Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Meme: Names Deluxe

Here's the stolen name game meme, first stolen by Poppy Fields and now stolen by yours truly:

(Mother’s & father’s middle names)

NASCAR NAME: Hugh Baldwin
(First name of mother’s dad, father’s dad)

(First 2 letters of last name, first 4 letters of first name)

(Favorite color, favorite animal)

SOAP OPERA NAME: Alexandra Maputo
(Middle name, city where you live)

(2nd favorite color, favorite alcoholic drink)

(First 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name)

GANGSTA NAME: Nocciola Peanut
(Favorite ice cream, favorite cookie)

ROCK STAR NAME: Pria Ahmed Sekou Touré
(Current pet’s name, current street name)

PORN NAME: Lobo 47
(1st pet, street you grew up on)

Wanna play? Consider yourself tagged.

Peru Preparations

"Peru" is how you say turkey in Portuguese. We are definitely getting ready for Thanksgiving, though we are about as far away from the US as one can possibly get, geographically speaking.

Rico and I managed to find turkeys this year at our favorite local butcher, Talho Polana. The turkeys came from Brazil, specifically from the massive poultry company Saida. I know my carbon footprint this Thanksgiving is not wonderful, but we are compensating by not traveling internationally this holiday season.

Anyhow, we got two 10-pound birds to serve at our second annual jointly-hosted Thanksgiving party. We are expecting about 30 people, so this will barely be enough for everyone. We are supplementing with roasted chickens, but still, it is nice that we will have turkey at all. I know a lot of people who have given up completely on procuring the birds here and are going with fish and prawns for the holiday. But for us, it's turkeys, through and through.

Of course, while turkey #1 was in the oven, the cooking gas ran out after the first hour. Dona Lídia had to run out post-haste and buy a new canister. In all, I don't think the delay negatively affected the bird. From the smell and the crispy brown exterior, it seems absolutely delicious. Rico and I were tempted to dig in tonight, but we practiced restraint and ate bread rolls with prosciutto instead.

This evening I also made stuffing from scratch (so easy, but SO much butter, my God!), giblet gravy (yum) and chopped vegetables in preparation for turkey #2's stuffing tomorrow afternoon. It's a shame we don't get the day off tomorrow, but I think I'll be able to slink off a few hours early to go tend the bird while it cooks.

I'm really excited for our dinner gathering tomorrow. Not often I get into holidays, but Thanksgiving Maputo-style is sure to do it every year.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Non-Stop Bhangra (at least for tonight)

Tonight Rico and I attended a party put on by my new organization for a colleague that is leaving after 7 years in Mozambique. We had a dinner for 30-odd people at Khana Khazana, one of my favorite Indian restaurants here in Maputo. It was a funny event, a bit awkward as most corporate gatherings are at the beginning, but especially so given that this is Social Event #2 the organization has sponsored since, oh, I don't know, the last decade? Seriously. These people are all fun-loving and interesting and like to drink/dance/cut loose...and yet they never get together outside the office. It is bizzare.

Tonight was pleasant, though. We danced to a lot of Bollywood-style music (there was a very cheezy live band), ate good food, laughed together, took silly pictures of dancing that can easily serve as blackmail 6 months from now. Several of my seemingly-serious Indian colleagues totally broke loose and were shoulder-shimmying and heel-tapping and doing all the fab choreographies that the rest of us wished we knew.

I wonder if this will start a trend. My boss joked that I joined the organization at the right time, just before the parties and the end-of-year holidays. I certainly hope it's not a once-off event. I think I'd be happiest in an office that promotes being social after-hours...

Jewelry Sale - 20% off Everything in Etsy Site

Friends, I have decided to close my Alexandra Amaro Etsy site and am having a clearance sale on the jewelry that remains. All of my jewelry is 20% off from November 25 to December 24, including pieces that are already on sale.

You can visit my site here.

I am concentrating on my Maputo-based jewelry business, as it is increasingly difficult for me to stock my US-based Etsy shop (not to mention the fact that I'm based here, and it is much easier to run a business where you are physically present!).

Many thanks to my parents, who have kindly acted as my shipping agents thus far. It would not have been possible to do online jewelry sales from halfway across the world were it not for their help.

