Thursday, January 29, 2009

Photos from Ghotki District

My company's supports a school nutrtion program in over 2,000 schools in this region. Daily, we provide biscuits and milk to about 160,000 kids. Given my breakneck schedule, I only had ONE day to go out to the field office. Part of that day was spent visiting two of these schools, handing out milk, meeting and chatting with the children. This little boy was singing a song from the Qur'an to welcome me, chest puffed out and arms wrapped tightly around. He was very proud!
Girls drinking milk!
Bata, the European shoe company, donated a load of canvas shoes and sports equipment to one of our all girl's schools. I helped hand out shoes to the littlest receipients.

Part of the shoe and sports equipment ceremony in a very small courtyard.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


After the exciting Monday morning visiting Old Town, I went back to the office, did a little work and then took off with my chaperone to Sukkur, population 2 million, in Sindh province. It’s here we have our school feeding project and I have ONE day to see three schools, our distributor’s and everything in between.

The airplane ride was uneventful, but there were a few things that I wanted to note. Our flight was delayed by two hours – but that was pretty much expected.

No one asked for my id at the airport. Perhaps my foreign name matches my foreign looks, and I don’t look threatening, so they let it slide. Fine.

However, there were a lot of security checks. There weren’t separate lines for women – we were still asked to go through the metal detector, but then all women were pulled, one by one, into a dark, curtained room and frisked by a female. And by frisked, I mean felt up. First time, I didn’t notice so much, but the second time, there was definitely too much touching in the chestal area.

Also, personal biases aside, I notice that the communication style isn’t so straightforward here. I’ve encountered this in other places, sure, but it’s taken to new and dazzling heights here. I get detailed explanations on what I should and shouldn’t wear, but then zilch on others.

For example, my chaperone handed me some paper luggage tags when we checked in. It just so happens that I have a large orange embroidered leather luggage tag my mom gave me on my carry on, so I politely declined. He put them in my hands and walked away. I stuffed them in my bag.

We get to security and I get stopped. Where are my luggage tags? I point to my LARGE ORANGE luggage tag. That’s not good enough, says the big scary soldier, so, thinking quickly, I pull out the previously stuffed paper tags and slip them on.

It’s only then that I understand what’s going on. The scary dude hole punches my tags and let’s me go get fondled. I emerge, slightly ruffled, and collect my things. I get stopped again, trying to leave the area. A woman not only must twice stamp my boarding pass, but ALSO my luggage tags.

By this time, my chaperone is so far ahead of me, I have no idea where he’s at. And I’m a little miffed he didn’t take TWO SECONDs to explain to me why I needed these tags in the first place, instead of just handing them to me and walking away. I mean, no harm, no foul, but this is just one example of many. If it was the first time, I wouldn’t think anything of it. But after awhile, you start to seriously doubt whether they do this on purpose or not.

The only other thing of note is that, before taking off, the captain got on the speaker and sang to us. I could tell it was some kind of prayer, and this was confirmed by my chaperone as something one sings before traveling.

Huh. I wonder what would happen if airplane pilots in the US started doing this? There would probably be a lot more suspicions of drunk pilots, but other than that, it’s kind of a nice tradition.

I arrived in Sukkur, two hours late, but no worse for wear. I was greeted so warmly by our project staff, who explained that even the towels were purchsed new (and washed!) for me, already I’m regretting that I have so short a time here. I leave again tonight, on another PIA flight that has already been cancelled and delayed by 3 hours.

I am ready to arrive in Karachi for the last day of my trip. I leave Pakistan tomorrow evening. (In sha'allah!)

Old Town Lahore

After my morning meeting Monday, I conned my driver and my male escort (I’ve come to think of him that way, if only to feel less like I’m being “chaperoned” and more that he must do my bidding) into taking me to see Old Town Lahore.

Of course, this being Pakistan, we couldn’t just “slip away”. I had to get the approval of our team leader, who is a reasonable Pakistani man, but it still makes me feel helpless. To his credit, he gave me only two stipulations: 1) that I wear a headscarf at all times and 2) that I wear my trenchcoat. Keep in mind, I’ve been wearing long, loose clothing the whole time I’ve been here. So, when I asked him about the reasoning for the trenchcoat issue, his embarrassed response (immediately making me feel bad) was “To protect you from prying eyes.”

