As I sit here writing this I can feel the blood dripping down the side of my right hand and splashing the keyboard. I had my cat castrated this morning.

I decided that it was finally time to have my cat’s manhood taken. People have been telling me that if you don’t castrate a male cat he will eventually start spraying urine all over the walls of your house. With the weird smells that already permeate my life here I decided that that was something I defiantly did not need.

I had heard stories of past volunteers having their animals castrated and afterwards almost bleeding to death on the living room floors. Or how for cats the vet got a cardboard box, poked a hole in one side, stuck the soon to be gone body parts out the hole, and cut. I had been putting off the castration for the past couple months, knowing it wouldn’t be fun.

Last night I finally got up the courage and called the vet. He said he would be at my house at 7am and that the entire thing would cost the equivalent of 3$. I got off the phone 35 seconds later and thought, "Wow. That was really easy. This really won’t be a problem!" HA!

I made sure to be up extra early and eating my bowl of cornflakes (you would be surprised at how good cornflakes and freshly made condensed milk and water tastes) and drinking my overly strong cup of black coffee well before the time of cutting. At around 6:45am the bell rung and I opened the door to find a smiling middle age Togolese man standing at my door.

The first thing he said was, "I have been working with Americans for a long time and know they always like to be on time." Good thing number two.

He came in and we talked a few minutes about the volunteer I replaced and his dog, my garden, and finally caught sight of our victim casually walking out the cat size hole I cut in my screen door.

The vet looked around and said, "Do you have a second?" I was confused. Are we fighting a duel? Do I need a second to defend my honor? I looked confused and he continued, "To hold the cat." I confidently responded that this was my cat, he loved and trusted me, I could hold him by myself.

The vet shrugged, said ok, and pulled a little packet with a fresh razor blade from his pocket. I took the cat, laid him on the concrete floor of my patio, took his front two legs (that up until now have done nothing more violent towards me then bat at my moving toes) in my left hand and held his neck gently but firmly in my right hand. He was a little unsure, but, in the end he is a very trusting cat (he’d never had his freakin balls chopped off before!)

The vet took his back legs in one hand and carefully lowered the razor blade to the small soon to be empty package. With the first slice of the razor blade I saw my cat’s eyes bulge, heard the yelp that one would assume came with a male having his defining parts removed, and he began to fight.

At one point during the cutting I felt all five claws of one of his back paws dig into the top of my left hand. As I reacted to that attack I felt his head shimmy out of my right hand and teeth enter into my palm. I didn’t blink an eye, didn’t bat an eyelash. We were here to do some cutting. I don’t know how I got control again. The entire scene is a blur of blood and yelping at this point. He got out of our grip a second time and I felt multiple paws and teeth all at the same time digging into my exposed flesh.

I looked down at the opposite end (I had been focusing on the teeth wielding part) and saw the vet gingerly pull what looked like two small grapes attached to flesh colored cords from my cats nether regions.

It was over.

I tried to let go of the screaming animal but found he had latched onto my hand with teeth and nails. He finally understood that he was done and let go.

I was badly shaken (all the caffeine sure as heck didn’t help any). I went inside to find a sterile bandage to help stop the bleeding from my many injuries. When I came back I saw the vet pick up the lost cat parts, walk over to one of my flower beds, and bury them.

The vet tried to apologize for my wounds. In broken, very shaky French (I could hardly speak English at that point let alone anything else) I said, "It's ok. My cat is bleeding and suffering over there. I guess I can too… And I still have my balls."

More Food

One of my goals whenever I live in a different country is to be able to do things like a local, buying or asking for something with only a few, short words. I always try to use hand gestures, head tilts and one or two quietly said words to get what I want. There is something about the lack of verbal communication that communicates what I want in a way only someone that KNOWS how to order something would order it.

One of my favorite restaurants is on a dusty road on the way up a hill next to the school where I work. In a past blog entry I wrote about how when you eat on the street there is usually a very big bowl of some carb based food (rice, pasta, ground up corn mush balls etc) and a sauce. This restaurant is different in that instead of one pot of sauce there is a table with around 20 large cooking pots full of sauces of all type of color and texture. There are green sauces that have a stringy snot like consistency (gumbo…. HATE!), red sauces with chunks of assorted fats or curled up rolls of skin (actually learning to like both skin and fat), and various colored liquids with chunks of meat (of various quality). The sauce I always go for is the first one on the far right of the table: Antelope (here known as Biche).

When you walk in the door you enter a concrete room about 10 by 20 feet. On one side are two low tables about 8 feet long. Each table has two long benches on either side that sit only a few inches bellow the eating surface. This means that everyone sits, semi-hunched over their metal bowl of carb and sauce, massaging and then gently tossing the food from hand to mouth. On each end of a table sits a large plastic, multi-colored bucket filled with water, a plastic basin and cup. When you sit down at a table you fill the cup with water, position the basin in front of you, and using your left hand pour the water over your right hand while rubbing all the fingers in order against your palm.

I walk in, turn to the round motherly lady manning the pots, and order with a total of seven softly spoken words:

"Riz cent francs. Biche trois cent." (I then sit down and say to one of the young waitress girls) "Castel."

I sit down at my favorite spot (far right of the table directly across from the entrance with my back against the wall) and wait for my food and beer.

By the time I am done washing my hands the first glass of beer has been poured and placed on my left and my shinny stainless steal food filled bowl put in front of me.

When I first started going to the restaurant I always ate my rice and antelope with a spoon that the ladies automatically put in all bowls for foreigners. The other day I sat down to my usual meal and without thinking, put the spoon on the table, and started mixing the rice and sauce with my hands. After eating my first bite of food I realized that I wasn’t eating the way I have been eating for so long. I instinctively picked up my spoon and took another bite. It didn’t taste right. There was something about the metal mixing with the spicy flavor of the sauce, the warm sticky alive feeling of the rice being marred by the dead spoon that I put it, now dirty, back on the table.

I’m waiting for the day when the waitress notices the clean spoons and eventually treats me like everyone else.