Hospitality and Humor in Cairo

Source: Hospitality and Humor in Cairo

Click on the link to see my guest post on Mohamad Al Karbi’s blog.  I was moved to tears by his post about his Syrian father’s death recently – Home is where the heart is

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Zhenny – our crazy cat, RIP.

ZnK_Sept1
I had such a sad day yesterday. Our beautiful Zhenny’s heart stopped during a routine dental procedure and she is now buried in the garden with Mrs. Stripe who died earlier in the year. She was geriatric and had some cognitive difficulties but it was an unexpected death. Teddy and I are distraught despite knowing that she didn’t have much longer. She was so funny, loving and crazy, RIP our special girl. This is my original post about her.

I know – she is utterly beautiful. Her eyes are exquisite and she looks like a cat on a pyramid. That’s the problem… I first encountered her at the cat shelter where my husband and I volunteered in Cairo, Egypt. Her owner was moving from an American military base in Cairo to another in Korea and couldn’t take her fur baby. I can only imagine how her owner felt but Zhenny was distraught. She wouldn’t eat anything, despite our endless treats and pleading. The veterinarian put an IV drip in but she thought she was being tortured. We already had Mrs. Stripe and her daughter, Toffee, our garden cats, so we certainly didn’t want another one. We thought that Stripe would attack her anyway as she is so territorial. Then one day it was obvious that Zhenny was dying and I just put her in a crate, took her home so that she could die somewhere nice.

She was so skinny that we bought her a little cat nest with a hood so that she could feel safe and comfortable in her final days. To my surprise, when I introduced Stripe and Toffee to her, I could see them saying, ‘Poor little soul’ and thus she was accepted. The fight for her life went on for about a week with me forcing baby food into her mouth. In desperation I bought some minced beef and cooked it for her. For the first time, she seemed to have an appetite and started eating properly. By that time we were all bonded or used to each other’s scents and it was too late… That was 12 years ago and she was 18 months old. She is still alive but I have saved her life on another occasion when the veterinarian hospital could not look after her. We believe she may have sent someone to ER…

Stripe and Toffee are likely half Mau but completely feral. Zhenny looks like a tabby oriental but may as well be from Planet Zed. Even the vet said that she is just loco. I have looked after many cats but this one is an enigma. Only I can lift her, and only in special circumstances. Her Dad may only kiss her but not stroke her. He is also the only one who is allowed to play with her in a precise OCD way. Mum is just for cuddles and care-giving. The other two cats were utterly silent for years, as feral cats can be, but Zhenny is astonishingly vocal. I will be on the phone with my aunt in Ireland, Zhenny will be three rooms away and she can hear her screaming. After all these years we can tell the difference between her distress and laughter. The vet suggested that we give her Xanax – I looked at him and said, “How precisely should I do that, with a blow-dart, perhaps?”

She can be hysterically funny or drive us to tears. If she is upset she creeps along the floor, sobbing. Have you ever heard a cat sob? All treats have to be thrown like live prey and yet she is not a hunter. We discovered much later that she had kittens before we took her in but still hadn’t been neutered. Shortly after I saved her life in Cairo, she went into heat. Our villa was three houses from the baker’s shop at the end of the street and I could hear her howling inside our house. No wonder our neighbors had some issues with us… One time she was halfway up the stairs, with her head peeping through the balustrade and started ‘in heat howling’. Even she looked astonished at the guttural sound that came out of her mouth and we burst out laughing.

She should not have lived this long but Mummy is just so good at saving her life. Sigh. Our vet looks at me in horror when I say very firmly DO NOT RESUSCITATE! She is so difficult to handle that we know that she would not be able to cope with a chronic illness or disability so it would be a kindness. She has the early stages of kidney dysfunction but I suspect she has at least another year in her. Oh we will miss these beautiful green blue eyes and her funny vocalizations.

Zhenny at 2 years old in Cairo

Zhenny at 2 years old in Cairo

Nikita and the flamingo

NIKITA

NIKITA

This is the adorable ‘poodle’ Nikita that friends of ours had brought from Azerbaijan to Egypt (via Kuwait). She was not 100% poodle but near enough that it made no difference. Our friends arrived in Egypt shortly after the second Gulf War broke out and had been evacuated from Kuwait. They needed to travel shortly after arriving and asked if we would look after Nikita in our villa.

