Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Overwhelming Gratitude

At the end of each day, I swing open the burglar bar gate, then the wooden door, place my bag on the chair, and drop my keys onto the kitchen table. Strong rays of sunshine combined with my never-ending to do list usually leave me exhausted and covered in a layer of sand. I say hello to my kitty, grab a glass of ice cold water, sit in front of the fan, and immediately press the cold glass  to my forehead in an effort to cool my overheating body. Sweat constantly drips from my brows and my filthy feet remind me of all the distance I've traveled in the village throughout the day.

I take a moment to reflect upon the days activities and reach out to grab two glass containers. One is labeled "take time to remember" and the other says "the moments that matter." The first container contains blank, folded up pieces of paper waiting to have something written on it to give it meaning. The second is of course, to contain my precious memories of all the things I love, appreciate, and give thanks for. It only takes a few moments to jot down the moments that brought a smile to my face that day, and I'll be so happy to have them written down in the years to come.

Somewhere along the line, I've become an avid fan of taking time to see life's little blessings. So, naturally, thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all. It's a WHOLE DAY devoted to recognizing all that we've been given. I try my best to remind my loved ones how much I love and appreciate them all through out the year, but I admit that I'm human and I don't always find the time to really give them credit for all they do.

Joining the Peace Corps has been life changing and it's near impossible to put my finger on what has taught me the most. Leaving the comfort of home has taught me so much about myself, integrating into a new community on my own has taught me to have endless amounts of patience, motivating behavior change has taught me that development work isn't as romantic as it sounds.

Life is life no matter where you're at on the globe. People are people everywhere. There will always be someone who has it worse than you do, and in turn, there will always be someone who has it better than you do. There's something to be said about following your dreams and climbing your way to the top, but one thing that's certain to me is that you can't get anywhere without the people who support you.

I wouldn't be where I am today without you.

Thank you… to those of you who pray for my adventures.
Thank you… to those of you who respond to my emails in an effort to keep me informed.
Thank you…to those of you who don't respond to my emails because you are busy touching the lives of others.
Thank you…to those of you who call frequently to ask about the nitty gritty of my work.
Thank you…to those of you who send me photos of what you're doing back home.
Thank you…to those of you who help me see the light & lead me through the darkest of my days.
Thank you…to those of you who send letters, care packages, and love.
Thank you… to those of you who urge me to measure smiles instead of HIV transmission rates.
Thank you… to those of you who send me quotes, songs, and books to read to maintain my optimism.
Thank you… to those of you who make home seem much closer to me than it is.
Thank you… to those who yell at me when I'm being a sissy and complain about how frustrating work can be.
Thank you… to those of you who continue to believe in the work I am doing.

You all know who you are… thank you for you.

My heart is truly overwhelmed with gratitude. I am me because of you… because you love me, support me, and believe in me. Your faith and dedication helps me get through the worst of my days. I am beyond blessed to have established such a relentless support group in the states and I continue to find joy in my new family and friends in Botswana.

I feel very lucky to have genuinely kind and compassionate people in my life, sprinkled all over the globe. We're not so different you know… I mean, all of us around the world. People never cease to amaze me.

I pray that you can take some time on thanksgiving this year to really reflect upon all you've been given. Treasure your memories with your loved ones, give more hugs and kisses than you've ever imagined possible, and don’t be afraid to show people you love them. Time will not wait! Your blessings are abundant. Give thanks for each and every blessing… today & every day to come.

Love & Light,

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kitten Steps

Cute little Makibikibi

Yikes! It has been quite a quite the week with my poor kitty. I'm happy to say he is still alive, making progress, and taking teeny , tiny kitten steps.

After seeing the vet on Monday, he seemed to be a little more alert and I was so delighted to find that he ate a small amount of tuna on his own that evening .I went to sleep feeling a bit more hopeful, only to wake in the morning to find him without an appetite again. Monday evening was apparently giving me false hope because he quickly relapsed into zombie cat on Tuesday morning.

The vet in Hukuntsi has proven to be a very genuinely kind man. He phones each day to check on my kitty and worked with me to devise a new plan to treat my cat. As I've mentioned, access to medicine out on this side of the country is very difficult -- so, we decided to take the matter into our own hands. We needed penicillin for my cat and I just so happen to work at a clinic. Brilliant. 

He doesn't look too thrilled, but I'm
so happy he's ok! 
My beloved coworkers gave me penicillin (very obviously for humans), syringes, vitamin B tablets, and needles to help treat Kibi. Our pharmacist diligently calculated the correct dilution for my cat after referring to the recommendations from my vet. After several phone calls to confirm the treatment, I had the right medicine.

Remember the vet office in Kang that has no vet? Well, at least they have a vet tech assistant who knows how to do injections. I truly recruited all kinds of people to help and scavenged resources from all around the village to get my cat the injections he needed.

Kibi received three more penicillin injections on Friday & Saturday, and I'm happy to report he is acting more and more like himself. He has begun to walk again, although he is a bit disoriented still and stumbles on occasion. Food no longer disgusts him and he will eat small amounts when placed in front of him, instead of turning his head away. Milk appeals to him too and I was so overjoyed to see him sit and drink on his own.

He still has a long road of recovery in front of him, but I really hope the worst is in the past. His bones are quite prominent after such profound weight loss and dehydration, but he should be putting some weight back on as long as he continues eating. I saw him watching a bug last night too - it's the most alert I've seen him in over a week!

finally eating milk & tuna !
Despite all the obstacles in the way and people volunteering to brai (grill) my cat since he was not improving, I've managed to nurse him back to better health. He's not 100% yet, but I sure am glad to see his progress. And in addition to his improvement, I've had a heck of a time with cross-cultural conversations about pets in America. People were shocked to discover that cats purr - I explained that  it's an indication of when they're happy. No one had heard of that before.

