Thursday, August 14, 2014

Love Story

Hello my Dear People of the Journal!

Guess what?

Tomorrow, August 15, 2014 Grasu Paco a.k.a. the Masked Warrior, the Savannah Feline, Momma’s Big Boy, the Lone Survivor (haha!) will be 6 years old. I’ve had him since he was 8 months old and 4.30kg (about 9 lbs). My former husband gave him to me as a gift on Valentine day in 2009. And to be honest I have never been into keeping animals in the house, not because of the mess, but because they might be unhappy. Plus I have always been a dog person. I’ve raised Lupa, my German Sheppard since she was three months old until she passed away following cancer and three failed surgery attempts at the age of 13. Plus, we used to look after Grasu’s sister while her adoptive mother was out on vacation and she left so much hair everywhere (SO MUCH that she almost built a nest wherever she slept!) that when Grasu came in I was thinking that if he too had the same problem I wouldn’t be able to survive it. Too much hair in a small condo is dangerous.
Grasu ws my Best man at the wedding hehe
He could not attend but he was the image on the menu and also the "speaker" for the wedding video.
See, this is how it goes. Grasu is the son of one of the cats my former mother-in-law owned. He had I believe at least two more siblings. They all died several years ago due to certain strange illnesses. And they were skinny. Well, normal weight cats. Grasu has always been this “fit” boy haha. A year after I had him he fell really sick with his stomach. Very high fever, barely moved all day and vomited every night. I was a very worried momma. That’s when we bought a dog basket for him to sleep in (the cat baskets are too small for him hehe). We took him to the Vet Hospital and after some detailed tests I was told that he basically has a congenital problem where he accumulates fat on his inner organs. Untreatable. Actually if you take a careful look at the pictures you see his head and legs are smaller and disproportioned as to his huge belly. That’s because all the fat is stocked in there and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. You can chase him around until he dies of a heart attack and he won’t lose weight. The only way to keep it under control at least every couple of years is to have him on a strict diet at all times. So he only eats veggie food and lots of water. Which explains why instead of a chunk of meat he would rather eat a whole can of sweet corn haha which he does if you let him!!!!

So going back to the time he first arrived into the house. He came stashed into this very small basket, you could not distinguish which was the head and which was the tail. Only fur sticking out. And I’m thinking oh my Goodness, what kind of tiny little kitten is hidden in there! (clap clap!!!). Yeah. We had to tear open the lid to the basket to be able to take him out. Now I understand why they were tied together with wire!!! I was like Jesus Christ, how the hell did you fit in there boy?!? He kept coming and coming, this ain’t no little kitten! Big ass fat boy! Still, for a while until we got him to the vet, despite the weight lifting, I never thought he was so big. When the vet first set him on the scale and I saw the numbers I was like damn boy! His first temporary name was Q7 (from the large Audi car). Then little by little reality sank in and we just called him Grasu. His other name given by his former owner, Paco, didn’t seem to me like a good choice. My boy doesn’t look Mexican at all. Spanish at the most with his Zorro appearance. But I kept it because oh well, that was his “baptism” name haha
He loved sinks since he's been with me.
And he uses everyone's sink! This at Laura's.

A more recent one. The sink has gotten smaller.
Grasu and I bonded from moment one. I have never thought a cat can take after their owner so much. Dogs are more likely to take after your behavior. But cats, they are different. I’ve seen different owners, different attitudes and behaviors and their cats have matched them. I never play with Grasu in such way that I annoy the death of him so he never scratches me ever. And when it came to destroying furniture and door frames and curtains and turning things upside down in the house. Never happened. Partially because every time he would try it I would ask him to stop even if I’d have to do it a 1,000 times and never yelled at him or kicked him. Eventually he understood what things are allowed and what are not allowed.
We take the best of selfies! He pretty much looks the same way I do in every image!

