Month: October 2017

Beyond excited!

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I’m not sure what words to use to describe just how excited we are – maybe ecstatic? Thrilled? Coruscating? What ever it is, we are far beyond it because my mom will be arriving for a 2 month visit, on Friday night.The last time we were all together was when we still lived aboard Tanda Malaika and were in Puerto Rico last year.

She may be 70, but she has a young soul and has as much energy and spunk as anyone I know. The creatures call her Ouma, because that means grandmother in Afrikaans, to me, she’s Mommy, but really she’s an Angel.

Danny has been gone for 8 1/2 weeks now, and will be gone about 3 more. We have to make sure we FaceTime periodically so we don’t forget what each other looks like…We miss him very much and can’t wait for his return.

Our final day of exploring West Bali was a wet one, and we had many miles to cover.
We passed by some flooded rice paddies that, as always, were so picturesque.

It fascinates me how they are irrigated. Rice requires so much water – on average it takes 1432 liters of water to produce 1 kg of rice. Irrigated rice consumes about 40% of the worlds irrigation water (about 30% of the worlds fresh water resources.)

Land is terraced to allow easy flow of water, and continuous flooding provides the best environment for growth. The constant flow also cuts down on the amount of weeds.

We stopped at a lookout where we enjoyed a beautiful view of twin lakes, Buyan and Tamblingan.

Close by, were fields of small red chillies,

lettuce, cabbage and tomatoes.

A beautiful farmer worked skillfully and swiftly through her crops.

I am always amazed at how hard working the Balinese women are. Their jobs are every bit as difficult as the mens. Here, another farmer holds rice stalks in her hands, shaking loose the individual rice grains.

We’ve also passed by women – many in their old age, carrying large cinder blocks on their heads up uneven staircases and down winding paths.

Our dear friends, Erika and Ian, revisited visited Huahine, and sent us these photos of Tanda Malaika. She is perched in a beautiful spot with an amazing view, and will be a gentleman’s home on land.

Thank you so much Erika and Ian for sending us these. I have to admit I shed a few tears when I saw them, but in some way it brings some closure, knowing where she is and it definitely beats seeing her broken down and in a dumpster.

Exploring West Bali: Day 2

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Our second day of exploring west Bali took us to an area called Banyuwedang. It is less than 2 km east of Pemuteran and is important in Balinese belief.

Folklore states that when the temple was founded by a 16th century priest, Nirartha, he was led by Macaque monkeys. Out of respect for him, they settled as temple guardians, and continue to guard the temple today.

There are a few theories concerning the temples original use, one being that it served as a check point for Chinese seafaring merchants, while other theories state that it was dedicated to sailors and fisherman departing Bali – a place for final prayer prior to a voyage.
Spunky monkeys surrounded that area and showed far more attitude and aggression than other monkeys we’ve become acquainted with in Bali. As I approached the temple steps, I was met by an ornery cuss who showed me his teeth while being groomed by his girlfriend. As soon and I stepped farther away from him he relaxed once again.

We sat on a wall opposite the temples and watch a group of monkeys on the beach, and witnessed the most curious thing…

I’d always been taught that monkeys intensely dislike being in the water, but these guys were jumping in, diving down and swimming around.

If you haven’t seen the video I recorded and posted to my Facebook page (Belinda Govatos), check it out! It cracks me up. They jumped out into the water, then wrestled in the surf.

After cooling off for a while, they’d walk their drenched bodies out, dry off, then jump back in again.

We were all fascinated and watched them for a long time.

One of these sneaky little guys stole my 55mm camera lens and took it diving. I’m sure they have quite the stash of treasure buried somewhere there. Someday I’d like to enter the water a short distance away with scuba gear on and surface close to them and scare the bejeebers out of them!

We drove to an area called Pemuteran, where we boarded a wooden boat and motored out to the island of Menjangan.

Aside from Jordan, we were a boat full of sailors, and it felt so good for us to be back on the water once again – even if it wasn’t on a sailboat. Dressed in our dazzling snorkel gear, we plunged into the coolness of the water and found ourselves instantly immersed in a wonderland of corals, fans and exquisite marine life.

Anemones and clown fish in all colors and patterns were on the reef.

I could watch them for hours. We dove down exploring a wall that ran farther than we could see in some places, and the depths called to me. I wanted to be a mermaid for the day and stay down for hours. I will keep searching for that magic lamp to rub…(maybe the naughty monkeys have it)

It made me so happy to see the creatures enjoying the place they love so much. There’s just nothing like being in the ocean.