I don't think we're too crazy as Americans. Pets become a part of the family for a reason - they love unconditionally, provide joy & remind us to be playful in our every day lives. Give some extra love to your furry friends back home! I'm so thankful for all the love & support I've received about Kibi too… we're both getting better each day!

Love & Light,

Monday, November 5, 2012

An Inch Away from Death

It sounds really great to be able to say, "I'll leave behind my whole life as I know it to move to a foreign country. I'll be fine living on my own. No problem." I said those words as I boarded the plane in April, but as it turns out, I was lying to myself.

Before departing for Botswana, I remember reading a blog post from a Peace Corps Volunteer in another country who had a pet pass away during service. Immediately, I felt bad for this stranger who adopted a furry friend. Her words indicated her obvious heartache and I vowed to not let that happen to me during my own service in Botswana.

So much for that idea!

Away from any sort of familiar comfort, I couldn't help but feel the urge to get a pet. In the back of my mind, I always knew it could turn out disastrous (especially in a country where people don’t care about their animals the way Americans do). However, the voice of reason was overtaken by the offer to take a cute kitty off the hands of another Peace Corps Volunteer. Just under a year old, already vaccinated, fluffy, cute, and playful! Come on… I couldn't pass it up.

after giving kibi a bath
Enter Makibikibi. This sweet little kitty who I've taken to calling 'kibi' has completely stolen my heart. He can be very timid around strangers, but after a short time, we became good friends. I have gotten used to coming home and having him meow, begging for food. My family tells me my cat is "so fat & happy" and "he's the luckiest cat in Botswana" because I take such good care of him. Ok, so he's spoiled.

Everyone who knows me in my village knows I love my kitty. And yes, I may have become a crazy cat lady, but I dare say this can happen to anyone who becomes a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Well, my nice little life with my kitty came crashing down on Thursday. He stopped eating. His legs couldn't support him anymore. He fell while walking. He started breathing like he ran a marathon. His gums turned pale. He wouldn't drink water. He refused to do anything except lay limp on my bed, meowing every few hours.

My playful kitty turned into a very sick kitty in a short amount of time. Since I'm notoriously good at worrying, I put my cat into my Sherpa cat carrier and headed out for the vet office in my village hoping to find a doctor. Is it crazy to look for a vet at the vet office? The answer is yes. There was no vet to be found, only an assistant who explained to me that I would have to travel to a nearby village to find a vet (as there isn't actually a vet in vet office in kang - go figure). As I was getting ready to leave (and preparing myself to travel), they nonchalantly mention that the vet is away at a workshop in Gaborone until Monday.

kibi, just laying around my house 
I headed home to figure out what I was going to do, only to discover that his condition had gotten much worse. He started walking (stumbling) in circles, meowing like crazy, and walking into walls. He was panicking. And so I started to panic a bit too.

A dear friend here advised me to call a vet back in America for advice. Sounds crazy? Yup, it is crazy. But I had no idea what else to do. So we Skype her old vet office, explain the ridiculous situation that I found myself in, and ask for some advice. She was very calm and patient, explaining that she thought my cat was having heart failure. But since he wasn't an old cat, it could be asthma or some sort of infection. Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot for me to do except keep him still, avoid putting him in situations that scare him, and force milk and water into his mouth to keep him somewhat hydrated.

spending time with kibi 
Despite my previous plan to travel for the weekend to visit some friends, I decided I needed to stay home to care for my kitty as best as I could. And let me tell you, it was an incredibly depressing weekend. My cat's health deteriorated by the moment and my heart broke every time I had to force feed him. Pets have a way of really pulling on your heart strings… Goodness! I can't lie, I cried a lot, feeling very helpless and unable to help my cat. I just prayed he would make it through the weekend!

Monday morning came around and I was so pleased to find my cat still alive. Would he be able to endure the rest of the adventure? I got all my things together and headed to the hitching post in my village to hitch a ride to the next village over, about 115 km. Luckily, I found ride right away in the back of a truck. We arrived in Hukuntsi around 9:30, headed to the vet's office right away, and found a very friendly man waiting to help me. Although he focuses mainly on livestock, I found that he was very careful and kind to my kitty. He informed me that he used to work a lot more with small animals and misses the opportunity to work with them more.

After a quick exam, he found my cat had a temperature of 39.3 C (102.74 F), muscle atrophy, rapid weight loss, dehydration, rapid breathing, and confusion -all of the symptoms I described on the phone. Since my cat had all his vaccinations including heart worm medication, the vet decided it must be a really bad bacterial infection. He was shocked at how bad my cat's health was and told me that my cat surely wouldn't have survived the weekend without the little bit of liquid I poured in his mouth. My little kitty was an inch away from death  - truly - and I'm so thankful we made it to the vet office in time.

He gave two injections - an antibiotic and a drug to clear the body of toxins - to try to help my cat fight off whatever was killing him. The vet even mentioned how difficult it was for him to find enough muscle for the injection - my cat was losing muscle mass quickly!  Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot I can do now except wait… and hope that it's not more than an infection.
kids crowded around the car door to see my cat 
I hitched a ride back to my village, stopped along the way to drop other people in other villages, greeted some school children who couldn't help but stare at my cat, and arrived home around 3 PM. I really despise being in situations where you can't help someone or something you love… so I'm grateful to have been able to get my cat the most help I could today. I hope that this is the closest I become to writing a depressing blog post about losing a pet during service. I'll keep nurturing little kibi to help him get back to the cat I used to know… and I'll do my best to stay emotionally stable in the meantime.

That's what is dominating my life the past week! As the rest of America worries about the elections, I'll be worrying about keeping my cat alive. More later about other topics :o)

Love & Light,