There was a time when I used to come from work and then immediately go to the gym. He was really upset with that. He doesn’t like being left alone. So he kept pushing a flower pot down. Didn’t make much of a mess, but he kept doing it. Every evening. And I soon realized it was his way of telling me he doesn’t want to be alone in the dark two more hours after spending the entire day alone as it was. I know they can see in the dark people but that’s not the point! So, whenever I had to go to the gym, I left a lamp on and turned on the radio. He never messed with the pots again. But do mind that he still acts this way to the day. This is a major thing for him, to be neglected. So I do my best to never come home and then leave. If I want to do groceries after work I take my list and bags in the morning and go straight to the supermarket so when I do get home, I stay. And he knows when it’s weekend! (he is a little bitch in this sense, because he does wake me up at 7:30 knowing it’s weekend but always gets upset if I miss hours on end from home knowing that these are the only two days when I can spend time with him!)
Grasu outdoors.
He is extremely active! hahaha
His best friend Papuc! This picture doesn't do them justice but they really get along very well!

That little buddy there is now as big as Grasu!
I have always treated Grasu as a member of the family. I always say good bye when I leave and ask him to behave. It’s not an old/lonely lady behavior. I did this when I was married and he was still a youngster. It’s polite to treat him as my equal, because even though he may not have the brain power, his emotional intelligence it’s overwhelming! So throughout the years we ended up having a routine communication: I come in and he is always waiting at the door and meows impatiently until I manage to unlock the door hehe then he goes and starts messing with the carpet while I ask him how his day was, if he ate or drank enough water! Especially in summer. He always answers! Haha and he grows increasingly impatient of why I am not already rubbing his belly. Wait up Mr! I need to take my clothes off first! I’ve been stuck in them all day and you’re gonna put all that hair on me, you hairy beast! He doesn’t care, but eventually we proceed to belly rubbing and massage – ‘cause you know, he’s worked so hard all day and I’ve been out on vacation on my job and he needs it more than I do!

Then, up in momma’s arms. Lifting Grasu for a hug is always a good work out. Now that he’s up to 7kg (15 lbs), it always needs just a little extra effort to make it. And then I hold him literally like a baby and it’s smooching time. He is such a lover boy “leo”. He plays hard to get and ignores me then when I least expect it I get a head right in my eye. With love! I keep asking him: “Cate suflete are ma-ta?” (How many souls does your momma have?). Ten I say. One mine and nine of yours hahaha!!! I think it’s fair trade!

When Grasu and I go to the vet, he always puts on a good boy show. He never runs away, he never scratches, he never hisses. In fact, I take him out of the cage and we both sit on the hallway waiting our turn. He sits in the chair next to me and if he ever “communicates” with any of the animals there he always chooses to befriend the dogs, not the cats. He walks up to them and sniffs them or walks past them, observing them gently. I took him for a cat scan once (CAT scan get it? Haha) And the doctor thought of maybe giving him some pill to calm him down ‘cause he had to sit with his belly up. I said, no need doc. I had this small private chat with my boy and then he sat calmly through the whole procedure. The doctor was amazed. He kept saying “You got your momma really worried, didn’t you big boy?” It was that time when he was very sick; has never been that sick again, because now we know what’s wrong and momma is taking good care of her boy.
This was during his recovery time.

For an independent cat, Grasu has always made his own decisions as to whom he likes and dislikes, from children to adults. If he likes you he will stay around. If he likes you more, he’ll play with you. If he is in love with you he will suffocate you and leave all his hair on you haha If he doesn’t like you he’ll just walk away. Also, when he is upset with me he is extremely verbal and ignores me for as long as he can. When we first left on holiday and he was left in someone else’s care (eventhought he stayed home and received that person’s visits) I had to kiss his ass for like three days before he even started purring. And the first thing he did when we came back was to get in the suitcase and rub against all our clothes and leave all his hair on them. THERE! Now it will take you long enough to clean them so you don’t leave me again. Now he understands that if I leave I will always come back. When I first left, my friends told me that for the first two days he barely moved and cried all the time. And that he became restless the day before my return. But not anymore. He’s momma’s big boy and he is careful with not eating too much and being a good kid while I am gone. He NEVER did anything bad. All my curtains are intact except for one time when Emily was here and he started playing like a maniac, he ran into the curtain and fell on it and its 7kg brought down the whole thing. It was so funny I couldn’t even get mad at him.