We swam with beautiful schools of sergeant major, tuna and raccoon butterfly, and past blue starfish and deep red sea fans.

When we were on the boat I was talking to our guide about my love for the ocean and he told me that he is working on a project of rehabilitating dying coral and reintroducing it to the reef. He took us to see it but photos didn’t turn out because visibility was poor. He has large metal cages that have electric current flowing through them. The current encourages calcium growth and the coral loves the calcium and grows beautifully on the cages. I grabbed a hold of the cage for kicks to see if I’d get shocked, but the calcium build up prevented me from getting shocked. Its fascinating.

Not a day has passed since our shipwreck where I haven’t looked at boats online. Just to dream. I am grateful for our experiences now, but long for the sea.

Exploring West Bali: Day 1

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For a whopping $260, Teresa and her two boys, and me with 5 of my creatures, hired a 15 passenger mini bus with a driver, to explore the north west side of Bali for 3 days. Made (Ma-day) was our driver, and our chariot was huge, with plenty of room for everyone to stretch out and enjoy the sights.

We told Made that we had some places picked out to see but wanted to just drive and pull off at spots that caught our eye. We each packed a back pack, some snorkel gear, and cameras, and set out on our adventure.
Made suggested we make a couple stops – the first being in Gianyar at the Batik Factory. We were shown how women use a pencil and trace a print onto white fabric,

then use gold paint to outline the pattern,

followed by various layers of dye and wax.

Sometimes stamps are made by carving intricate designs into wood, then dipped into paint and stamped onto the fabric in a pattern.

In the end when the fabric is immersed in hot water and all the wax is melted off, the wax can be reused for the next batik. The factory was full of beautiful fabrics,

silk scarves, ties and other clothing.

They also had a large loom where a woman was weaving cloth.

The thread was first laid out so a pattern could be designed. On the left the different colored thread that make up the pattern are not in place yet, where as on the right they are.

Once the pattern is determined, the thread is unraveled and prepared for the loom, then slowly woven into place. It’s an amazing process.

Made’s second suggestion took us to the UC Silver Factory. We were first led through an area that reminded me of a sweat shop of sorts.

Small desks each outfitted with a lamp where workers sat, hammering, filing, heating and shining pieces of silver,

It was so hot in there and I could not imagine doing such tedious work hour after hour under a lamp – day after day.

Each employee is searched when they exit the room. This woman was making the tiny 4mm rings that one would slide a chain through and place pendant on, on a necklace. One tiny ring at a time…

We walked over to the showroom, where more jewelry is displayed than I’ve ever seen in one place in my life. My sister would love it! So many over priced silver rings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants and brooches galore! We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but it’s impressive. Th exterior of the building is covered in sculptures of dragonflies,

frogs…

more frogs…

figures,

and more frogs!

We continued north on our journey, passing through many small villages, rice paddies and forests. Looking down off a tall bridge, made Jude a little nervous, but the view was beautiful

Close by, farmers carried bundles of freshly hand cut weeds for animals to consume, while others worked in the fields.

We stopped down the road to look out over the foggy valley and Aidan spotted an abandoned hotel that he so badly wants to go back to and explore.

Driving past mountain sides with large patches of cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, tomatoes and chillies, made me want to design and create a quilt.

We arrived at Kebun Raya Bali (Botanical Gardens), which is in the mountainous regions of Bedugul. The gardens were established in 1959 and are filled with gorgeous tall trees,

amazing tree top fun (which we didn’t do because it was pretty expensive),

and a Karate Kid look alike!

Jude climbed up on the same little perch and told me she was “stumped” (so full of puns). The gardens were divided up into many areas – each with a different kind of flower. Most of the orchids were not in bloom, but those that were, were so beautiful.

I’m convinced that orchids and octopus are somehow distantly related…

Each blossom has such a unique little face. I think it’s sticking its tongue out at the ant.

As we approached the cactus house we could see mischief in the works. A barrel of monkeys had dumped garbage all over and were rummaging through it.

Gorgeous blooms spread out from thick green cactus,

strange sci-fi looking pods and

tiny flowers nestled deep inside the mother plant, all caught my attention, holding me hostage as I studied them in awe.

I had seen them all before but never tire of their beauty.
Outside, beds filled with bright red lilies stood tall and proud.

