Friday, August 15, 2008
All because of a CAT!!!
Let me just breeeeeeeathe for a second here before writing. This past week I have felt the worst that I can ever remember in my life. I had that aching in the heart pain when I went to sleep and then got it back a couple seconds after waking up. It was horrible. I never want to feel that again. And it was all because of a little multi-colored kitty-kat!(And I thought I was a man…) Let me explain…
A friend of mine, Joanna, took care of my cat while I went back to the states in June, and when she left on the 5th of August, it was my turn. Her cat was coming up from her site on a “bola”, a free ride with the Peace Corps doctor. So before I met the bola car and the doctor at our designated meeting spot at the supermarket parking lot, I made a trip to the hardware store to buy plastic mesh so I could cover the open door where I brush my teeth at night. The idea was basically to make something like those plastic fence things people use for dogs to keep them in one room. That way I could lean out the door and brush my teeth at night without letting the newbie cat out that would be with me. Then I stocked up on two more 3.5 lb bags of cat food. And on top of that I bought a couple snacks I can’t get usually. There I was, sitting with a big roll of plastic mesh, my crutches (yup, still using them), my motorcycle helmet, my backpack, and 3 big bags of cat food and snacks. The car showed up and I threw everything in the car, realizing at that moment that if I had not gotten this bola, I probably would not be able to walk to the sidewalk, let alone get my butt back into my site. So it was good that the ride showed.
The doc told me she was late and had to go to a lunch meeting with some volunteers immediately, and because of that, I was invited. Immediately I felt like saying, “No, I really need to drop the cat off at my house”, but I didn’t. I said OK and she reassured me that it’d be fine. We got there (a place called The 25 Charcos and site a volunteer buddy of mine)and decided we couldn’t leave the cat in the car, and the restaurant was open air and outside, so we brought the cat in its cloth pocketbook/carrier thing that Jo had bought recently.(dumbest looking carrier I’ve ever seen. Maybe just to make me look like I have a pocketbook) It had been in this cloth purse for the past 4 hours so I thought I should take it out for a second. It’s the humane thing to do right?! Well, my great luck continued that day (remember the broken ear, staff infections, amoebas, unknown sicknesses, and now sprained ankle), and when I took the cat out of its carrier it went nuts, scratched the crap out of my hands, and ran off in the woods(did I mention the restaurant was outdoors). ARE YOU JOKING? I just stood there shocked for about five seconds, thinking that must have been a dream, then immediately dropped my crutches and took off running with the other volunteers there with us. The cat ran right into the sugarcane and seemed to have stopped. I sent the muchachos (young guys) and the other guy volunteers under the barbed wire and told them, “We are getting that cat.” I figured they would just go get it and put it back in that stupid pocketbook thing, and this nightmare would be over. Instead, they chased it farther and farther into the cane and the mountains.
A kid came back with an empty pocketbook about two hours later and said that it had gone “lejos.” That is “far” in Spanish. But ‘lejos’ really means that the cat has left the building, it’s not coming back, and you should probably stop looking. That word hit me like a ton of cement block. (We don’t have bricks here) ‘Jesus. That cat was like a daughter to Jo. And now it’s probably going to get killed by a dog or a person in the mountains.’ That was my inner-monolog while I took the purple pocketbook from the muchacho and tried, unsuccessfully, to eat my lunch. How had things gotten so terrible crappy in a matter of hours? I took her out. She was fine for a second. Then she went f-ing nuts and was gone within a matter of seconds! I was floored.
I heard the doctor offer a little kid 100 pesos if they found the cat, saw how quickly he went looking, and quickly chased him down and upped it to 2000. I didn’t want him to just look. Find that thing! I then went around to all the employees and told them that I had lost a cat, it wasn’t mine, the girl would kill me if I didn’t find it, and that if they found it there was 2000 pesos in it for them. So by the end of that day I had about fifty people planning trips to the woods to find this cat. But I knew she would just run away again, and didn’t feel any better. The bola was leaving, and I had to show the doctor my site, so I had to leave with them. I showed them my site and then when they had left proceeded to tell everyone in my site about the cat that got away. They didn’t care, and I felt like shit. I explained to those closest to me how I was responsible and Joanna was going to die when she heard, and that I didn’t know what to do. They all laughed, told me to forget about it, and reminded me that it was just a cat. But they didn’t understand. That night I barely slept. Llave cuddling up next to me reminded me of the lost cat and I felt like absolute crap.
The next morning I got up and caught a bola out back to the charcos. I asked around and still no sign of the cat. I took a motorcycle to the closest town, bought four cans of tuna, and came back. Then I got muchachos to walk around the woods in pairs with an open can of tuna. If anyone saw anything, the one without the can was to run back and get me with the cat bag, and the other was to let the cat eat the tuna, slowly. An hour of that returned no results. I asked my buddy Todd, the PCV who is placed to work at this ‘charcos’ place, if he thought the park guards would be able to help. (The charcos is a set of waterfalls that tourists climb up with the help of guides. It is a well known eco-tourism spot in the DR, and it is enclosed in its own National Park) He said maybe, and ten minutes later the guy showed up. I told him about the whole incident, and immediately he offered to go look with me after lunch. I was still on crutches but said screw it and hiked around the park for about two hours with the ranger. You already know what happened. I found nothing, and my ankle hurt a lot. While I was out in the woods with tuna sprinkled around me, given up the search, and hoping the cat would smell the tuna and just show up, Joanna texted me and seemed angry for my lack of responses. I hadn’t responded to her since the cat ran away. What would I say? I decided to just call her. I called and told her; she cried a lot; I felt like a giant idiot, and I was pretty sure she wouldn’t ever talk to me again. I hung up the phone in the woods, feeling just awful, and laid down and cried a little. So that night I stayed with Todd at his place and tried not to think about it. I felt so much better having told Jo, but ‘so much better’ wasn’t great at all. Still felt terrible.