He is a little bit of a kleptomaniac. He steals everything small and shiny. Stashes them in his secret hideout – which could be anywhere in the house!!! – and then will return them in a few days. So rule no. 1 is never leave my earrings, cufflinks or anything of the sort thrown around where he can get them, so in this sense, he keeps me pretty organized. He also loves to play with dry bread, sliced potatoes and peas if I drop them on the floor when I cook. He will spread them across the house!!! He is an absolute natural when trimming his nails. I used to sit him on my lap to do it. He loves my nail scissors. He ruined about 4 of them dropping them to the floor so they got all bent and useless. He doesn’t like his very much though. Haha. Now, he sits on the bed, I hold his paw and cut the nails. Like a pro at the saloon. I still have to hold him for the back paws because he keeps rolling to the side with his belly so round haha He also enjoys baths!!! He has his own lavender shampoo and my mom bought a big towel with teddy bears for him hahaha And no. He’s not thinner when he is wet! Only the tail hahaha

He has a bed time pattern and a morning pattern. He always wakes me up when the alarm rings. Pulls my hair, rubs his head against my eye, bites on my nose, purrs in my ears. There is no friggin’ way to make him stop. But if I ever come late at home (let’s say 4AM haha) he never wakes me up. He knows I need my sleep. And when it comes to going to bed, about midnight latest, he starts his cleaning routine then goes to sleep on MY bed no matter what I do. And he looks at me like “time for bed woman!” with small Chinese eyes. “I am so tired of you keeping that light on! Don’t you ever sleep!”

The things that Grasu’s done for me? I cannot explain them in words. There is an unconditional love and support that he offers. Whenever I was sick with high fever and sweating my ass off like no other he would sit next to me, regardless of the fact that he was dying with how hot it was. His fur would be wet because of me, but he’d stay there. He can sense when I am tired or what hurts. He never really sleeps on top of me, he likes to stay next to me. But when I am sick with the flu or simply feeling ill, he always sleeps on my chest. During my most stressful times, I would not be able to sleep and change rooms leaving him asleep on the bed. By the time I woke up on the couch in the living room, he’d be there, watching me with eyes wide open. When I come home he’s there, follows me everywhere. Has his own chair where he stays while I cook and asks to sniff and taste everything I use, no matter if it’s union or butter. We have to share the sink space – obviously!!!! – and he always likes to play “predator” with my feet.
A friend of mine said recently that most of his female friends that have cats are single. You know, the old single woman with a cat pattern. Trust me. My cat is not the reason I am single haha There were men in my life whom he saw and went “Nah. Not interested.” Haha and there were men to whom he literally paid attention to more than he did with me when we were together. He is intelligent and independent that way! So I am not sure about the other girls, but I classify my relationships pretty well: Grasu and men. No interference. Unless they have a dog! Hahaha

Ok, I’m gonna end it here with a simple Happy Birthday to my baby boy! I hope he makes it for many many more years. I am looking forward to one day having kids who will find in Grasu an incredible friend and playmate. An animal can convert you into a believer of a different kind. Even mom who was skeptical about having a pet, after she had Grasu for three weeks one time she almost didn't want to give him back against the "too much hair" complaints. He heals and mends and teaches you what it means to care, to focus, to be moderate, organized and responsible. He teaches you to respect another life form other than yourself and your kind. And for those who do not have children, it prepares you in a way for that time in your life when it comes. I don't know if I'll ever have another pet after Grasu but at this point I cannot imagine how empty the house would feel without him.
Mom on her Bday last year!
He loves to spend time with mom and always stays with her when we travel.
Some of his favorite hideouts :)
NEVER leave a closet open! NEVER!

He will try to fit in any space, bag or box no matter how small.
Muah and have a happy long weekend and Happy Name Anniversary for all the Marii and Mariani (and derivatives therefore hehe)! 