I was delighted, Teddy not so much. At this stage we just had Mrs. Stripe, who was still very feral and living in the garden, so not our pet as such. Before we arrived in Egypt I had lost my mum and the two remaining elderly Scottish cats. I didn’t really lose them – they died… We had decided “NO MORE PETS!” Despite that, I really missed having little fur babies to cuddle.

So as indulgent aunt and uncle to Nikita, we spoiled her rotten. She came with her toys and food but we could tell that she, too, was traumatized by the recent move. Firstly, I insisted that she sleep in the bed with us, under the covers, because she might be frightened with new people in a new house. She was SO excited, Teddy not so much…

I noticed that she didn’t really play that much with her toys which included a pink stuffed flamingo. We decided that she might like a silly game. Our villa had an open staircase in the living area with a balcony. Teddy would steal flamingo and run up the stairs and dangle flamingo through the bars. Then he squealed in a high ‘flamingo’ voice, “Nikita, help me, help me!” I was at the bottom urging her to save flamingo from bad Teddy. She LOVED that game and would collapse in doggy giggles while rescuing flamingo. I would then praise her for her rescue skills.

Every day, when Uncle Teddy came home she would run to him with the flamingo in her mouth and the game would start all over. We had one small incident with jealous Mrs. Stripe who tried to scratch Nikita on the face – my leg got it instead. Finally mom and dad came back and I think Nikita was sad to leave us. The next week at work, Nikita’s Daddy said to Teddy, “You have ruined my dog. Why does she keep bringing me the flamingo and looking sad?” He probably wondered why Nikita wanted to sleep under the covers, too.

Ah, happy days and such a lovely memory especially since Nikita and her Daddy have both gone to heaven. Do you think they are playing the flamingo game in Heaven? Click on this link to read about my book, Letters from Cairo

Teddy and Nikita at the crime scene

Teddy and Nikita at the crime scene

My heart is broken

stripe rip

Mrs. Stripe playing with mum in the dappled autumn sunlight.

Life has been very challenging recently and I hoped that three bad things were enough but not so. Last week we had to have our beloved Mrs. Stripe put to sleep at the veterinarians. I had mentioned previously in a post Mrs.Stripe and the pharmacy that she had severe muscle deterioration in her hind quarters which along with arthritis was causing her pain. On the last visit we shot her up with everything available and it was lovely to see her vibrant spirit emerge when she was pain free. The medication stopped working despite doubling the dosage and she was struggling to breathe through snuffling from an unrelated allergy problem that we could also not treat. Teddy and I talked about what we best, especially given that she was at least 15 years old and a feral street cat. We both agreed that we couldn’t bear to see her in pain and she finally made the decision for us.

I was sitting on the sofa, the night before we took her to the vet, and for the first time in her life she sat on a human’s knee. I looked at her in astonishment but she just settled down like she had always done it. The heat emanating from my knee must have soothed her poor little joints but I had no doubt that she was saying, “Please make the pain stop”. It was a sad day at the vets and almost all staff was in tears both at our sorrow and losing such a special patient. Even in her last days she played with her knitted catnip Spiderman, mewed plaintively for treats and even seemed to smile. She often made us smile see the post Resolution No 1 – wash more.

The house is in mourning and her daughter, Toffee, who is 13 years old, is wandering around the house crying. Zhenny, our other cat, has retreated into closets; occasionally giving us the odd cuddle but mostly biting us. We have euthanized many older pets but Mrs. Stripe was possibly my favorite. I became very mentally unwell when we moved to Egypt and when I caught glimpses of her in the garden it lighten my burden. She is probably half Egyptian Mau but has a bit of European Ginger which gave her fur the most gorgeous Titian highlights. She was exquisite and I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. I had no intention of looking after her until she had an injury. See my original post about our first meeting – Mrs. Stripe. Right to the very end of our posting in Cairo I wasn’t sure if she wanted to come with us – she was essentially a wild animal. One day she just made up her mind to stay in the house and we had to rush to get her neutered and vaccinated for the trip to America.