The next morning we headed back to the charcos and there was word that the night guard had seen a cat he didn’t know last night! I thought it might be her but probably not. Still, I kept talking to the park guides and found one who knew how to trap animals. He made me a trap that day, and I took a moto back to the town to get seven cans of tuna. He was going to put tuna in this trap for seven nights in a row. He knew about the cat and the money, and I thought he might get her. I waited all day but no cat, and I had to head back to my site. I went to a meeting for my water committee that night, we planned for my bosses arrival the next day, and once again, felt like crap. The next day came and my boss didn’t. I found out he had an emergency and wasn’t going to make it. So I opened up my computer, made a bilingual missing cat flyer with pictures, and caught another bola out of my site to the charcos. (I had really good bola luck, if nothing else) I went to the computer shop to print the flyers, but it was closed because the whole town had no electricity. This is about an hour out of my site and it was around 4:30 in the afternoon. My motorcycle driver took me to another place he thought might be open but it wasn’t. He yelled across the street to the Doña who had the key, told her that I live far away in the hills, and that I needed to print something now. She called for her daughter, who came over, opened up, turned on their diesel generator, and fired up the computer. (Only in the DR! There is just a level of hospitality with some things that you can’t find anywhere else!) I printed out the flyers as well as some other donation request letters for my upcoming youth camp. I thanked them as much as I could, hopped back on the motorcycle and we headed to the charcos.
Now armed with this flyer with pictures and a reward I had upped to 3000 pesos, I was feeling a little optimistic. When I got to the charcos I was told no one had seen anything else, the trap hadn’t caught anything but ants swarming the tuna, and the night guard wouldn’t be there for another hour. I wanted to show him the picture and find out if it was really her who he saw two days ago. So I sat down and talked with the guides. I found the guy who set the trap and we went and re-placed it, and re-armed it with more tuna. At 6 PM the guard showed up, I showed him the flyer, and he told me that was her. He had seen that cat two nights ago and last night at 3 AM. It was settled. I was staying out all night with him until the cat showed up, I would show her a can of open tuna, and that would be it. So once again, I settled down for a bit of waiting. The guides started drinking at their restaurant bar and started to get a little drunk. I was wondering when they would leave and turn off the music to give the cat a chance to come in. But then at 8 PM a guide ran up to me and said he saw a cat off in the cane. I told him to get the guides I had been talking to earlier and go get her. But he said, “No, shes right at the edge of the restaurant. Just come yourself and bring the tuna.” I walked over slowly and there she was, at the edge of the cane field, meowing at the site of me. But she was scared of the guides and music. So we popped open a can, and I went over, called her name(Kitten), and showed her the tuna. She hesitated for a minute but then just ran right up to me and I picked her up! I couldn’t believe it! My heart was going a million beats a minute! I yelled over that I got her (mistake) and all the drunken guides ran towards me yelling and congratulating me and all that. Of course the cat flipped out, scratched the crap out of my arms again, and wriggled out of my hands. I was literally holding with all my strength but didn’t want to bust her rib cage! Anyway I fell to the ground and luckily sat on her. I had one hand on her back and was sitting on her upper body as she tried to get away again. The guides tried to get her pocketbook that was left in the charcos office, but it was locked! It was after hours! So they got a cardboard box and we threw her in. She still half got out, but then we threw that box in a potato sack, and tied it up!
Ahhhhhhh! All the guides went crazy and I had a kung-fu grip on this potato sack while my newly scratched up arms bled down to my elbows. But all I could do was smile and scream along with them while they all congratulated me on finding the cat. To them it was just another crazy thing us gringos do, caring for animals, and I was happier than ever to be the gringo who found the cat after four days of returning with no progress! One of the guides had a camera and the rest gathered around me while he took a picture of the crazily happy gringo holding a potato sack and bleeding from the arms, and the drunk Dominicans around him who were all so happy, drunk, but extremely happy for me.
I had actually found the cat! I got a moto ride up to Todds house, closed all the windows, locked all the doors, shoved shoes in any possible escape holes, and let the cat out of the box and bag. I had extra tuna cans left over so we both ate tuna that night for dinner, and I couldn’t have been happier. Jo called me, assuming her cat was dead and that I must feel awful, and wanted to tell me it was ok, that it wasn’t my fault. But the first words out of my mouth were, “I found your freakin cat!” She couldn’t believe it and I sat there saying it over again and again a couple times until she was completely relieved. She was in the states on vacation and about to go out with friends. She thanked me a million times and then said she was going out. Right before she hung up I heard her yell to her friends, “Rob f…!” It was cut off, but I knew she was telling everyone that the same guy who was probably described previously as the jack@$$ who lost her precious cat had just found it! I crumpled against the wall with the cat and breathed out for the first time in a while. I really breathed. The deep, let go of stress breath that I thought would never come. I found her freaking cat. Sitting there with that little multicolored thing, the whole thing felt so incredibly silly. It was a little cat! And it had completely ruined my life for four days!
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