Monday, March 3, 2008

kitten party!

(richard toll going after costello and jamm rekk looking on)

i finally have a kitten! she is super cute and i had almost forgotten how much fun it is to have a cat again. she's a little noisy/needy and i have to make sure that i don't spoil her but my life already feels so much more fun now that i have her around. i am so a secret crazy cat lady. the family here is pretty pumped and are very ready to spoil her with food and even want me to go and get her her own little bowl to eat out of.

the cat escapade was quite the endeavor and i am rather exhausted right now. on saturday (the 1st) i went out to kaffrine for the "team kaffrine" day. basically all the PCVs in the kaffrine area met at emmy's to talk about several things. after a day of meeting and ginger juice and the cyber (kaffrine now has 3 cybers!), me, JC, shelley, matt, and helen headed out to kaolack.

in anticipating our trip to kyla's to pick up our cats, JC and i had bought plastic picnic baskets (women use them for shopping in the market) to act as cat carriers and were giddily excited to get our kittens. the only problem was that we had heard from kyla and she could only find one of the kittens. regardless, we were going to go and take our chances ad hope that the kittens would show up. we got to the garage and on our way to the al-hums (mini-cars), i spotted a scrawny little black and white kitten chilling by the benches. i jokingly asked JC if she wanted to grab that one, not really thinking she would because a) he was dirty and b) she probably wouldn't be able to catch him anyhow, considering how the street cats are here. we both looked at him for a while and then JC was like, "sure, why not?" she cautiously approached him and quickly tried to grab him. turns out, he didn't even try to run off and was easily scooped up and plopped into the basket.

the little guy caused a huge amount of chaos at the garage and all these guys tried to make us pay for hte cat or to pay its fare in the 7-plaas. very annoying, as there was no way this cat ever belonged to anybody (as senegalese are not very found of cats) and its not like people ever pay for the children or goats or chickens they bring on board. in the meantime, while we argued with all the garage people, he managed to squeeze out of the lid of the basket -- not once, but twice -- and then scampered off about 5 feet to go and sit under the tire of an al-hum. both times he was retrieved just as easily as he was the first time. no protestations, just keen on sitting under a mini car wheel. weird little guy.

JC named him richard toll, after the city up north, and a name that we've had for her cat since christmas when the kittens were born and we started to day dream about their existences in our lives. he seemed to accept his fate very well and settled down during the car ride from kaffrine to kaolack. at one point during the ride, i checked on him in his basket and he was asleep, lying on his back, paws up in the air!

when we got to kaolack, richard toll got a bath (much needed as he was found in a garage), which he did not enjoy very much but still handled rather well. he had an egg while we had banana splits for dinner and we all spoiled him with attention and cuddling (now that he was quasi clean). richard toll eagerly accepted his new life, which is undoubtedly five thousand times better than living in the kaffrine garage. he's a goofy little dude, pretty fearless, and has a plucky personality. we were all very happy to have him in the house.

richard toll

the next day, JC and i got up pretty early, stuck richard toll in the bathtub, and headed out to kyla's site in hopes of picking up some more kittens. kyla had told us that she would continue looking for the others and if there was more than one, we would take the other back for shelley. the road out to nioro is probably the worst road i have ever been on. it is quite possibly more potholes than road and subsequently, while teh distance out there is less than 60k, the trip takes about 2.5 hours of being jostled around in a heap of metal crammed in like a bunch of sweaty sardines. at least i had a traveling companion and i couldn't help snickering about the colossal effort we were making just to get some kittens.

we finally got there around noon and trekked out about 1k through the bush in the hot sun to kyla's site which is a pulaar village. neither JC or i speak pulaar. thankfully a bunch of them spoke wolof so it wasn't too strange when two random toubabs showed up in the middle fo the day carrying baskets and dripping in sweat. this had been where JC had demysted and she was recognized and well received. pulaars are always so nice.

we found kyla who then showed us to her hut where all 3 kittens were being kept hostage. she had found them all an they were all sprawled out when she opened the door to her hut. they were all super cute but i had claimed "the striped one: as mine and had already named her "jamm rekk" which means "peace only" in wolof. since tehre were 3 but we had already found richard toll, one had to be left behind with kyla (which isn't as bad as it sounds because the entire village cares for the cats) and one would be brought back for shelley. we decided that the white one with the 4 distinc spots would be good for shelley. she's also the one who had fallen down the douche (a fact we felt shelley would enjoy) and had to be rescued by kyla and a big stick. kiddo, kyla's cat and the mother of the kittens, had just weaned the 3 kittens and was making it quite clear that she was ready for them to move ou so it was all very good timing. we hung around for a while and had lunch while we waited for the sun to chill out (later i would find out that the temperature reached 106 degrees!).

we left around 4:30, cats in tow, to which they protested greatly and struggled to get out of the baskets. they both pooped in the baskets out of fear. we flagged down an al-hum and amused a good number of people with our cats in baskets. shelley's cat peed on JC and when we got home, i discovered that jamm rekk had peed all over herself. by then she was soaked in pee and thoroughly pissed off at me (no pun intended) but i had to bathe her, which did not improve her mood.

the trip exhausted both of us and the cats and now there were 3 kittens in the house. shelley named her kitten costello and the 3 of them romped around while we obsessively watched successive episodes of "arrested development." richard toll, the scrappy garage cat, initially had a hard time adjusting to sharing his space with other but by the next day the 3 of them were chasing and playing with each other. costello is a little reserved and shy (who wouldn't be after falling down a douche?) and richard toll wouldn't stop bugging her. he's maybe a half a month younger than the sisters so a little bit smaller and wouldn't stop picking fights withe costello and jamm rekk, to which he is quickly schooled about biting girls. we eventually took them out to the courtyard for a kitten party and they played while we laughed at them like doting mothers.


eventually it was time to depart and go back to site so i stuffed jamm rekk back into her basket and we headed out to her new home. she pooped herself out of fear again (graceful, i know) and cried the entire ride out to birkelane. the charette ride was equally not as fun for me or her and since she had crapped herself, she had to be bathed again when we got back to the hut. my people were really excited to have her in the village and word traveled fast that the toubab cat had arrived and she received more visitors than i did when i just moved into the village.

i left her in the hut to chill out and relax a bit and by the time i came back in, i discovered a dead mouse! either that cat is smart and already earning her keep or it is a very wacky coincidence that as soon as she shows up, the elusive mice start dying.

she's a little purring machine and has already attached herself to me. she's also very noisy and vocal and meows constantly for attention -- which is slightly annoying but simultaneously endearing and my villagers laugh to see me react to her cries as they do to their babies. everybody is quite amused by my love for this kitten and the kids are both scared by eager to play with her. it is cool to have them around while she's purring and playing and maybe we are helping to teach a small lesson on the better treatment of cats and animals in general. it has been interesting trying to teach the kids that they can play with her but that she will bite or scratch if provoked (which all the kids are very good at doing). everybody calls her my "doom," meaning "child" and every time people greet me, they now ask me about jamm rekk and how she is.

jamm rekk

hooray for kittens!

more pictures of furballs on flickr.

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