P.S.: A huge THANK YOU is in order to all my friends whom in time have helped me with Grasu. Finding someone to trust not only with your precious pet but also with the keys to your house is not easy to find but I have been blessed that way and I am most grateful. It’s a weight taken off my shoulders when I have to run home for the weekends or even more so when I take a two week vacation. So here is my short list of adoptive parents who, either have pets themselves or are animal lovers or have been converted into animal lovers after Grasu “communicated” with them for a bit haha.

Laura and Mariano for always looking after Grasu for weeks in a row when I’m out on vacation! Get ready for three weeks of total bliss with the Fat Ass! There was a time when Grasu’s biological clock has seriously malfunctioned and he used to wake up at 5:30AM. They suffered the consequences! Mariano makes toys for Grasu (I still have one hanging from my bathroom door!) while Laura has basically reinforced the windows so Grasu can look out without the danger of falling. What more can I ask from these people?!!

Simo, Vio and Ale looked after Grasu during weekends. Ale is almost 4 years old and has basically grown with Grasu. When she was a baby she knew his name before mine and she’d pronounce it all wrong, like Gheasu. Haha So friggin’ sweet!

Andreea who now also owns her own Big Boy, used to take Grasu at her place and enjoy his fury round self during the weekends. Or simply come visit him at my place. I guess she figured there is plenty of love around from a “lover boy” like this! You should see her cat now!
Grasu at Andreea's place haha
Codrut and Adela are Grasu’s most recent fans. They’ve been extremely helpful with looking after the spotted boy when I’m in weekends. Basically, it is easy to care for him because all he needs is to have someone around him, so they can just come in, give him more water and check on his food then watch a movie while he either sleeps or snuggles with them. As I said, he can't be lonely! They’re a dream team!

He's actually a good pillow if it comes to that hehe

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The delights of official chores

Hey there my People of the Journal! How’s life treating you these days? I am sure you’re on a roller coaster, but that’s alright! As long as you survive it, it can only mean you’re having fun hehe.

Ok, I’m not gonna make this a long one. Just a quick look into my US visa application process. You think this can in no way, be fun. Well, the application in itself no, and obviously I have taken it very seriously. I do have the visa already but had to change it from my married name to my maiden name so my new passport matches with the visa. So yes, this comes as a warning note for those of you out there who have either divorced or married or changed status in any way: if you already have a visa don’t count on the fact that you can travel with both passports and show the justification document that proves the change in your status (be them translated and notarized) because you run a huge risk of being put on the next plane home and never enter US. The embassy’s strong recommendation is to re-apply for your visa (you fall into the Visa Renewal category for these situations) and be safe. So that’s my case now.

So as you know – those who have applied – I did the online application, paid the fee, made an appointment. Took a horrifying “professional” photo that would have banished me from the beautiful gene pool for sure! So on the last minute I asked my colleague to take a photo of me lined up against the wall. My IPhone works wonders I tell you! So that was money well spent for a photo I never used, tore and burnt afterwards! Haha Anyway. I made the appointment for Monday morning. All good. I get there; we queue in line outside the embassy gate when an officer comes in with this little thingy looking like a small bandage and swaps our files and hands then goes back in. I am always very intrigued by these secretive military/cop like procedures. I want to know what they mean. Are they testing me for drugs? Gun powder residue on my hands in case I have loaded a gun back home? Hmmm. I want to know!!! Of course, they don’t tell me anything. We get in, only four people at a time even though there are plenty waiting outside and it’s pretty early in the morning.

Inside, it’s like checking in to the airport. I put my watch in, my phone that I turned off prior to entering the office, I put my files and everything else in the small tray, they get scanned, I get scanned, all good. They keep my phone and I get this little numbered tag to recover it on the way out. I get to keep my files, my sunglasses and my watch of course. I pass through the yard and into a second building. Another officer behind a small desk checks my fee receipt and passport and gives me a queuing number. 94. Damn! 94 looks very close to a 100 which means there are 100 people there already and sure enough the room is full.

Imagine this very long hall with rows of chairs facing each other in pairs of 4 and 4, lined up against the windows all the way to the end of it, a small space to walk in between them and the booths where the interviews take place. That’s how it looks now in the new embassy headquarters unlike back in 2011 when I first applied in the old HQ.