Not only did this make me feel like kind of like a dirty prostitute, but I also wanted to tell him that it was completely useless. I could be wearing a paper sack and people still stare. I might as well be naked. And yet….I’m in no position to argue. (Also, in three days I’ll be back to “normal people clothes”).

So no matter, I had my freedom, if only for an hour. I must ask for permission, but at least he’s a benevolent despot.

So after the meeting, I was whisked away to the Lahore Fort, Hazuri Bagh and Badshahi Mosque. Until I get a chance to download my photos, the ones on Wiki certainly give you and idea of the scope and size. Both are enormous!

As we entered through the unassuming gate, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We don’t get a lot of details here, and asking doesn’t always help. Part of traveling, I think, is trusting those you’re with and just going with the flow. So, I was totally amazed to walk into the park. In typical Mughal fashion, everything is symmetrical. As such, the garden gives off an orderly and stately peace. It took my breath away.

On either side of the garden are these enormous gates. On the east side, there is the enormous and foreboding white gate. Across the immense lawn, to the west, was the red sandstone entrance to the Badshahi Mosque, of which you could only see the three Alladin (you know what I’m talking about) domes peaking out majestically behind.

A tour guide quickly found me, and my chaperone approved of him, so he took us around both sites. Although we only had an hour, we saw the Hall of Mirrors, the Roshani Gate and played with the acoustics within the enormous mosque. (It was once the largest in the world, before the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad was built). All too soon, the hour was up and I felt like I’d only seen a fraction of what was there.

For me, the absolute best part was visiting a gurudwara, a Sikh temple, next door. This particular temple, next door to the Mosque, is the tomb of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, one of the rulers of Pakistan before it was. Sikh’s are near and dear to my heart for a number of reasons, so I was honored to view the Guru Granith Sahib and be allowed to see inside their hallowed walls. Again, it took my breath away.

Our car arrived back at the office breathless, but safe and sound (the traffic here is like none I’ve ever seen; smoggy, dirty, filled with people AND donkeys AND horses AND motorbikes AND the kitchen sink…).

Yes, we’ve been working easily 12 hour days (we were stuck at a Pakistan Sam’s Club (called METRO) over an hour on Sunday night, when all we wanted to do was go to bed), but it’s opportunities like these that truly make it worth while. It’s hard, and been uncomfortable in a lot of ways, but I am so lucky to get to do this. I am truly grateful.

Pakistan Zindabad!

While our schedule is tight, me and the team were able to convince our Pakistani counterparts to take a little time off yesterday to drive the 30 km to Wagah, better known as the border crossing between Pakistan and India. Dean and I had read about it in the Lonely Planet, and it sounded like it shouldn’t be missed.

According to the guide, every day, approx 30 minutes from sundown, guards at each crossing gather to try to out “pomp” the other side. For Rp 10 (about…well, less than 1/7th of a dollar), people are allowed into the stadium surrounding the official gates between the borders to watch the guards march up and down, and growl at each other from across country lines. The crowd claps and cheer, and chants “Pakistan Zindabad! (Long Live Pakistan!)” or “Al-LAH! Al-LAH! Al-LAH!”

It. Is. Spectacular. I got chills watching the crowd being whipped into a frenzy.

On the Pakistani side, men are separated from women, but there is a special seating arrangement for tourists, down front, where both sexes mix. After a long and dusty ride, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m certain it wasn’t throngs of Pakistan men chanting, throwing their hands in the air and yelling “Allah wa Akhbar!” (God is great!) In comparison, the women sitting like colorful peacocks in their sparkly salwar kameez’s could barely muster a clap. For our part, the tourists were kind of stuck in between.

We arrived to much confusion, and pushing, finally finding a spot for our group down front. A tiny old man and a middle aged fellow dressed head to foot in Pakistan green waved enormous flags down the center of the stadium, and lead the preliminary chanting. Across the floor, about 200 meters from me to my left, the double gates were closed and behind them, you could vaguely make out the roar of the Indians. To my right were the gates we’d walked in on and, well, the rest of Pakistan.

Suddenly, 15 Pakistani solders wearing dark blue garb and turbans with giant starched folded paper fans (but out of cloth) tucked in the top, rapidly marched out in square formation to the middle. Their steps were quick; and every moment or so, one would jump up, kick his toes to his head and stomp ceremoniously on the ground. It looked like bulls going out to a fight, stomping and blowing hot air. I swear one guy was like, 8 feet tall.