Perhaps at some point in the future the reliability of the Mozambican mail system will improve and I will be able to run an Etsy site from here. Until then, I will continue to do the national crafts fairs and to make custom pieces for my lovely local clients. If you are in Mozambique and are interested in commissioning some of my jewelry, let me know! :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

50 Reasons Why I Like Maputo

1. Great weather most of the year.
2. Delicious, cheap seafood.
3. Being able to procure anything you need from informal vendors on 24 de Julho (or any other street, for that matter).
4. All the art deco architecture (and the remaining colonial architecture). The Soviet-inspired buildings? Not so much.
5. Watching the tide fluctuations while driving along the Marginal.
6. Fruit and vegetable vendors on nearly every corner.
7. Everything is 20 minutes away - max.
8. Tilework on Vila Algarve (despite the horrid past of the place).
9. Flamboyants and Jacarandas lining almost all the streets.
10. Watching ladies carry insane loads on their heads: gas canisters, buckets of oranges, kettles, boxes, piles of lettuce, etc.
11. Reading the bumper stickers and window decals on the chapas (the one perpetually parked outside our flat reads "13 Missed Calls". Go figure!)
12. Speaking Portuguese.
13. Aspiring to learn a decent vocabulary in Changana.
14. Pita bread and shwarmas from Café Milano.
15. Pizza from Mundo's (our favorite is with prosciutto and rocket).
16. Malva pudding from The Meat Co.
17. Octopus carpaccio and apple crumble from Zambi.
18. Getting drunk at the fish market while you wait for your food.
19. Walking along Frederich Engels on a Sunday afternoon and watching all the Fast & Furious-inspired guys with their cars lined up, music blasting out an open door.
20. Going to the pool at Hotel Terminus.
21. Finding beautiful paintings at Núcleo de Arte.
22. Furniture shopping (or dreaming) at the Bali shop.
23. Finding antique chandeliers at Yola Mobilias, a local furniture warehouse.
24. Mangoes, litchis, pineapples and tangerines.
25. Matapa com carangueijo.
26. Capulanas, even if I just use them as swimsuit cover-ups and tablecloths.
27. Fabric shopping at Casa Paris.
28. Watching low-budget music videos being filmed on the Caracol hill.
29. Local pop music.
30. Coconuts. Occasionally. (the club, not the nut)
31. Looking in awe at the tree roots exposed from erosion along the Marginal.
32. Visiting CFM (the train station), both during the day and at night.
33. Mojitos at CFM bar.
34. Spotting donated clothes from your hometown's finest restaurants or 4-H club for sale or proudly in use.
35. Automatic vacation between December 15th and January 15th because the entire city is deserted and nothing happens in any of the offices.
36. Proximity to great beaches: Ponta do Ouro, Bilene, Ilha dos Portugueses.
37. Proximity to Kruger Park.
38. Proximity to South Africa, when a weekend away is in order.
39. Taking photographs at the Fortaleza.
40. Breakfast at Café Sol or the place near Talho Polana with the waiter that looks like a caricature of himself.
41. Large international population. Lots of diversity.
42. Film festivals.
43. Expositions at the Franco-Mozambican Cultural Center.
44. Films at the Gil Vicente theater.
45. Wood sculptures and other souvenirs at the Saturday wood market.
46. Rich local culture.
47. Being entertained by local TV, especially MiraShop.
48. Mozambican slang: "maningue nice!" "tá a bater!" "job", etc.
49. Relative safety (at least compared to Rio, Joburg, etc.)
50. It's increasingly feeling like home...

Nightmare for Some, Blessing for Me

Today we had our country-wide staff meeting at work. There were about 30 of us, and all the Directors had to make presentations about our 2008 program results and projections for 2009 activities. I prepared my requisite 45-minute presentation last night, and was all set to contribute my part to the meeting. However, when my turn was up, the projector decided to malfunction. We fumbled with it for about 10 minutes, then it became apparent that the situation wasn't going to resolve itself quickly.

Instead of further delaying our long meeting waiting for the projector to function, I decided to hell with it, I'd present improv-style. I knew more or less what was on my slides, and announced to the group what I planned to do. Despite the lack of notes or anything, the presentation went smoothly. I hit on most of the points I'd meant to cover, and best of all I managed to hold everyone's attention since I wasn't droning on or reading directly from pre-prepared slides. I think I talked too fast, and I know it was an intense presentation, but in the end it was all good. I was actually glad that I'd presented ad-lib, because it was over quickly (I only used 25 of my alloted 45 minutes) and I didn't feel limited by a bunch of boring slides. Everyone else was appreciative too because, thanks to my presentation, we were back on schedule.

I got several comments, however, along the lines of "Oh my God, how did you do that? I'd never have been able to present spontaneously with no slides!" For me, it wasn't that big of a deal. Thankfully, I was born with the Shameless-Public-Speaker-and/or-Performer gene, and none of this has ever bothered me.