People are silent, minding their own business and I’m thinking, when did everyone come in if I arrived a little before nine and they are so many already. I find a place almost at the end of the hallway and take a seat. There’s a younger guy at my left, number 52 (very annoyed with waiting! Man you’ve got 52! I’m about 40 something people away from you! How come you’re annoyed!). Another elderly lady after, number 72 and two more guys. In front of me, two more guys and a couple all holding tickets from 79 up. I quickly realize that the people in front and one guy on my side form a group, all going to the same thing. They were either Baptists or something else and were attending a conference in the States. I could tell from their invitations. Wonder how I got to remember so many details? Well I spent 2 hours waiting so yeah, plenty of time to notice the small things.

A number is being shown on a little electronic board. Ticket number and booth where you’re supposed to go. I figure there are four different sets of numbers being displayed. And I am a bit confused. One set are numbers above 100 that are never called at the booths up front, only at those in the bank and I figured maybe those are the immigrant visas because there were fewer in numbers.

Because the booths are so close to us we can actually hear parts of the conversations applicants have with the consuls. Especially that sometimes one of them forgets the mic on and we can plainly hear at least the first part of the conversation clearly. I finally get called in, rather fast and I’m happy thinking this is it. I go in, it’s a Romanian girl who only checks my papers and then asks me to take a seat. I am confused again. Eventually I realize that the different sets of numbers mean: one for the booth where they check your papers, two – as I later found out – for fingerprinting booth and third it’s the actual interview for which you wait the most.

So as I’m sitting there I am observing all these people coming there for interviews. From very young babies to elderly people going to the US to visit their kids and family. So this guy comes in. His English is not the best, very mild and fearful attitude. I am not sure what the consul asks but eventually he blurts “Sir I am not going there to do bad things.” I hear the consul laugh. “Sir I would know if you do anything illegal.” He gets his visa. Then this older lady. She surely suffers from Parkinson disease and the stress of the interview is intensifying her uncontrolled shaking so much that her dress is literally shaking with her entire body. The group in front of me finds it funny. I am reserved. I feel bad for her. It’s hard for older people to understand such official procedures. All they know is they want to go visit their children, that they are honest people and just want to convince you of that. The consul quickly dismisses her with a smile and a visa approval. She smiles shyly and leaves. A thing I loved about the consul is that he would speak Romanian to those he did not speak English, and despite the strong accent he was doing it very well. The only thing he couldn’t get properly was the word “ghiseu” (booth). So it would always come out as “chisu” (I cannot translate that haha sounds a little like a Romanian dish, but it was sweetly funny.

So I pass the fingerprinting too and then I’m left to wait for the interview which meant about an hour or so of the entire time I spent there. A young couple shows up with a baby not even a year old. They get priority because of the little one. They stand at the booth and the consul (referred to as C in what follows) asks the guy (referred to as G):
C: Good morning sir. Where are you going?
G: Las Vegas (everyone goes to friggin Las Vegas! I didn’t know Romanians are so rich!)
C: What for?
G: Vacation.
C: For how long?
G: Two weeks.
C: (pause – I can’t see him, just hear him): Are you taking the baby along for good luck?
G: (chuckles): Yes.
C: Well the baby can go. You can go. I am not sure about your wife.

In fact he explains that she is in a similar situation with mine having married and holding a different name. As they are leaving in two days the consul offers to wait for them to return the next day to fix her problem as well. A really really swell guy in many cases this consul.

Next, this other guy comes in:
C: Good morning sir. Where are you going?
G: Las Vegas.
C: Alright. Why and for how long?
G: Vacation.
The conversation ends pretty quickly and his visa approved. The guy goes…
G: Yesssss! (he literally almost kneeled and swished his fist in the air. Leaves grinning).
On his way out the consul opens the mic and says out loud from his booth:
C: Don’t spend it all on the black jack!
Everyone starts laughing and the guy salutes then disappears out the door.

A woman is next and she explains she’s visiting relatives in Chicago. He asks her what she does for a living and she is trying to tell him she’s a professor assistant. But she’s saying it all wrong and he can’t understand exactly whether she is teaching or is an assistant or what’s going on. The conversation goes on for a few minutes with them discussing English lessons on job titles. Eventually they figure it out. She’s a go as well.

Then this prep guy, all suited and fancy steps in.
C: Good morning sir. Where are you going?
G: Miami.
C: What for?
G: A conference.
C: What conference?
The guy explains but from what I can tell the consul wants more. The guy will be staying for 5 days. The consul is still not convinced. I can somehow tell he’s checking the guy out. You know Miami is famous for its night clubs of the rich and famous and that many rich wanna-bes go there to get hooked up and stay for good in the US. Eventually the guy proves he’s married with kids and properties and all and he is also a go.

Then one of the funniest moments of the day. A young couple, boyfriend and girlfriend are called at the interview at the same time. There are two consuls, a woman and a man. The woman speaks very softly I can never tell anything of her conversations. The man is obviously a totally different story. So they are separated by this small wall but I can only hear the men’s conversation.
C: Good morning sir. Where are you going?
G: Las Vegas. Vacation. Two weeks.
C: Ok. Who’s paying for the trip?
G: My girlfriend
The consul pauses. I guess he did not expect that haha
C: Have you been to the States before?
The guy explains that he has been and actually worked as a waiter and they engage in this small talk about tips and stuff. Then…
C: So what do you do now for a living?
G: I am a manager (of course he is! This is Romania. Everyone’s a manager here!)
C: Manager of what? (now that is the tricky part hahah!)
G: The manager of a quarry (adica cariera: ex cariera de piatra etc)
C: (pauses again. This guy is obviously the novelty of the day): You’re the manager of a quarry in Bucharest?
I am not sure what the guy said about the location of the quarry but he did confirm he is the manager of one. Consul pauses again.
C: Who owns the quarry?
G: My girlfriend.

By this point, there’s a general smile in the room. The consul himself is a little struck and I could tell he is trying to put two and two together and make sense of things. He pauses some more trying to formulate a decent question but then it all comes down to…
C: Sir, are you dating an older woman?
HA HA HA (that was it for everyone pretty much). Even the guy laughs.
G: No. She’s 20. (and she’s sitting right next to him around that wall!)
C: Then how did she get a quarry?!
The guy basically explains it was inherited from her father and whatnot. Eventually fun is over and they both get the visa.

Mela’s turn and I end up with the same consul.
C: Good morning Miss. Where are you going?
Me: New York.
C: What for?
Me: A wedding.
C: Who’s wedding?
Me: My boss’s son.
C: (looks at me): How did you get invited there?
Now that I did not expect as a question.
Me: I don’t know. I guess I’m a great assistant (hahahaha!!!!!)
A series of more questions follow then he asks me where I’m staying in New York and he is pleased to know I’m staying in Upper Manhattan. He says it’s the best way to get around the city. Brooklyn not so good haha. He wishes me to have fun and retains my passport for the visa to be issued. Success!!! I leave and retrieve my stuff from the security officers then get a cab back to work. My passport is coming in today. One thing down, now vacation planning to go!

I have a few more weeks before mom and I hit Rome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I had initially planned a two weeks vacation in the States for myself. A week is truly not enough with the many places I want to visit and spending time with my friends and all. But after much thought and torment I realized there is no way in hell I can go have fun without giving mom her share. It has taken me a bit over a decade to convince her to come along and I do not regret a moment of this continuous struggle I put up with her. Even when we visited places I’ve seen before, seeing them again through her excited, many times innocent and shy eyes, has made my heart grow and reminds me how wonderful it is to finally have the wheel spin her way for once. So yeah. We have the tickets, we have the hotel. Now planning what to visit and getting the tickets for the Vatican. I understand it’s tricky getting in there if you don’t have the tickets ahead of  time. So we’re pretty much set! God knows I can hardly wait!

So I’m out for now. You guys take care and have a nice week and a great weekend in a few days!
As usual, yours truly,