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.

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

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More please….
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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.

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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.

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paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

I’ll be Home For Christmas

There are people in the world who stop their love on cats and dogs (and other animals)’s artwork, and there are also some other who loves the original, living animals more than the pictures.

I love both. I love the artistic beauty of animal in a picture, and I am in awe by the grace of God with which they move in their lives.

In term of preference, I adore Makoto Muramatsu, a Japanese artist who dedicate his artworks picturing dogs and cats (and other animals too) and their abundant antics. One of them is below:

cat under the snow by makoto muramatsu

I’ve got this picture long ago on Christmas, and though I have lost the original e-card with which it came along (my computer crashed a lot of time, actually), the picture of a stray cat on a pole, under the window, continue to knock my heart until today.

The picture, along with Bing Crosby’s classic “I’ll be home for Christmas” remind me of the many, many, many stray that does not share the luck of a warm home and the gifts of families and friends in Christmas, even if only in their dream.

So, every year around Christmas, I made a resolution of opening my door to as many as I can, one year has to be better than the last, and especially this year, because the politic heat of the office had left me with no choice but to kill my heart or continue living as a human elsewhere. I choose the second: I quit my day job and decided to live off side jobs and a craft store I opened on etsy.

My last day at work is December 20th, hence, in one sense, I’ll be home for Christmas.

And then, a week before my last day on office, I met this little kitten, left to die on the parking lot in the office complex:

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He was as small as a palm of my hand, emaciated, sick, and was so weak that he barely hold his head when I picked him up. It was lunch hour, and I waste no time doubting whether I wait until the end of the working hour or not. I did not return to the office, but jumped the next public transport that zoomed to the nearest vet office, where he got some transfusion and antibiotics.

He died on my lap the same afternoon, after opening his eyes for the very first time after I pick him up. Just that. He opened his eyes, sent out a voiceless meow, and gone.

When I went to the office the next day, I first made a turn to the garbage post to dump the trash. Cleaning officer in my residential complex was a well known sloth. He come only to ask for money, but left trash where they were, until people in the complex hauled their trashes on his house as protest. I choose to shrug my shoulder, bring along the trash bag with me and dump it in a fill near the bus station on my way to the office.

On my way to the bus station the corner of my eye glimpsed on a bundle of rather furry mushroom at the edge of a stall.

“What funny mushroom”, I think, “It has fur like…”

Cats.

So I turned around and found… five kittens. Of various colours, and age, huddled at the edge of a stall, full of mud, and smelled like the actual sh!t.

This time too, I didn’t waste too much of time. I open my back pack, push them inside, and go back home. Heck with being late to office.

They don’t seem to belong to the same litter, since they differ in sizes, but for small kittens like them to find each other and huddled to one another is kind of God’s work.

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The calico kitten on top got crushed leg. She walked by dragging her right hind legs, and since she is sitting all the time I didn’t find out about the broken leg until later, when she force herself for food. The others are sneezing, emaciated and got hypothermia; though, Thank Lord, He sent another miracle: despite the foreign smell, and faces, three mother cats (and their litters) that I have picked up a few days earlier share their motherly grace.

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With the help of the Syndicate’s moms, they got better, though very slightly, and not for long. They are only two to six weeks, too young and small to get strong medicine. What the vet and I can do is to keep them warm and full, a lot of vitamin to help them cope with their condition, and a lot of hope as with prayers, that they are going to make it.

They didn’t.

Starting with the grey tabby, the smallest and the youngest among the five, one by one bid farewell. Noelle the little calico, went the last.

On Christmas eve, no one stays for Christmas, though maybe they don’t need to, so they don’t have to know more of this merciless town that dump them in such young age.

But even so, at least they are home for Christmas, and not only in their dream.

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

(Not) Dreaming of A Wet Christmas

Growing up on the beach-side Surabaya, I got used to the salty air and sticky sweat, especially during dry season starting March to October. The heat on mid day can reach over 35 degrees Celcius (or 95 degrees Fahrenheit). On those days, the only thing I waited so much is rain.

When I moved to Bandung, it’s like changing sites between hell and heaven. Though Bandung is much much hotter now due to excessive land development and rapid (if I can’t say horrible) deforestation, the weather is still “mild” for me, who used to bear with kettle-hot climate.