My boss seemed pleased, too, and commented that I am a good communicator. He also observed that I was under my time limit, but whatever. I am the new girl, with less than 2 months with the organization. I can get away with a short presentation, especially if it means everyone going home on time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bunny Hop

Damnit. I sprained my ankle while Rico and I were out on a walk this afternoon. Maputo's sidewalks (a generous description, by the way) are "all terrain" in that they are broken and busted and full of tree roots and dirt patches and holes and trash. Some are patched up, but it is of private initiative, and usually in front of well-to-do businesses or nice apartment buildings. The rest is a mess. We were walking/jogging, and my foot slipped off the edge of one of the jagged sidewalks and my ankle rolled. It hurt when it happened, but then I managed to walk it off and all seemed fine. We got home, and I started working on my computer. Then the pain hit, big time. It is awful, throbbing, constant pain. I know it's not broken, but it is not fun, nonetheless. Rico tied some ice in a towel to my foot, and I'm hoping it gets better before tomorrow.

I have a big meeting, an all-day country-wide staff meeting at which I have to make a 45-minute presentation. I like to present on my feet - it helps me be more dynamic - so I'd like to be cured of my hobbling tendencies of this evening.

Today was a bit of a slow day. Other than our walk/jog, I made some trade bead earrings and cooked the latest batch of homemade cat food for Pria. I used a rabbit from Talho Polana that I'd had them de-bone when I bought it (they put the bones and guts in a separate bag for me to take home). I boiled the innards and bones of the rabbit, then pulled off what meat was salvageable and added it to the mix of the main ingredients. I had a moment of gross-out when I was pulling the meat off the head and found the eyeballs, then another ick moment when I found the rabbit's large intestine with 3 or 4 little rabbit-poos already formed and lined up to come on out. I made Rico come in and feel them, though I don't think the gesture was at all appreciated. Heheh.

I cooked the rabbit, chopped up the meat and innards, added a cup or so of brown rice and a chopped carrot, then poured in some of the broth from the boiled bones. Pria thought it was delicious. If I weren't opposed to eating things with fur, I likely would have found it tasty as well.

It's about time for our bedtime. I'm icing my ankle for a few minutes longer, and trying to get ahold of my dad to say hi, since we usually talk on weekends. It's hot tonight, and our air conditioner isn't working (due to a missing-in-action workman. Quel surprise!). Between the heat, the cat, our increasingly sloped mattress, my slight nervousness about my presentation tomorrow, and my sore ankle, I'm not optimistic about the quality of sleep I'll get tonight.

I guess that pre-justifies a glass of wine and an early bedtime tomorrow!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Moving Forward

It seems like an entire year has gone by since Parceiro died last Tuesday. We commemorated the week anniversary of his passing, and I felt mostly disbelief, not the sadness and raw emotion that marked the first days after he decided to go. I thought I'd have a transition from crying my way through the day, to feeling more-or-less sad, to bittersweetly remembering Parceiro. What has happened, however, was an abrupt jump from being devastated to feeling distant, removed, and almost numb. I recognize that I am sad, and that I am probably in the depression stage of grief, but it almost seems like the whole thing with Parceiro never even happened.

Meh. I'm trying to "snap out of it", but it's hard...I imagine that a proper ceremony to put him to rest will help, but his body was sent for cremation to some state-run institution (the Veterinary School?), and we've yet to receive his ashes. The vet seems hopeful that they will come, but I am quite cynical about the possibility that it will all work out as planned. Who knows...

This week has been a long one in other ways as well. Work was slightly stressful, with a quarterly program report and an extension proposal to prepare. It is hard depending on other people for the inputs you need to do your own job properly, especially when you feel like some of them have it out for you. In general I really like my colleagues at the new job, but there is one guy in particular who has a personality and general attitude towards work (and/or towards me) that I find exasperating. I know it's part of an office job that you have to learn how to work with difficult coworkers and bosses, but it's been quite a while since I've worked at a real, honest-to-God, full-time job. I forgot what drama can occur.

It's been raining a lot in Maputo lately, realy dreary weather. It's common this time of year, at the beginning of the rainy/monsoon season. Still, the gray-blah outside doesn't really help my mood. It's been good for the farmers, though. They were expecting a drought in Southern Mozambique this year, and I heard many people say the rains would't come until January (they're meant to arrive in October). They were a bit late, and I'm not sure how total rainfall for the year measures up, but at least there is some moisture for the crops. The rain is not good news, however, for my struggling veranda garden. My pots are soaked through from the sideways rain that makes its way in, and I'm worried I will lose the chocolate mint, hibiscus and basil I just planted last week, despite the fact that they are water-loving plants.

