phone as a flashlight and got glimpse of a white spot just right under the stall’s broken leg.

I took a deep breath, prayed, and stand back up. Behind me, four punks were staring at me.

“If you lift the stall , I’d buy you all some cigarettes” I say, trying to sound casual. “If you’re strong enough, that is”

“Hey”, one of them cringe, “Are you saying we’re some kind of a pee wee?”

I shrugged, smiling, openly challenge them.

The challenge works. Four of the punks went straight pass me and within a few minutes, were in the middle of trying to move the hawker’s stall. So, before they change their mind, I rushed back, lied on the dirt, reach out, and practically drag the kitten out of under that stall against his will.

I don’t remember the other detail. I just give them some money, push the part-angry-part-frantic kitten into my jacket, and pedal home. The rain is just getting harsher.

At home, I dumped the kitten into a pile of towel, clean it up, got to my room, and flopped on my bed. I am dead tired.

Thank God the next day is Sunday, and I wake up with the little kitten on top of me.

wake up

Since I found him on Peta Street, I call him Peta, but before some of you guys got a wrong association, Peta Street is not named after the controversial movement. PETA is an acronym of Indonesian students group armed by Japanese during Pacific War around 1945, the same group of armed students who turn back against the Japanese and instead fight for Indonesia’s independence.

The newly found Syndicate is timid; he didn’t want to let me off his sight, but he roam inside the house freely over the next week and found a niche of his own.

When Peta was around 7 months old, I’ve got an offer from an acquaintance to bring Peta to Jakarta to a spay and neuter day. She told me to bring along as much as I can and got a real bargain for spaying.

I was persuaded to wait outside when I brought him in, and my acquaintance actually took me out for a lunch, because I have been driving non stop since the morning.

A week later, Peta start to lick his tummy excessively. There’s a small wound on his belly, and I thought it was because he tried to climb the fence a short time prior and got stuck, but over the next few weeks, the wound grow into an ulcer, and there were more ulcers coming at the surrounding area, so I took him to Bandung vet.

His case is very similar to Sports, another member of the Syndicate, so the vet goes straight to a USG, and deliver the same verdict. Peta was victim of malpractice.

This is what actually happened: It’s not all vet at the Spay/Neuter day. I have been introduced to a vet, but one of his team member is a civilian with no veterinary education whatsoever. This team member was a volunteer with the team and over the time, think she is familiar enough with the procedure, and she was the one handling Peta and Sports. She cuts their testicle pockets open, but instead of removing the testicle, she actually cut it, but left them inside. These testicles fell to Peta’s belly, got rotten inside, and infected his entire stomach wall.

ulcers

Peta has to undergo the second surgery to remove the rotten “meat” and since it has already infected his stomach, it took him over four months to completely heal. He was cared for in Boo‘s clinic and even occupy his previous space.

It is so lucky that Peta belongs to The Whiskers’ Syndicate. However, since the Spay/Neuter day also take in stray cat, what would happen to them since no one will be overlooking their development?

It is tragic that the very effort to save their lives ended up killed them in such horrible way.

After he got back home, Peta was shocked. He withdrew from everything, including me, but received consolation from Goldie, who had just lost her three kittens, and Kaitou, the godfather of the Syndicate.

kaitou and peta
Kaitou and Peta: Like father and son
Peta, goldie, kaitou
Kaitou, Goldie and Peta, the smaller one is Eden and Nevaeh (head not seen)

It was the sincere acceptance that brought him back to Peta I know, and even brings out another gold in him.

Peta has a talent with kittens. Whatever their background might be, as soon as they got home, they were drawn to Peta, and he open heartedly welcome them, and willingly nurse them.

Over the years, Peta had become a father figure of the Syndicate, and even more after Kaitou died out of poisoning last year. Peta just don’t care about how the kittens look, he just welcome them all and allow them to curl up beside him, and remain quiet even when they snuggle and suck from his belly. I have lost count of how many kittens he helped me raise, and how much he had witnessed die, but he just continue to welcome new kittens.

peta and chibi
Peta took in Chibi, two days after he got home from his surgery. Behind them was Kaitou
peta and indy
Peta and Indy. If you can’t see where Indy is, see the inset at the right
Peta and Braille
Peta and Braille. Braille is blind at birth, Peta took him after he lost his mother

I have lost my own father over 10 years ago, but every father’s day, I always remember him, and feel sorry that he left us so soon, but father’s day this year, for some reason, I passed over the spot where I had found Peta, and remembered how much we had been through together.

Above all else Peta reminds me of the other side of my father that I should have remember more. A dedicated father, one who worked hard so we can live well, one who always told me not to give up, and one who brought me up into who I am today.

Peta reminds me that I should have been grateful that though the sun not always shine, it will not be rain forever, so when the new day come, we shouldn’t be afraid to step forward, and do the best.

This month, and the next is going to be a very hard time for us here at Whiskers’ Syndicate. Our rent will be over and we have to move by the end of July. I have applied for a mortgage, and herewith I would like to ask that you all pray for us that we got the home.

Along with a permanent home is our dream to establish a Trap Neuter Return facility, the first in Bandung, and probably the only for a very long time.

We need help as much as we can get, and despite our effort you can see it on the right bar that we’re slow moving, but we wanted to go through with this. We wanted to go through so there will be no more like Peta, so we can show people and vet alike how to treat animals and be responsible to their lives because above all else, they had surrendered their fate to our hand.

Happy father’s day, everyone. Happy father’s day, Peta, and for any other cats just as graceful and dedicated as him.