The crowd roared.

Much more stomping and crowd frenzy ensued. Two men marched down to the gate, kicked up their heels some more and, in perfect synchronization with the Indian side, opened the gate. One soldier from either side stomp-danced forward, they shook hands, and then the real fun began. A few more soldiers from the back came forward (again, perfectly mirroring another set of soldiers on the other side). They stompled and growled and even put their hands menacingly up in the air like tiger claws. The Indian side did something similar (but in brown costume).

Finally, after much more of this, the soldiers moved to take down the flags on either side. Atop the stadium to my right, where we entered, was an enormous portrait of Ali Jinnah, the father of Pakistan. Below him, three soldiers stood with their arms, and called out several times in a long, deep drone. I’m not sure what he was saying, but after several more minutes of this, the flags were lowered, there was more cheering and then it was over.

Our team streamed back to the car, kind of awestruck. One of our consultant’s remarked – ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if all international conflict could be solved this way?’

Judging by the recent bombings in Mumbai and the subsequent blame on Pakistan, plus the historical tenseness (they were once one country; it’s a long story!), I can’t say that this has worked in either countries favor.

However, I can enjoy the tradition.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


This this this this this this this, is the best thing to hit international development in my short career. The first time I heard about this ban, I was flabbergasted. It's long be known in the public health sectors as the "ABC" method - Abstinence, Be Faithful and Condoms. You had to discuss all three, in that order, equally.

While I don't necessarily disagree that discussing ALL options (including abstinence) is a good idea, how do you tell a gang-rape victim in Southern Soudan that she should "Be Faithful" to her husband?

No, my main beef is that it's kept women-centric organizations, like Planned Parenthood, unble to access funding so that they can provide SIMPLE assistance to those who need it (we're talking something as basic as access to condoms and pre-natal care, not world wide abortions).

This is an important distinction. It's not that the US government is now giving organizations money to perform abortions overseas. NO. It's that ANY organization that even breathed the possibility of perhaps offering an abortion or abortion counseling or any mention of the "A" word (that wasn't Abstinence) either internationally or domestically was immediately rejected out of hand from receiving government funding to do any assistance overseas.

So, thank you Mr. Obama for having the heart to understand the need for comprehensive reproductive healthcare for women the world over. This dogmatic legislation has left underprivileged without access to so many of the freedoms we take for granted in the United States.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Obama, for not mixing "standing up for your ideals" with blind entrapment in ideology.

As a uterine-fitted citizen, I am proud to call you my President.

(As a side note - last night I was shopping in the Liberty Market of downtown Lahore, and chatting with a shopkeeper about some of his clothing. When he found out I was an American, he gave me a discount for being a part of "Obama Nation"! (I wonder if before I was being charged a Bush tax?))

Friday, January 23, 2009

Keep Your Arms, Feet and Clothing Inside the Vehicle

Driving to Lahore today, we stopped at a roadside pitstop for refreshments and to stretch our legs.

I've been wearing long scarves wrapped loosely around my neck, but I'm unaccoustomed to having them draped about me and not tied tight against the wind, so they're constantly falling down and getting caught on things. Conversely, I like having it on hand for a) it's warmth and b) to cover my head when needed.

Little did I know it would garner more attention that necessary today.

As we pulled back onto the roadway, the Pakistani motor police happened to pass us by. They cut in front of our car and motioned that we should follow.

Heart beating, we all wondered what on earth they could want from us.

Sitting in the back, I immediately reached over to pull on my seatbelt (yes yes I know). At that point, I realized that I'd inadvertantly slammed a majority portion of my dupatta (about 4 feet long) in the car door!

As I hastily pulled it in, the policeman, who had gotten out of his card, shouted something in Urdu (something that sounded like : Hey! Your crazy American infidel is waving her clothing around for the entire countryside to see! We are all inappropriately aroused!) and started laughing.

Relieved, we dissolved into fits of cackling laughter.

Needless to say, I retired the dupatta for the rest of the trip......

Yes, that's less conspicuous

Every once and a while, I'll see an older person with spots of red on his beard, or near his temple. The other day, in the bakery, I saw an elderly man with his entire head dyed fire engine red.