Rico and I continue to do home improvements. We had our kitchen and bathroom painted this week. For the kitchen, I chose a pale green (creatively called "Pastel Green" by the manufacturer). We have gray-toned tiles and marble countertops, and the room tends to be hot, so I knew I needed a cool color. I've never had a green kitchen before. I rather like how it turned out. It has a retro feel that is going to be fun to work with. For the bathroom, I chose a tan-ish pinky beige color called "Pale Mushroom" (they were more inspired with this name). It transformed what was a grotty, dirty-looking, 70's-leftover bathroom into one that is almost spa-inspired. Now my next project is to bleach our nice heavyweight cotton shower curtain so that I get rid of the blue and purple print. I think I can do it, though my last experience trying to bleach something tured out disastrously, with a stained red Banana Republic shirt disintegrating instead of just fading to white. I may have to experiment a bit until I get the right proportion of bleach:water.

Tonight Rico and I are going to a braai with friends. I'm not feeling particularly social, but I know once we are there I will enjoy myself. I also plan on making a lot of jewelry, as the year-end demand for pieces is picking up faster than I can keep up!

Hope you all are well...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Home Improvements

They say one of the best ways to manage grief is to keep yourself busy. We've certainly been trying...

Last night we went to a birthday party at Rodízio, which was super nice in terms of the company and the food, but the service was lamentable. When you are paying about US$35 per person in Maputo, you expect the service to be decent, but this was really a let-down. Still, it got us out of the house, which was good.

Today Rico and I ran errands. We bought paint for the bathroom and kitchen (pale mushroom, a tan-pink color for the former, and pastel green, a spring green with a bit of yellow, for the latter) from my old paint client from my days doing investment analysis at the BIC. We went to Casa Paris and bought fabric to re-upholster our living room chairs (heavy brocade with shiny tan stripes - Rico is doing the work himself). We went to the plant nursery at Kaya Kwanga and I bought rosemary, chocolate mint and parsley for my herb garden, as well as a beautiful oversized orange hibiscus. We also stopped by GAME for some wine, an upholstery gun, and toilet paper.

This evening we are going to go for a drink at this new bar/café that opened on Av. Julius Nyerere with a few friends...keep ourselves busy.

I am still super sad about Parceiro, but am over the hump of crying every minute of every day. Now, I miss my boy, but I'm mostly worried about Pria. She's definitely realized that Parceiro is gone, and wanders around the house crying and trying to find him. It is heartbreaking. I can't wait for the requisite 1-2 months to pass so we can get a new kitten. It will not be a replacement for Parceiro - far from it - but I think a new spirit in our lives will be a good way to move on. I just wish it could be now!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Parceiro, Muito Obrigado!

Rico wrote this tribute to Parceiro this afternoon. We are making a real effort to concentrate on the positive, and on the good times shared together. Thank you all for your kind comments. We will get through this!

Hi my gray baby. Thank you for being part of my life. Thank you for bringing so much joy to our house and making Ali so happy. Thank you for showing me how nice cats can be. If your purpose in life was to make me like cats, you did a superb job. I am sure you enjoyed your life as much as we enjoyed having you playing around, sleeping inside drawers, running desperately for your food – like it was always your last meal – especially junk food. And, of course, your face with your eyes closed in ecstasy when making torties in fleeces. It’s been only two days since you left us and the house is pretty sad. But it is time to move on. I am sure that’s what you want. And you want us to remember how happy you were here and keep in our minds the great moments we had together. We will, Parceirinho! Thank you my companheiro.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Denial / Guilt / Depression

My waves of grief are oscillating between these three stages right now. I don't really feel anger yet, unless you count grief as the by-product of anger turned inwards.

The mornings are especially hard. I miss Parceiro cuddled up next to my stomach. His sweet face and torties would help dissipate my morning grouchiness without fail. I miss him dashing between my legs at feeding time; I noticed that I'd adapted my way of walking and widened my steps almost like a cowboy so that Parceiro could run through my legs without me kicking him or tripping over my own feet.

I am a bit in denial in the sense that I keep expecting to see Parceiro throughout the house. I see the mirage of two hungry cats crouched over the food bowl. I see his presence waiting outside the bathroom door while I have a shower. I keep waiting for him to walk around the corner, or to hear the sound of him sharpening his claws on the wicker furniture.

The guilt mostly revolves around not having made more of an effort to get him on the proper treatment as soon as possible. When his first crystal episode cleared up, I figured he'd be fine. We kept him on the regular food until it was convenient for us to purchase the prescription food in South Africa. We didn't make the effort to cross the border ourselves, and instead relied on friends to try and find the food when they'd go across for work or visa renewals. Finally it was my old boss, Hugh Marlboro, who got Parceiro's food. He only managed to get the C/D, because the S/D - what our boy really needed - had to be special ordered in Nelspruit. Hugh Marlboro got the S/D food finally, and in a terrible irony, we sent our taxi driver Zeca to Matola to pick up the food the morning Parceiro died.