Emma found a flower on the ground and decorated her face…

We walked and explored and sat and talked, enjoying the cool mountain air.

All of us noticed the huge difference in air quality between the southern, more populated part of the island, to here where cars and scooters by the 1000’s aren’t polluting the air.

We felt like we wanted to take huge breaths of air and feel the clean coolness through our bodies.

After leaving the botanical gardens we stopped by a farmers market on the way to the water temple.

Delicious fresh fruit lay beautifully on display and vegetables looked so clean and orderly.

We tried some of the dried food that was so neatly packed up for sale, and were surprised by the delicious taste of the spinach.

After meandering through the market place,

we once again loaded up and set out for Pure Ulun Danu Beratan.

This temple is on the shores of Lake Bratan at 1200 m above sea level, and is used for offerings to the water, lake and river Goddess, Dewi Danu.

The 11 story pelinggih meru in the complex, is dedicated to Shiva (a Supreme Being) and Parvathi (the Goddess of fertility).
The grounds surrounding the area are beautiful, with bright flowers,

beautiful altars,

and majestic entry ways.

While there we heard music and saw a procession of Hindu’s, carrying offerings and making their way to the temple for ceremony – all led by a priest in a black and white checkered sarong, representing good and evil – ying and yang.

Woman carried baskets of fruit and flowers on their heads,

men carried incense, banners and offerings,

and everyone was happy and united.

A beautiful older woman stood off to the side, and I couldn’t help but notice the wisdom in her eyes.

Our final excursion for the day took us to Gitgit Waterfall, which is close to the old island capital, Singaraja.

These beautiful falls emit a soothing cool spray which is incredibly inviting after the walk down many stairs from the main road.

The boys climbed around for a bit while Teresa and I relaxed and watched the heavy flow cascading down.

The bathroom facility at the falls has the prettiest walkway over stepping stones in water…

When we finally reached our bungalows for the night, we were thoroughly exhausted. Our bodies felt wonderful in the large swimming pool outside our door, then after a shower and some ice cream, I believe I melted onto the sheets without another word.

I am Belinda

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Last night I drove my scooter down a narrow alley, and passed an old woman who was riding her bicycle. In a rusted wire basket above her front tire was a large bundle of fresh palm leaves, from which she would weave small baskets to sell. These woven treasures will be filled with flowers, rice and gifts for the Gods, and placed on alters with glowing incense sticks protruding from them. On the back of her bicycle were stacks of clean folded laundry – personal trophies representing a long backbreaking days work, en route to be distributed to their owners in fancy villas.As I smiled, wished her a good evening in Balinese, and continued past her, I asked myself the same questions I’ve asked so many times before. Who am I? Why am I on a scooter while she peddles a rusted bike in waning light?

I was born in Africa, the dark continent, where so many are desperate, dying of disease and live in fear. When my mother was little she lived in a hut with a dirt floor, hardened with fresh cow manure mixed with water. Her mother died when she was 8 and her father when she was 11. While growing up our family started from scratch several times – one of them being when we left Rhodesia and lived on the beach in a tent in South Africa. I have continued that trend with my children, as we have started over 5 times now – each time beginning with just our clothing and a few personal odds and ends. Am I cursed? Am I blessed? Am I a bad mother? A terrible example?
I’m the girl who very rarely feels pretty yet constantly tells my girls how beautiful they are, and am frustrated that they don’t see it. I am not very bright – just ask my husband who has a IQ to boast about. But, I am smart enough to recognize the genius and endless potential in my children and the miracles of nature.

This is not by any means a pity party, but a prayer of gratitude for constant guidance, unconditional love and blessings from my Maker – all for which I am not worthy. I am Belinda. Just the girl next door who bleeds red, is covered in scars, carries a pacemaker in her chest and fails often but tries to be a good mom, a good wife and a good person. I’m sure my elderly friend on the bicycle is striving for the same. She is my sister. We are equal and can and must be more real. I want to be more vulnerable and am trying to learn how…perhaps this blog is an attempted first step. I feel sad, I hurt, I cry, I am strong, I am happy and I am fearless, but mostly I am grateful.

A little of this and little of that

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We have been aware of several evacuation camps around Bali, for those fleeing Mt Agung (which is still grumbling and acting like it’ll blow any second). It’s been interesting to witness this situation unravel, and the needs that have come about from it. Some camps have requested help cleaning up garbage that is piling up around the camps, but we have chosen to help in other areas. Tons of food, clothing, sleeping mats, hygiene products etc. have been donated and is completely unorganized in a nearby camp, so the creatures and I set out to help with the organization efforts.