In Africa, red tinged hair is a marker of advanced malnutrition. I asked one of my Pakistani work colleagues what that was all about. He laughed and said, "Oh that's just men trying to hide their grey hair with henna."

Fire engine red?

Yes, he said, they think it's more sophisticated.
It's alot of things, but sophisticated is not one that springs to mind.


While I've warmed up considerably to Pakistan - especially during the long beautiful drive between Islamabad and Lahore today - there have been challenges this week.

One of the dimensions I'm struggling with over here is both an age and cultural gap between myself and one of our staff members. He's 30 years older than I, and was once in the Pakistani army. As such, although extremely accomodating and solicitious, every once and while he says something that has me stewing.

We're eating alot of greasy food, with limited healty options, and we're all starting to feel the bloat. One evening, he gave me hard time about becoming so fat that when I returned no one in the office would recognize me.

Last night, I was a "good little girl" for having a salad at Subway (yes - he made us go to Subway in the land of biryani, kabab and chicken jalfrazi). He thought I might not get so fat now.

Then, he went on to disparage post-partum women, declaring that "so many of them let themselves go and become fat"(I wanted to ask him if he'd ever tried carrying around a 7lb baby without gaining any weight, but I judiciously held my tongue).

This morning I was "too young" to represent our company in a meeting with a large bank. Well, more accurately, he made a wide generalization about how young our group is to be going to this Bank (one is 40, one is 35 and I am 29. Spring chickens we're not) and then, so that we all got it, pointed at me and said "I'm talking about you."

Honestly, at this point, I've been frustrated so many times that I can't do anything now than just hold my tongue and laugh at the next crazy thing he says. Tonight he grilled me on how I was going to wear my dupatta (head scarf). Tomorrow it will probably be about how fat I am again.

On the other hand, he has done some wonderful things (negotiating with a trade for me on a beautiful piece of Afghani jewlery) and is genuinely concerned that I enjoy my time here.

Thing is, I can't enjoy myself if I'm constantly being grilled.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Notes on.....Everything

People keep telling me that Islamabad is like the "Disney Land" of Pakistan - ie not real. There is a long wide boulevard and the streets are pretty clean. It's January, so everything is stubbly and brown, but judging by the amount of pruned rose bushes I see, it's probably a beautiful city in the summer time. The first day we were here, it was dark and cold, but subsequent days have been sunny and downright cheerful.

There are people around, but not throngs. There is traffic, but not gridlock. I was telling a friend over skype tonight that thus far, Islamabad to me has been a series of conference rooms, guesthouses, one extremely nice hotel (the Serena), and several concrete strip malls. Needless to say, I don't see that I've gotten a very good "feel" for the country.

Tomorrow, we leave for Lahore, the capital of Punjab and the second largest city. Punjab is considered the breadbasket of Pakistan, but mostly what it makes me thing of is the guy from Little Orphan Annie.

(Yes, I am culturally sensitive, thankyouverymuch)

And for all the hype about how dangerous it is here, I don't feel like a Threatened Woman. I haven't had much more than the random photograph taken, or stared at. I'm not cowering in my bed at night, waiting to be taken by mullahs. I haven't been groped, or even leered at.

I know that most women have it tough here. I don't want to down play acid throwing, honor killings (known as karo kari) and the treatment of women as commodities. There are real and undeniable inequalities, even among so called "upper class". I'm currently reading "My Feudal Lord" by Tehemina Durrani, who describes her destructive marriage to Mustafa Khar, influential Punjabi politician in the late 70's and early 80's. For lack of a longer description, he basically beats the tar out of her for 10 years - and she takes it because she feels she has no other choice.

I'm of two minds reading this book - at once fascinated at stupidity of her thinking (through my western lense, I find her reasons for staying just....heartbreaking) and revulsed by the cruelness of Paksitani men and patriarchal underpinnings of their society.

Isn't this the image that we're all used to seeing? The scary, dominant, Middle Eastern, tyrant man? It was sitting in a row of similar titles like "Behind the Veil" or "Honeymoon in Purdah" or "My Kurdish Tyrant" or "A Summer's Eve in Kabul" get the point. There's not so much good press about Middle Eastern/Subcontinent men.

So I have to wonder, are there any good men in Pakistan? Judging by the press, I'd say not. But, I can't believe this is true.

I don't know where I'm going with this except - don't believe everything you read, about Pakistan or otherwise. Go there, experience it and draw conclusions for yourself.