I know we did the best we could with the information and resources we had available. Still, I know that if we'd known how serious Parceiro's condition was (or could have become), Rico and I would have dropped everything to go across the border and find the food he needed.

More than anything, I feel depression and numbness creeping in. I have no appetite, and have lost several pounds since Sunday when this all began. I remember sitting at the new vet's office during one of Parciero's treatments. I was meditating, praying and bargaining with the universe for our baby to get well. At one point I offered up the following deal: if Parceiro gets well, I will stop worrying about my weight and be happy with an extra 5 pounds. I was at the point where I was willing to accept gaining weight - one of my greatest fears and causes of depression in life - in order for our Gato Gray to pull through. Now, I don't even care about my weight loss. It seems so futile in the face of what has happened.

All I want to do these days is watch mindless tv and surf the internet. It helps to be distracted. Blogging helps, too, though every time I read my posts about Parceiro - especially the comments - I start crying again. Having your support is wonderful, but it reminds me that this is all real. I know accepting what has happened and acknowleging your feelings is part of making it through grief, but it hurts so much.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The First Morning

Yesterday was such a hard day. Rico and I are both completely devastated by the loss of Parceiro, and we've been struggling with intense waves of grief.

Friends poured in as they heard the news. Jenny and Paco brought us flowers and chocolates and beer. Lindsey brought beer and food. Kelly and Marcos brought a beaded wire angel for us to remember our boy (which Pria immediately batted off the table and began chasing around the living room). Sheila and Deepak brought sandwiches and cookies from Nautilus, and more beer. It was actually really nice to be in the company of so many people, especially since they are all animal lovers and a couple knew Parceiro pretty well.

Rico had an especially tough night. He talked in his sleep nonstop, and kept repeating scenes aloud from the vet, or as if he were talking to Parceiro. At one point he even slapped my face (in his sleep, mind you), as if trying to wake me up, and kept repeating "hang on! hang on!".

The thing I am struggling the most with at this point, beyond the sheer sadness of not having our boy around, is guilt. I know it's not helpful to beat one's self up over the past, over things that cannot be changed. Still, I keep thinking about the last few weeks. Parceiro was already on his C/D diet, and seemed to be his regular playful, sweet self. He was eating and drinking, and didn't appear to be sick. However, I saw him a couple of times straining to pee while in the litter box, lingering in there much longer than normal. I just assumed that he was peeing okay, albeit with some difficulty, and that the prescription food would do the trick. He was also licking himself a lot, but I just figured it was part of the process. My warning sign that would trigger a trip to the vet was when Parceiro would pee outside the box. Since he hadn't gone outside the box, I thought we were okay.

I know now how horribly wrong I was. I wish I'd taken him to the vet sooner. I wish we'd known about Dr. Isabel and Dr. Sergio earlier, so that perhaps we would have understood better Parceiro's condition and whether it was serious a few weeks ago, and if there was something that could have been done. It kills me to think that I was in some way negligent, ignoring the cries for help from our boy.

He's gone now, and in a better place, and I just have to keep thinking about that. Last night Rico and I imagined Parceiro in a world filled with fleece blankets and packaged cat treats. The land of fleece and junk.

I miss him so much. I know with time this will get easier, but right now I am completely overwhelmed by our loss.

Remembering Parceiro

This afternoon our sweet Parceiro knew it was time to let go. After the long road we've been on, he had a heart attack at the vet's office, and died in Rico's arms. We are unspeakably sad, but take comfort in the fact that Parceiro is no longer suffering.

We thought he was doing better. He made it through the night, and woke up this morning meowing and howling and complaining about his pain. Rico and I thought this was a good sign, as it meant he was reactive and had some energy to spare. Rico took Parceiro to the vet for a consult at 9am, and while his bladder was pretty full, it wasn't necessary to do a catheter or give him anesthesia again (he'd already had 5 doses since Sunday). Rico took him home, with instructions to come back at 6pm for another checkup and an enema.

After the trip to the vet, Rico met me at the coffee shop downstairs from my office for some juice and a sandwich. Things seemed normal. We chatted. We talked about how grateful we were that our Gray Baby was going to be okay.