The veterinarian placed her in a beautiful blue shroud and we have buried in her beloved garden. Like most immigrants from third world countries, she loved her adopted new land and the odd new creatures she observed such as skunks and raccoons. She loved us and we will always love her. RIP Mrs. Stripe.

Mrs. Stripe's shroud on her favorite ottoman

Mrs. Stripe’s shroud on her favorite ottoman

Body Image

KERRY PR cleavage
This blog is the result of a dare from Stephanie and refers to her post To Cleave or not, that is the question. It is a hilarious but thoughtful post about how we feel about displaying our body. Read the comments, it is very revealing. I dared to show how much cleavage I bare and the evidence is above. I said an inch but methinks it might be two or three…

In general, my feeling is if you’ve got it, flaunt it but then you have to do it with confidence and ignore the inevitable comments. One of my male colleagues quite often makes hilarious but demeaning comments about women wearing what HE thinks is inappropriate clothing. He will say things like, “she is too old to be wearing a pleather mini-skirt” while I am wearing a black mini-skirt as part of my uniform, along with sexy lacy tights? I guess it makes a difference if you desire/fancy the person. My husband is exactly the same and loves it when I wear something provocative.

I spent the majority of my adult life fighting obesity and missed out on many opportunities to wear clothing that was perhaps a bit more appropriate in my 20s or 30s. It was incredibly hard work to get my mental health better which was the root cause of my obesity. Stress loves carbohydrates. I was over 50 when I suddenly looked amazing after a lifetime of nasty sideways glances or doctor’s notes referring to my weight. My cousin refers to me as Benjamin Button and there is a strange element of that. The two photographs below demonstrate this. One was taken a couple of months ago when I was modelling clothes while researching my boutique article, the other one was when I was in my 20s. Even with an element of body dysmorphia I can see that the slim, confident 55 year old looks much better than the sad, fat Kerry.

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For the most part, I think you should whatever you want to as long as it doesn’t break any laws or truly offend anyone. You should dress with respect when entering a house of worship or a country with a different culture. I had to wear very different clothes when living in Egypt or face the consequences (usually unpleasant remarks, looks or a quick feel). We live in a democratic country and, in theory, women are equal. By the same token, I have no problem with you wearing a hijab, turtleneck or ninja outfit. 🙂

PS Buy the Ebook! Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan. It is free to subscribers and very inexpensive for everyone else.

Toffee – our baby cat

Toffee on the mantel

Aaawww – that cute little face. She doesn’t look like she has the capacity to reduce you to a whimpering wreck, does she? Not a day goes by when she doesn’t whine, beg, look at you as though you torture her and then cuddle me obsessively. It must be my fault but I don’t know how it happened.

Toffee, aka Toffee Tiddles or Baby girl, is our baby. She is going to be 13 this spring but is still our baby and behaves like it. We were introduced to Toffee when she was about 6 weeks old, so she has known us forever. At some point, before she was a year old, something traumatic happened to her. We have no idea what it was but it changed her personality. She was injured but was too upset for us to take her to the vet in Egypt. Our gardener found her and kept her in his room. We would like to think that she fell off the balcony but we think that a human did something bad to her, perhaps unintentionally. Most Egyptians love cats so it is hard to imagine that anyone deliberately did anything bad but they may have shooed her into the path of a car, perhaps.

I watched her mother, Mrs. Stripe, play with Toffee and her sibling Treacle (coal black), for hours in the garden. The play was really a lesson in how to hunt and it was usually mom’s tail. As they grew older, the siblings would play fight with each other but as feral kittens didn’t utter a sound. It was the weirdest experience to watch them hurt each other and squeak silently! Toffee was the dominant kitten and came into the house soonest. She loved to chase balls around the house and kick-started by putting her back legs up the wall. Those little paw marks on white-washed walls were so difficult to remove. Although her mum was not a hunter, more a scavenger, Toffee has a natural hunting ability and is literally addicted to lizards. They have some LSD type substance on their skin. Over the years I have rescued hundreds of lizards including a big black one that bit me!!

Her first proper toy was a handmade tartan teddy knitted by an American expat. It was a few inches long and she carried it everywhere. It was hard to get either toys or cat food in Egypt but we managed with ping-pong balls. Her absolute favorite was a toy that I bought for myself. This was another hand-knitted doll who was a genial witch, dressed in a purple outfit and a knitted broomstick. It was Halloween and I was just so delighted to find something so cute. Toffee took one look at it and ran off with Nanny Ogg in her mouth – it was as big as she was!

When we finally managed to get her to the vet for vaccinations and neutering, she was the worst patient ever – even worse than Zhenny… Our veterinarian had an assistant that looked like an Egyptian Lurch. His size and temperament calmed/scared most animals but not Toffee. She totally trashed Dr. Farouk’s office – she escaped from Lurch/Mohammed’s grasp, ran around like a mini tornado, breaking everything as she went. We finally found her inside one of his desk drawers. It was the only time I saw Dr. Farouk close to losing his cool. He wanted to know why we were looking after a wild animal but by that time, she was injured and we had no choice. She has rarely visited any vet in her 12⅔rd years and we hope she just drops dead someday. Apart from us adoring our little baby, she is has been a fabulous intermediary between Zhenny and Mrs. Stripe who both consider themselves alpha females. Toffee will play with them both, particularly Zhenny who she treats as a sibling.

She didn’t find her voice for years but now has a really loud, annoying squeak. I will put up with it for ages and then speak to her in Arabic. She puts her tail between her legs and then runs under the bed. Sigh. Then I have to go persuade her than Mummy is not an ogre (she should have met her Grandma) and please come out for some organic chicken. By now you should realize who the problem is…

Toffee with Mummy in Egypt

Toffee with Mummy in Egypt

Liebster Award

liebster5A big thank you to Lisa, Life of an El Paso Woman who nominated me for a Liebster Award. I was going to say this is a No Award site but the Grinch has left my soul after a lovely day working on Christmas Day and I will accept with gracious appreciation.

The rules are: 1. Say thank you to the person who nominated you. 2.Pick 5 people to nominate 3. Ask 5 questions. 4. Post the pic in the post.

These are Lisa’s 10 questions –

1. What’s your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving. Everyone can celebrate it, no one needs to fight about what they should call the holiday (yes, it’s a happy holiday :)). There are no presents and most of us have something to be thankful about.

2. What is your favorite thing to cook or bake?
Nothing at all. Does salad out of a packet count with bottled dressing?

3. What’s the best thing about the city where you live?
My city is built in an indigenous forest. There are critters everywhere. We had the infra red camera out on Christmas and counted Betsy Sue the Possum and her two kids, Louanne and Chuck, two Woodrats, Willie and Winnie, the Raccoon twins, Rocky and Robbie, KATNISS, our feral cat who came back for Christmas. We think that Betsy Sue’s ‘husband’ was there too – Travis?

4. What are some of your favorite movies?
The Wizard of Oz and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. How is that for a contrast but they both have a moral tale…

5. What was one of the hardest thing you’ve ever done in life so far?
Move to Egypt and stay there after the Gulf War started.

6. Who are you the closest with in your family?
Does my husband count? If not, probably my dead mother, I see her in the mirror every day and somehow her words come out of my mouth in an involuntary manner. “Do you want a smack?”

7. Why did you start blogging?
To make me finish and publish my book. Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan

8. Is the glass half empty or half full?
Mostly half full but I am happily medicated…

9. Are you a Star Wars fan?
Of course! Can’t you see my uncanny resemblance to Princess Leia? You should see me in a gold bikini and chains…

10. What was your favorite toy growing up?
BEBE! The doll that Daddy sent me

Now I nominate five people and give them five questions to answer.  I nominate –

A Vegan in Las Vegas
Tomorrow Definitely
The Ardross-man
Weird Guy With The Dog
New England Nomad

Here are my questions –
1. Who was your first TV/Film hero or crush?
2. What other place in the world do you think you could live in?
3. What would you like engraved on your tombstone or written on your obituary?
4. What food to you hate to eat?
5. Star Wars or Star Trek?