Tomorrow - Lahore!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Houssain? I am!

It was interesting watching Obama's inauguration from my Islamabad hotel tonight. It's no suprise that Obama is popular the world over - especially in the in the Muslim world. In fact, the media claims that Obama has ties to Pakistan (if you count having Pakistani friends as "ties". .....Whatever that means.)

Anyway, although this trip is more than a little awkward, it's made less so by the fact that now the world doesn't hate our President.

Woo hoo!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pakistan, Day Two: Sophmoric and Uneventful.

Today was completely uneventful.

I got up at 5:15, and had breakfast in the hotel cafe. Then, I sat in a conference room until 2pm. Went back to the cafe and had lunch. Then, sat in the conference room.

Somewhere around 5:00, I went upstairs and had a twenty-minute nap.

Then, it was back to the conference room.

We finished around 7:30.

Luckily, I was able to talk Rashid into taking us out for dinner at a BBQ place. We passed one called "Butt BBQ" and I couldn't stop giggling. Perhaps they only serve rump roast...?

That is, until Rashid explained that Butt is a common Kashmiri name.

And that was pretty much the highlight of my day.

The end.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm In.

This morning at 3am, Dean, Brad and I arrived in Islamabad. Although it’s considerably warmer than Minnesota right now (about 50 degrees), it’s also damp, rainy and chilly. Glad I packed my long johns! Am looking forward to moving southward, to Lahore and Karachi later on next week.

Having slept until noon, I woke up to find Dean and our Pakistan Country Manager, Rashid, on their way out the door for a walk. We were scheduled to drive to Murree today, about 1 ½ hours away, to see the British hill stations. It was a chance to see some of Pakistan before starting work tomorrow. I got them to wait five minutes, and soon Brad and the other consultant, Greg, joined us as well. Unfortunately, the late start, pouring down rain/hail and general inclemency had us abandoning that trip before even the first stop.

Instead, Rashid and the drivers took us to two scenic overlooks of the city, which, by the time we got there, had cleared up enough for a nice view. We had chai at a beautiful restaurant set high in the hills above the city, along with the rest of Islamabad’s population. After that, we wound our way back down the slick and winding roads to a local market, where Dean bought a Kashmir coverlet for his bed and Brad bought a sweater.

At every stop, I am stared at. Not impolitely, but casually and with interest. I’ve been covering my head, more to keep my head dry and warm, than to keep the stares away. (They stare anyway). A little girl came up to me, not more than 12 at one of the overlooks and wanted a photo with me. We chatted for a little bit – she is studying in Islamabad, but from Lahore. She wanted to know my name, and its meaning. I wanted to ask her why me, but I didn’t.

Dean is conducting a project for one of his friends, who is an elementary school teacher. They have this cartoon character, Flat Stanley, which is basically a cardboard cutout of a little man about a foot high. We’re supposed to take photos of him in all these exciting places. Dean asked the girl to hold him and took one (of many) photos today.

Last stop was the National Monument of Pakistan, which looks like a big ½ of a lotus flower. Four enormous petals rise off a platform, with etchings of former leaders (Iqbal, Jinnah) and other famous Pakistani monuments (Faisal Mosque). Rashid’s driver, Nawaz, broke out some more chai for us from the boot of his car, which we drank in the rain. We also had some cold samosas and gulab jamun (my favorite!).

Currently, I am waiting for my internet to start working and the electricity to come back on in my hotel room (in that order). There have been intermittent power outages all day, I assume because of the weather and in part rolling blackouts that are hitting the country (although I hear this is mostly in Lahore).

One day down and nine more to go. So far, so good.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Now THAT's a cold shoulder...

I am not immune to the risks of traveling to Pakistan. I've been involved in no less than five security briefings this week. While I understand the risks, my commitment to living a life free of fear and embracing adventure far outweighs any trepidation I may have. I mean, what white-bred chick off the farm gets the opportunity to get to Pakistan in their lifetimes?

Also, I remembered my friend Jean-Marc was in Pakistan this September, when the government had pretty much shut down the entire country (it's true; even British Airways wouldn't fly there) I was in East Timor at the time, skyping him. He was very much ok; and enjoyed his time there.

So, while I don't mean to be harsh or flip about the very real security risks, I do really wish people would stop acting like I'm going to die.