A few hours later, Rico called me, his voice full of worry. He said Parceiro was purring softly, and making subtle torties (what we call that kneading cats do - a derivative of making tortillas, from my childhood). Rico said it seemed different from the purring Parceiro had done on Sunday in the throes of the blockage, but wasn't sure. We decided just to keep an eye on our boy, to see if there were any other signs that he was getting worse. A while later, Rico noticed Parceiro's back legs seemed like they were giving out when he tried to walk. He knew it was time to go back to the vet.

It was time. Parceiro knew. His little heart gave out while on the clinic table. He had seizures, and the vet did CPR (brining him back several times), but it was just too much. He let go while in Rico's arms, knowing that he was surrounded by people that loved and cared for him.

Rico came to my office to tell me, and I burst into tears. It was all so surreal. Sunday, when we first thought we were going to lose our Gato Gray, seems light-years away. Thankfully my boss understands what it means to have a pet you love very much pass away, and he let me go home for the rest of the day.

Rico and I cried - and continue to cry - over the loss of our boy. The flat seems empty. I feel lost, overcome with grief. Perhaps one of the worst parts of this is that Pria and Parceiro were so close. I don't think poor Pria fully understands what has happened yet, and I'm worried about the effect losing his brother will have on him.

Still, while there is a gaping hole in our hearts, the flat is still full of Parceiro's spirit and reminders of the good times we had together. For someone who started out life in a plastic bag in a dumpster in Maputo, I think he had a pretty delicious run.

We will always remember Parceiro for being the sweetest cat to grace our lives. He was a true companion, companheiro, following us around and always eager to curl up in a lap or in the bend of a knee. One of my favorite things to do was pile onto the single bed in our guest room - me, Rico and Parceiro - all cuddled up together with him doing endless torties on the soft parts of my stomach, or on the fleece blanket we'd use to cover ourselves on chilly nights.

Parceiro had such a love for fleece. It was like a beacon, calling him to make torties. He'd sit and knead, a look of complete ecstacy on his little face, eyes half-shut in pleasure.

We used to call him Meiote, a funny nickname that came from the fact that Parceiro's favorite spot to sleep was shoved inbetween me and Rico, no matter how small the space. Every night he'd come searching for his meio, his middle spot. He was our Filhote Meiote, our baby-cat who loved his nest.

He also loved toilet paper, and between Parceiro scrabbling the entire roll whenever given the opportunity, and Pria opening the bathroom door, we had to switch the lever knob for a round one so the boys couldn't do their damage.

Parceiro and Pria had a beautiful relationship, having started life at the bottom of the bin and surviving because of each other. When our friend Brooke first found them as kittens, Parceiro had managed to chew a hole in the plastic bag where they'd been tossed out to die, and had made it onto the ground outside the bin. But what caught Brooke's attention as she walked by was an insistent mewling. It was Pria, still in the bag, crying out for someone to save them.

They had a special connceciton from the very beginning. The would play together, friendly tail-chasing sessions frequently turning into full-on feline jiu-jitsu, madly tumbling around the carpet and scrambling across the house like they were posessed. The jiu-jitsu would then turn into grooming, as if someone had flipped a switch. The would lick each other's faces simultaneously, grooming each other with much love until the switch would go again and it would be back to the wrestling on the rug.

Parceiro had the sweetest meow. It was like "maow-maow! maow-maow!", cute and high-pitched, while Pria has an ambulance drone of a meow, one you simply can't ignore. Parceiro loved stretching out in the sun, cramping himself into boxes, lounging on the sofa next to me or Rico while we worked. He was an incredibly sweet boy. He will truly be missed.

While we are grieving Parceiro, our worry is also with Pria. We are concerned about what her reaction will be once she realizes that her companion is gone. We think that, once we've had a chance to grieve and once Pria has ahd a chance to realize what the situation is, we will start to look for a new kitten. Companionship is good, even if it might start off a bit rocky. A new kitty will not be a substitute for our Gato Gray, but it will help to heal the void in our hearts and lives.

Parceiro brought us immense joy and happiness. He was one of the reasons I looked forward to waking up every morning, and coming home each night. He was our beautiful gray baby, and will forever be remembered fondly. We are going to do a small ceremony with his ashes. Rico and I will go to the seaside and prepare a farewell care package for our boy. We will put some toilet paper, a canned food treat and a square off one of our fleece blankets in a small paper package - all of Parceiro's favorite things. We will put our gray baby to rest at sea with everything he loved so much in life. I hope it bring us come closure and some peace. I hope Parceiro is looking over us, knowing he will be present always in our lives.

I loved him dearly, and miss him with all my heart. I hope he is in a better place, and am grateful that he chose to go on his own. It was time, and if he knew it, then we must accept it.

Thank you all for your kind thoughts and prayers. They were greatly appreciated, and I am sure they helped make Parceiro more comfortable in his last days.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Please Send Good Thoughts for Parceiro

For the past few months, our cat Parceiro has suffered from crystals in his urine. He's been on a special C/D diet, but apparently it wasn't enough to resolve his condition.

Yesterday we woke up and I knew something serious was wrong with my boy. He was contracting constantly trying to pee, but no liquid was coming out. His pupils were dilated, and I could just sense he wasn't okay. I knew he had a urinary blockage. The worst part was when he started purring - the reaction of a cat in ecstacy, but also a cat in serious pain or close to death.

Thankfully, the vet we go to has limited hours on Sundays, so we were able to wait until they opened and take Parceiro. I couldn't stop crying on the way to the vet, and sat in the waiting room while Rico took the cat in for an exam (I can't stand to see animals in pain, and my reaction makes them more nervous, so if it's possible, I stay out of the exam room).

After a while, Rico came out and said the vet wanted to keep Parceiro for 1 hour and has asked us to return at 11am. When we got in the car, Rico spelled it out: according to the vet, Parceiro did in fact have a blockage, he was hypothermic and had blood in his urine. He said it was potentially life-threatening, and that the vet would do what he could, but Parceiro was definitely in critical condition.

I burst out in sobs, uncontrollable, awful wails from the bottom of my being. It seemed so surreal that we might lose our Gato Gray, our sweet boy-cat. It was also so frustrating to be in Maputo, where there is no 24/7 vet access, and it doesn't matter if you have money to pay for an emergency treatment...there is nobody equipped to do more than the basic vet services.

Rico reminded me that we must stay strong and hopeful for Parceiro. He is young, and other than the crystals, is a healthy cat. He will pull through. We drove around Maputo, along the seaside, to pass the time until we had to go back the vet. I prayed and cried and said mantras. I kept repeating "Everything's gonna be alright, love and light." I tried to visualize a positive outcome for our baby.

Back at the vet, the attending doctor said he'd been able to remove a few crystals using a catheter, but that Parceiro's urinary canal kept blocking up regardless. He said the cat might need surgery, and that the clinic wasn't equipped to do it, that we'd have to go to South Africa. His attitude was defeatist, and almost cold. I felt completely helpless.

Rico and I called all of our animal-loving friends here, and managed to get a recommendation for another vet clinic in Maputo that we didn't even know existed. We called the very nice female vet, and she said to bring the cat by immediately.

When we arrived, it was such a relief. The clinic had a completely different feel about it, and the doctor's approach was much better. They did a lab analysis of Parceiro's urine (bright red with blood at this point, to my horror), and took x-rays to see his bladder and if there were blockages. Due to the trauma to Parceiro's urethra at the first vet, the new vet decided it was too risky to do a flushing treatment, and just gave him some vitamins and an anti-inflammatory. At this point, his bladder was the size of an egg on the x-ray.

We went home and rested with the cat all afternoon, then returned at 6pm for another checkup. Parceiro's temperature was up (a good sign), and the vet thought it was okay to do the flushing treatment wiht a long catheter to push the crystal blockages up into the bladder, where they will hopefully be dissolved by another prescription food.

Poor Parceiro was exhausted at the end of all this, understandably, and when we got home he just lay still and rested. All night he slept next to us. He managed to pee a few times, but I don't think it was voluntary. The sheet under him was stained with blood and urine, but apparently less red than earlier in the day - another good sign. We made it through the night, fitful and mostly sleepless looking after our boy. My heart melted when I looked over at one point and saw Pria cleaning Parceiro from head to toe, playing a mix of Momma Cat and Nurse.

This morning, things look a bit less promising, but I'm confident Parceiro is going to rest and gain strength and pull through in the next couple of days. He is very lethargic, and keeps trying to pee again with no success, though likely it's because of a swollen urethra now instead of a blockage. We're waiting 45 minutes for the new vet to open, then we will go back for a checkup.

Please pray/think good thoughts that Parceiro is healing, that his temperature is back to normal, that he doesn't have a blockage again, that his bladder isn't too full, that he doesn't vomit again, that he gets good treatment and feels as safe and well as possible. Please pray/think good thoughts that he gets well, that he stays well, that we get our sweet gray baby back to normal.


We just got back from the vet, and things look okay. She was able to put a catheter in Parceiro and fully drain his bladder, with no need for a puncture. She also thinks that with continued catheters over the next few days, plus medication and an iv drip, there will be no need for surgery! Poor Parceiro is all drugged up now, but hopefully he will be able to rest some before our evening trip back to the vet.

On another note, being at the only vet in Maputo to have urgent care hours on a holiday (today is Maputo Day) is horrifying, though I'm incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to see a vet at all. While I was sitting on the porch meditating over the jacarandas and flamboyants, several people came in with critically injured dogs. One small dog had fallen from the 1st floor of an apartment and broke its spine; it had to be put to sleep. I saw the owner walk in with the dog in a towel, then walk out empty-handed. The next dog that came in had either been attacked or hit by a car; it incessantly howled in pain. Finally, a boy and his mother walked in, called the vet's assistant out to their car, then walked right past me to the back entrance of the clinic carrying their deceased German Shepherd in a sheet with the attendant's help. Apparently the dog had died in the car en route to the vet's, my absolute worst nightmare here in Maputo. At least the dog was old and had lived a good life, from what I overheard from the vet's conversation with the mom. Regardless, I burst into tears on the porch...

Update 2:

After his treatment this morning, Parceiro rested for most of the afternoon at home while we watched tv. He tried several times to pee, but no liquid would come out. We suspected he was still blocked. We returned to the vet this evening (we are blessed that they keep emergency hours from 11-12 and 18-18.30 on Sundays and holidays). The vet put in another catheter, and was able to identify several crystals blocking the front of his urethera. She wasn't able to get them out, however, and decided to wait until the morning. In the meantime, the vet gave Parceiro fluids, as he hasn't wanted food or water all day. While she was administering the iv, Parceiro expelled the crystals on his own! Rico had a look under the microscope and said they looked like grains of rock salt, clearly visible to the naked eye. Now that the vet was able to positively identify the type of crystals, Parceiro will go on an S/D diet, which we will have to buy in South Africa.

Now that our Gray Baby seems to be unblocked, we are hopeful that tonight will be a bit easier on him. Tomorrow morning we will return to the clinic for more antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and - lucky cat! - an enema.

Thank you all so much for your good thoughts and prayers. It has made a difference just knowing you are out there.

Update 3:

We made it through the night again. The highlight was soon after we returned from the vet, and Parceiro peed all over the blanket he was lying on! Lots of pee! That was amazing to see, and Rico and I laughed about how we never thought we'd be happy about a cat peeing on our blankets or our bed.

This morning, however, it looks like Parceiro may be blocked again. He has been trying to pee with no success. He is also mewling and even howling every once in a while in pain, which is awful, but sort of a good sign because it shows he is reactive and feeling strong enough to complain about his situation - much better than the total lethargy of yesterday morning.

I have to go to work, but Rico will take Parceiro back to the vet in about an hour. I hope they find more crystals, and that they are able to unblock Parceiro for good this time! Hang in there, my boy!!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sea Change

US Election fever has struck big in Mozambique. All of the front pages of the local papers today featured Obama and McCain, and the election was the topic of choice in offices and restaurants throughout Maputo all day. I've never seen so much interest in an American event in my life. It is really incredible, though perfectly understandable. What a historic moment, regardless of the outcome!

This evening, the US Embassy sponsored a big party complete with mock voting, a student debate, biographies of both candidates, and lots of snacks and drinks. Rico and I went by early in the night, as our election strategy is to be in bed early and wake up in the pre-dawn hours to watch as the polls close (there is a 10-hour difference between Moz and the West Coast). We thought the party would be a little lame at 7:30pm, but boy were we wrong. It was packed with people, most wearing funny plastic hats, palpable excitement bubbling through the conference center. Rico and I still ended up leaving early (we need our rest to be coherent tomorrow at such an early hour), but most people are planning on pulling an all-nighter to watch the results.

The crowd at the party was very mixed - lots of Americans, Mozambicans and people from dozens of other countries: India, Brazil, Nicaragua, UK and more. Very exciting. The majority of the people were clearly supporting Obama, but there was some Republican representation just to remind us that one of the beautiful things about the US is that we can clearly express our views in public, in the same venue, and not suffer any serious conflicts.

Tomorrow morning I am dragging Rico to our friend Sheila's house for sweet buns and coffee. We will watch the end of the poll closings together, and hopefully celebrate what I hope to be a win for Obama. :)

I am on SMS duty starting at 3am, meaning I've promised to text message regarding important developments with the following people: one of the Marines on guard at the US Embassy, our downstairs neighbor who is from the Sudan, several American friends, and my Moz/American girl N. I'll likely also call my parents, as the time difference will be in our favor, and I'm sure that everyone will still be awake!

After months of feeling apathetic about the election process, I'm finally in on the excitement! Very cool that I'll be able to look back and tell our kids that I voted for Obama via absentee ballot all the way from Mozambique!