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

 

Mothers’ Day Special: The Best Mother Tortie In The World

As appeared on Animal Rescue Chase

Featured on Care2 Causes: Animal Welfare

There’s this beautiful monastery by the hills of a conservatory forest in West Java, and I had an opportunity to stay there during a religious outing last December.

cikanyere square
A square in the middle of camping ground

What I love the most from the camp is the way the Carmelite sisters and brothers in the convent left the nature undisturbed, believing that nature, in itself, is God’s grace.

st theresia beehive
A beehive on the statue of St. Therese of Avilla is left undisturbed

The best part, is, of course: dinner, because at that time, various indigenous animals from nearby conservatory would go down to the smell of our food and peer to us. Two wild dogs even gone round the camp fire and naturally, got a fair share of healthy meal.

But my attention is rather drawn into a quiet, almost invisible presence near my group; a tortoise-shell cat who sit silently as she stares toward us. Whenever someone is leaving the circle one of the dogs would follow, and the cat would run away, so I think she must have been afraid of the dog. However, that night I put a plate of rice, chicken (from my group mate) and scrambled egg just outside my room, where she previously sat, and go to sleep.

The next day I wake up rather early, wondering how she is doing, and whether she ate the food I left for her, but I don’t need to wonder for long. There she is, curling up at the corner of my bed, peacefully asleep. For the next few days I keep putting a plate of rice and meat, but she only took the scrambled egg.

At the last night of the outing, I saw her strolled leisurely into my tent even before dinner, and curl up on my bed, so I skip dinner and follow her. She purrs when I stroke her. I figured she is familiar enough with me, so I put her plate inside the tent and watch her eat, as I say my good bye and offer her my apologies. Tomorrow we will see each other no more, and she will lose a warm and comfortable bed, but again, she only ate the egg.

Out of curiosity I tried to checked out her teeth, and only then found out that she doesn’t have teeth. None at all except for her lower left fang.

tortie toothless
Toothless Tortie

No wonder she is so thin. I cannot imagine how hard her life must be without ability to hunt or eat properly. So I decided that night that I would bring her home, and the next day, smuggle her in my knapsack so no one know that I’m carrying a cat back to town. Luckily all of my group is animal friendly so they just shrugged when they saw me empty my knapsack and roll all my things in newspaper. Josie’s antics strike again. Well, at least they don’t tell anyone.

Tortie is the kindest, gentlest, and most understanding cat I have ever known. She hardly move on our way home, so the bus driver didn’t know he had extra passenger.

It wasn’t easy for the both of us in the beginning. Tortie, knowing that she is defenseless, barely move from the corner of my bed. She just go down for a drink, when the other cats were not around, she ate long after the other finished, and went to the litter box in wee hour in the morning when everyone else is asleep. She stays as far away as possible from the other. Even when I tried to socialize her with the other cats, she prefer to stay in a small cage where I usually keep new kittens, and stay there the rest of the day.

P2030028
Tortie’s sanctuary

Even when I took her for spaying she just remain quiet that the vet marvel at her “sweetness”, more so because the vet is four hours drive from Bandung to the other end of Jakarta. She is amazed at how “calm” Tortie was during the journey, and she was sorry that despite all my effort to bring her to see the vet, a more senior vet than those in Bandung, she can’t explain how, and why Tortie lost all her teeth. She just told me that Tortie is probably little more than one year old, and that she is a smart and quiet in the forest, that she survived until she was found, and can’t imagine how she took care of her kittens, because without teeth, she won’t be able to carry them, nor defend them from predators.

And there were dogs in the camping ground….

I just don’t want to imagine. Tortie is with me now, and I am going to give her better days than a scary forest. With me her food is finely ground chicken meat, no bones or hard part, cat’s milk and her favorite egg, but without teeth, she practically lick and swallow whatever food that comes into her mouth. The lack of proper chewing probably contribute to her difficulties with stool (she litters one every two days) and her stomach bloat easily. She has to depend on digestive aid to properly digest her food. Anyhow, a month after she first arrive in our house, she finally have normal weight, and I arrange for a special consultation with a senior vet because she has “special need”.

tortie in my lap
Tortie on my lap, sedated for spaying. The curious brown dog belongs to the vet, and he thought every animals are his friend.

I can call it God’s grace, or fate’s play that one day I came to rescue a twin kitten I called “Tacos” and “Nachos”. I accidentally hit Tortie’s soft spot. Tortie reached out; she voluntarily adopt two kittens that I recently rescue, to the point of willingly nurse them despite her dried out breasts. She diligently groom the kittens and never left their side.

P2030033
Tortie nursing one of the twin kitten. If you look closely, you can see her only fang stuck out

With or without teeth, Tortie is a mother. She couldn’t carry Tacos or Nachos, but when she wants to move them, she will wait until the other cats were out for playing, or sleeping, and will call them to follow her. When she teach them how to jump, she will jump to the place she wanted them to be, and call and call and call pitifully until the kittens jump high enough to reach her, and then she will lick them, perhaps saying “good boys!”

If the kittens can’t do it even after hours of trying? That’s all right too. Tortie is still a mother, so she will jump down and lick the kitttens “That’s all right, we’ll try again tomorrow” and stroll back to the cage.

If the other cats got curious and got closer, she will growl, and slap them. Her nail grows in an alarming speed, despite regular clipping. Perhaps her bodily response for lack of defense in her other part.

With courage and great motherly nature, Tortie brought up Tacos and Nachos until they are old enough to be weaned, and finally got adopted.

Tortie, however, stays. No one would want to adopt a special need cat whose food cost more than her master, much less when the potential master also need to pay for a more expensive vet charges.

Even so, I am not burdened. I am happy to be with the sweetest cat in the world, the calmest and most courageous woman of all time, and most of all, the best mother imaginable.

Happy Mothers’ Day, Tortie. And to all mothers in the world.

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate