Monday, March 21, 2011


So this weekend my friend Mike kindly delivered my cat Simon to me in Bangkok. Simon is a world traveler. Simon came into my life when he was three years old. He was born near Washington DC and a woman who worked with my friend Jeanne had him since he was a kitten. She developed terrible allergies to him and had to find him a new home. He bounced around a bit through a couple of people and then Jeanne suggested I go and meet him. I had been missing a cat in my life since my cat Dante went to live with my father when I was in Guatemala (and my father refused to return him).

Simon came to live with me in Washington DC where we lived for four years on 18th street in Dupont Circle/Adams Morgan. He was very happy in our little one bedroom apartment and our biggest problem was figuring out how to keep him from being too fat. I traveled a lot for my job at Refugees International and my friend Brian who lived down the street was his "baby daddy" and pitched in.

When I took the job in Amsterdam, Simon made the flight over to Europe. Despite not enjoying European kitty litter and developing extremely expensive tastes in wet food and a neurotic hair pulling problem, we were relatively happy there for almost four years. The cold weather meant that Simon developed the habit of sleeping under the feather duvet at night with his head on my pillow. He was a very good winter cat as his body temperature kept me warm and he loves to sit on laps or stomachs. He adjusted to the changes and like any good Dutch person grew to love those few days of sunshine when we would sit on the roof deck and soak up the sunshine.

When I got the job in Bangkok, I wondered whether or not I should bring him with me. He's 11 years old and the separation time plus the time in the cargo hold of the plane can be very stressful on cats. He had already developed a hair pulling problem due to stress in Holland so how would he handle the international flight? My friends Jeremy and Marjolein acted as foster parents while I found a suitable apartment in Bangkok.

I was a nervous wreck the week of the flight - I sent copious numbers of check lists, emails, skypes, text messages, and phone calls to make sure Operation Simon Le Bon went smoothly. I first had to get time off work to go to the airport. My contract says I cannot take any leave for the first three months that I'm working here so getting a day off was a bit of a challenge. Luckily my supervisor is a pet lover and imported his own dogs in from Colombia so let me bend the rules. I left around 11am to get to the airport for Mike and Simon's expected arrival time of 12: 45pm. It was strangely cold in Bangkok that day and I hadn't brought a sweater with me. I was waiting for a taxi to take me to the sky train and there were tons of people in front of me. As I was so anxious, I decided to throw caution to the wind and take the motorcycle taxi.

Off we zoomed over the flyover and weaving in and out of traffic at a high speed. The mototaxi guy took us headfirst into oncoming traffic, up onto the sidewalk, and seemed to be relishing my clenched face in the rearview mirror. Again, I thought, I said I would NEVER DO THIS AGAIN! And I thought - what good will this do for Mike and Simon if I'm in a hospital or dead? But I made it to the skytrain and jumped on the Airport link for a smooth 30  minute ride to the airport.

While at the airport, I started to grow anxious as I stood with the hundreds of chinese, Russian, and Israeli tour groups welcoming people in from immigration. I found an office that said "Customs Control" and went in there to show them my pet import license. After many phone calls - they lead me behind security and customs onto the baggage claim floor where they warned me not to show anyone my passport and get out of there as soon as possible. I went to oversize baggage, a giant freight elevator opened up and there sat the tiny little kennel with a very pissed off looking Simon crouched in the back.

I tried to pet him and he let out a piteous meow and then turned his back to me and went to sleep.

I stood with Simon by the baggage claim until Mike made it through immigration. Not a sound was heard out of the kennel. We took off to the Animal customs/quarantine office. The two Thai officials who had been there before were nowhere to be seen but my import permit was sitting on their desk. Someone came in and called them for us where they were out taking a smoke break. They came in and started filling out lots of forms, rifling through Simon's forms, and fifteen minutes and 100 baht later - we were sent to the customs line. Mike showed his passport (they didn't even look at Simon) and I paid 1000 baht and we were free to the taxi. A 45 minute taxi ride home, I opened up the kennel and Simon popped out.

He took a quick saunter around the apartment and smelled everything. He drank a little water. Let out one big meow and then curled up on the bed to go to sleep. He's a trooper! He seems to like the warm weather, he hasn't vomited, pulled out any hair, or even yowled since he got here. He found a nook he likes in my sweaters (of course) and happily sits under the dining room chairs and explores the balcony.

We're renuited! And it feels so good!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Old Bangkok

When I take the canal taxi to and from work, I have glimpses of old teak houses draped with jasmine and old green trees draped over the canal. On my walk down the soi to my house, I pass three or four of these old one or two story houses with their low slung verandas. But more and more are disappearing under skyscrapers and luxury hotels. I wish I could have seen old Bangkok in the day.