No less than five people came into my cube this afternoon to wish me well, remind me to be safe and, the more morbid ones, to say a final goodbye. While this is nice, being reminded over and over again that I might die is not.

I was trying to finish a ton of things, so by the time G. came by, I was at my wit's end with this lunacy.

G, marches into my cube, into my personal space without a warning: "Ok, give me a hug."

Me, eyeball deep in year end performance review crap that needed to be done for me to get my raise: "Mmmmmmmmm, huh?"

G, "Give me a hug. You're leaving."

Me, thinking quickly about how to get out of this: "Yeeeeeeeeah, how about I give you a hi-five? I don't really hug co-workers."

G, seeming hurt, "But, what if you don't come back? This could be our last hug."

(PS. G likes to hug. I don't).

Me, turning back to my spreadsheet, mumbling: "Well then, you'll just have to hug my corpse."

///////Morbid, yes. But I am still kind of laughing about it.

What Do I WEAR?

This may sound trite, but I found myself honestly struggling with this question while preparing for my trip to Pakistan this week.

Not that I received mixed messages. Everyone I talked to cautioned me to dress modestly, and bring many scarves.

As my colleague Michael eloquently put it: "This is a good opportunity to use those silk scarves you have collected over your travels and/or off sales racks at Daytons."

Rashid, our Country Manager, requested that I bring no less than "Four formal dresses" (??? My only guess on this one was that he doesn't understand that "formal" translates into "prom" here in the US. Regardless of his suggestion, I am NOT bringing my green orgazana ballgown to Pakistan..)

Smartly, my friend Farida recommended the salwar kameez, a tunic and pants outfit worn commonly throughout southeast Asia. I agreed with her, but where to find any? This isn't something TJ Maxx normally carries...

Honestly, I've never been so frantic over wardrobe before. Usually, one gets the "western" card when traveling overseas (as in "Oh well, she's a westerner, she doesn't know better). But I already expect to stick out quite a bit, so if it's in my control to dress like the locals, why wouldn't I want to do that?

Hence, since Saturday, me running around the Twin Cities trying to find an India/subcontinent dress shop. I'd even stooped so low as to heading to Holy Land grocery in NE Mpls and accosting customers for ideas on where to shop. (Am not proud of this).

So, imagine my relief when last night when I was cruising down Central Ave in NE and I came across a small, but glittery, sari shop. I was so excited, I pulled over my car and RAN the three blocks in sub-zero temperatures, rather than turn around and find a closer spot. I was so afraid that it would close! The second I was in the door, I knew I was in the right place. Several kameez's (tunics) hung in the front entry way and, although too big, the shop keep was helpful in pointing out one's that would fit, and offering to tailor ones that didn't.

I spent the better part of an hour weeping with joy in the back room, finally picking out two outfits. One is a very somber, and warm, rough knit orange with a deep blue linen salwar (for lack of a better description - genie pants). It doesn't show too much cleave (I think!)

Secondly, I found a beautiful blue silk kameez with jewel embroidered flowers scattered across the front, paired with jewel toned purple pants/scarf. It was way too expensive (and I knew I'd be finding nice ones in Pakistan, too), but my vanity couldn't pass it up.

These, coupled with one my co-worked loaned to me, and the tunics I bought in Banda Aceh, I hope will bring me through.

I've packed Western clothes, too; a somber black suit and sweater set that never lets me down. My suitcase is bulging, but atleast I feel like I've got something for every occasion.

Goodness, I hope.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The First Trip 2009

I'll be going with a team for work for 10 days, starting this Friday. Our project is closing down there and I'll be giving some assistance to our team there. I'm 2% nervous and 98% excited!

Ruby Red

Last Saturday, with the help of my friend Kaydi, I went down to the Humane Society and adopted a cat. Ruby had been cooped up for two months, after being given up due to divorce, and was waiting for a good home. I took her to the vet on Tuesday, and besides needing to lose a little weight (you try living in a cage for two months), she is in perfect health.

I'm still not sure if I'm well suited to be a good "cat mother" but so far, so good. I haven't managed to poison, kill or maim her, and she seems to like me. She's terribly affectionate and loves to be petted. After an initial fight with my handbag, she's settled down to be quite a loveable companion.
I'm still getting used to being woken up at 5am with a cat in my face, but - love takes some adjusting. Gotta run. We've got our first case of cat puke!