On dry season, you will expect no rain, the temperature can reach 35 degrees Celcius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) on mid-day, just like Surabaya, and do rain whatsoever, not even wind. I feel like a popcorn inside a microwave. The cats don’t tell me, but they are less active and prefer to curl up on my bed under cool shade when at other time, they should have been playing.

In rainy season the weather become so nice, with soft breeze and small showers that invite kids to play under the rain; even the cats seems to enjoy the cool wind. They went outside more, even if they just sit around watching the other play, or let themselves drift slowly to slumber-land at the corner rim of the little garden.

The only quirk is that it is always rain during 4 pm (the office end on 17:00), though I don’t mind because I get to feel that cool wind while I was biking or went home after a side job. I don’t know if it is the storm, or the rain angels are extremely disciplined, but everyone here in Bandung will get wet starting 4 pm, and since they seems to catch the constant rhythm, they either gone home before 4 pm, or gone out after 7, when the rain will usually subdue.

But that was four and a half years ago, before El Nino and La Nina was born, right above Indonesia. El Nino was born near Christmas (hence the name “little boy, referring to Jesus Christ) and La Nina tagged along later. While El Nino brings us prolonged draught, La Nina carry over a lot of rain, and since both babies are storms, they bring harsh wind along.

It is when things get unpredictable, or at least some of them.

This year La Nina is coming, so I can expect heavy rain with harsh wind. Sometimes for a very long time.

Learning about this from experience, I have never left my umbrella unattended, unless it lays down inside my bag. It kept me dry during the long commute, now that I moved away from down town, but it will not save the Syndicate.

In her last visit, my mother had given me a precious gift by giving a nice backyard for the mobsters. (read about it here), however, a green green grass of home is not immune from water, and under pouring rain, it will be a pool of mud. Some of the cats love it, especially those who has longer hair, but the other usually curled up in the (semi final) cattery.

I call it semi final, because it hasn’t got proper flooring yet when I post about it, but with the help of our kind supporter who dropped by and send in donation, I finally have enough money to bring in the floor. It’s only a cement plaster over dirt and stone, but at least the cats won’t be wet; or so I think. It has not yet have doors, nor a wind breaker or wide canopy to prevent the watery wind to come inside the cat’s house, but I think since the roof is high, the water won’t come in, at least not that much.

La Nina proved me wrong. Like a fast growing child, she is bigger this year. Torrential rain comes everyday, and they fall for a very long time, often the whole day, sometimes two days in a row, along with hefty wind. Without a canopy to break the wind in front of the structure, the cattery is nothing in the face of the “little” storm and the cats ended up wet anyway.

wet inside out
Trying to stay as far away from the water, though it won’t help
wet house
No where to run
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A leak on the cattery’s roof. Tortie is seen at the bottom right trying to take cover inside a basket

PS: The photo above is rather blurry because I slipped when taking photos. Luckily I push the button before landing on the floor.

When the rain is longer, water even flooded my back veranda, though luckily the house is not flooded.

flood in the back veranda

the mud goes in

Under such circumstances most cats brace themselves running under the rain straight into the house, but some are too afraid to make the move, not to mention the chilling air. For most of continental people, 17 – 20 degrees Celsius might sound “mild”, but for tropical creatures like us who used to live in around 30 degrees Celsius, it’s “harsh”. For these special cats, I offer a personal delivery by carrying them into the house (with an umbrella in the other hand, of course), back and forth, one by one, until there were none.

looking for high place
Too afraid to jump down and run

It is safer for the cats to stay inside the house during the rain, and it’s warmer too, maybe because my house is only 36 square meters and there are about 40 cats with me. However, the continuous extreme weather took toll on their health, and it is only with plentiful vitamins and a good food that all of them survived the storm, hopefully until the end of rainy season in Easter next year.

Without adequate flow of donations to thicken the savings of larger and well known rescues, I can’t do much about the rain soak, a fact that made me worried whole day long, especially when I left the cats during my day job, and even when I am home to keep the cats dry, I can’t help cursing myself for not being able to do more. Building a wide canopy in front of the cattery that large (it’s 5 meters wide, 3 meters long and 3 meters high) would cost over USD 300 and I won’t have another pay check until my last salary next December 20th, after which I can spend more time browsing the internet for a chance of grant application, if any.

So, may your days be merry and dry – we mean bright – and that everyone have a happy holiday.

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate