Monday, August 25, 2014

When I bring a cat to Uganda

A few years ago a boy broke up with me.  And it sucked.  So I adopted a cat and named her after my favorite singer, and morbid pearl of Baltimore (my current city), Billie Holiday.  I met Billie at the shelter and when I stopped petting her for a second, she reached her little paw through the bars imploring me to continue.  I admired her forceful neediness.

Billie and I licked our wounds (her more literally from her spaying surgery) in my tiny studio apartment in Baltimore.  I was waitressing and looking for jobs.  I'd bring her home bits of chicken from the restaurant and my two  girlfriends,  Jen and Val, and I would hang out on my bed, growing up, and realizing how awesome it was to be young, single and living alone.  (Something I recommend every woman do in her life.)

Billie moved with me to DC and learned to love her new window perch overlooking the projects on 13th street more than she loved me.  When I moved to Uganda, I knew I would return home in a few months to grab a few things and to grab Billie.


Billie sitting on the love of her life

I was dreading taking my cat on the 26 hour journey back to Kampala because hell isn't other people, it's being responsible for the annoying thing on the plane.  When I have kids I plan to check them with my luggage.

Just as I was finalizing her paperwork, I called the USDA to double check the requirements.
"You cannot take your cat, she doesn't meet regulations."
I was heartbroken.  I'd have to say goodbye to my shedding friend forever.
Until Sarah, my goddess friend, agreed to take her and we could try again when I next return.  Which was amazing.  But, because I'm from NY, I thought I'd call the USDA again.
"Oh yeah, you can totally bring her.  Just get us her health paperwork by tomorrow."

...

So I grabbed Billie, shoved her into a cab to get her rabies shot updated.  But shit!  I need a fecal sample!  (See what I did there?)  So I rush Billie home and spend the next hour willing her with my eyes and syrupy voice to poop.  But the vet is closing in 15 minutes!  So I take a crusty old poop, stick it in the tube, and re-hydrate it with a splash of water so it looks fresh and bring it to the vet.

I wake up early and schlep to the vet to grab her paperwork (water poop worked) and rush to Alexandria, Virginia to the USDA office.  When the guards look confused I realized I was in the wrong branch office, and actually needed to be in Richmond which is 4 hours away.  I run to a rental car place.  Still no coffee.  No cars available.  Then, my second goddess friend, Jen, says "I'll drive from Baltimore and PICK YOU UP and take you to Richmond."

K.  She does that.  GPS says we'll get there at 4:30.  USDA says they close without exception at 3.  "But my sister's getting married!" ( Again:  http://chelseatosea.blogspot.com/2011/12/red-bangkok.html) No sympathy from the Ihatemyjob woman on he phone.  "Speed", I tell Jen.  Then, the Ugandan Embasssy called me.
"Your visa is delayed."
So I call my boss and I call the airline and move my ticket back two days.  I can now Fed Ex Billie's paper work.  We can turn around.
I buy Jen a beer.

Meanwhile, my hand has swollen to the size of a watermelon.  But I have random swelling all the time so this doesn't bother me.  But I decide, since I am in the US, I might as well see a hand doctor.  The doctor runs a bunch of tests and, as it turns out, I have Lyme disease and have probably had it for years.  Probably what this craziness was:  http://chelseatosea.blogspot.com/2011/08/bedrest-in-bangladesh.html.  So that's not good.

Billie's paperwork comes through fine and Wednesday morning I calmly try to put Billie into her travel bag.  She deeply wounds me.  I call my roommate, who has a sprained ankle, to help me and we hobble around, me with my flesh wound and watermelon hands, her with her limp foot, trying to grab Billie.  We finally corner her, and I throw a towel over her head and shove her into the bag growling like a devil child.  I decided not to sedate the cat because that's bad for her on the plane.  So there's that.

Billie meows all throughout the airport and I get a lot of looks, but I'm used to that re: white lady in Uganda.  Our first flight is 2 hours to Atlanta.  The plane is grounded for 5 hours. Billie is a wreck.  When we finally land in Atlanta, I miss all my connecting flights until the next night and Billie is bald from stress shedding.
"I'm sorry, we can't comp your rooms because the delay is due to weather."
"But my sister is getting married!"  Yet again: (http://chelseatosea.blogspot.com/2012/01/french-nuns.html)
'Cause a hustler's gotta hustle.

So me and Billie get into our free hotel and she chills out under the bed like some childhood nightmare and I grab some ribs and beer because I'm in Georgia.  I get back and I find the cat in the carrier I had to force her into earlier.  I think my cat has Stolkholm Syndrome.



Billie acting concerningly weird

The next day we board another 2 hour flight to Detroit, lay over 1 hour, 8 hour flight to Amsterdam, 2 hour lay over, 8 hour flight to Rwanda, 1 hour layover, and then a 1 hour flight to Uganda.

Me and Billie step off, smelling like fresh peaches, and all 3 of my bags are missing.  I go to lost baggage and I'm back in Uganda when the person takes a tea break in the middle of my inquiry.
Finally, "I'm sorry, your bags are not trackable."
"Is there anything we can do?"
"No."
"K."
p.s. it's 4 days later and I still don't have my bags...

We took the hour car ride home, I released Billie into her new house, she shot me a dirty look, and I didn't see her again for 48 hours.

Next challenge: Making homemade cat litter out of newspaper, dish soap and baking soda.

And of course the Lyme disease.

Ugandan Coworker: "Why are you bringing your cat when we have cats here?"
Me: "I don't know, I'm a crazy person."
Ugandan Coworker: "Yeah."




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