We were asked to organize it all, get some palettes and place all the rice on them, and pull out all expired foods so they can be used first.

The trick was to move things around to make room to start organizing, but we did, swept out the areas we were working in, and got busy.

Lack of airflow and intense heat caused some serious sweating, but we slowly made good progress.

Everyone worked so hard!

At first, the evacuees were unsure of us – some giving us the evil eye, but as soon as they understood that we were there to help and not take their food, they were welcoming. I saw several older women with tumors the size of large grapefruit on their necks, and when asking about it, I was told that many women have them due to lack of good nutrition.

Back at home, we decided to have some relaxation time, and took the scooters to the beach about 5 minutes away. En route, we saw a couple kids riding their bikes with huge kites in hand. The balinese really love their kites.

Aidan and Nico took relaxing to the next level.

It was fun to lay around and take a dip in the ocean.

Being there made us realize that we hadn’t taken Jordan surfing yet – something he had wanted to try out, so the following day we rode to Kuta and had a blast!

Everyone did a good job and put a lot of effort into it.

Emma pretty much caught every wave she attempted.

We have some surfing champions in the making!

Though I never wish my kids to fail, it is so hilarious to watch them crash!

So much fun!!!

Everyone had a refreshing, exhausting time.

Jordan saw a hat and sunglasses he liked so we fixed him up with them. Pretty styling beach bum!

Back here at the house, Stanley is now getting fatter and living like a queen…

Angel is still getting along ok, and now loves to be loved and to be right with us,

and for just a couple days we are taking care of a 3 or 4 year old female pup named Coco, until her new adopted family picks her up.

She was found on the street, sick, starving and covered in all sorts of skin conditions. She was treated, sterilized, vaccinated and is a happy girl now compared to how she was in this picture.

I told Danny about her and his response was to not turn our home into a kennel. I promised that Coco was temporary, and as we know, Angel won’t be with us long. It’s so hard not to help when we are surrounded by abused, starving dogs. This country has a huge problem in this area.

Cycling Bali

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Our adventures began at 7:30am when a large van pulled up outside our villa, and we loaded in like socks and underware stuffed into a tiny drawer. We had signed up for a cycling tour. Our $25 would take us off the beaten path on a wonderful, intimate journey through Bali countryside, and included breakfast, lunch, lessons on coffee production, rice paddies, the Hindu beliefs and untouched villages.

Our first stop was the Luwak Coffee farm. Though I’m not a coffee drinker, I had heard of some crazy little meerkat kind of creatures that were fed coffee beans and pooped out $100 cups of coffee! Well folks, I’m here to tell you that it’s true…these little civet cats are a nocturnal tree cat in Indonesia and feast on the coffee berry. They can’t digest the hard stone inside and poop out the little ‘gold nuggets’ which are gathered, washed and roasted. Supposedly the process “lowers the bitterness…imparting a musky smoothness.”

Jude decided that she was going to start eating the coffee berries and selling her poop to make make some extra cash on the side. If anyone is interested in an order, please contact us. We can enlist all the creatures if bulk orders are needed.

A couple trays of tea, hot coco and coffee samples were placed on each table, and visitors from all over sampled to their hearts content.

Cups of steaming or iced coffee was served to those who ordered for 100,000 IDR, which is $7.50. A pretty high price for a drink in this part of the world. In New York these same sized cups of coffee are sold for $100 a cup.

Our friend, Daniel, ordered coffee that was brought to the table looking like it was straight from a science lab. We watched in great anticipation as the water heated in the lower glass ball, boiled and worked its way up into the coffee chamber above and then filtered back down into the ball as a dark brewed concoction. Daniel doctored with a little milk and sugar and loved it.

With new coffee knowledge in our brains, we continued on to Kintamani Village, where we were served banana pancakes. The best part was the view of Mt Batung, which is a semi active volcano.

The volcano spread out across the valley to the edges of Lake Batur.

After enjoying the views we continued on to our drop off point, where we were met by Adi, our cycling guide, who constantly joked and immediately memorized all our names.

It was there that we were introduced to our waiting chariots, which we mounted and made sure everything functioned well. Especially the breaks! Daniel and Aidan immediately started doing funky tricks and spraying dust clouds as they skidded across the dirt.

We rode through a wide variety of terrain, including dirt back roads,

small farm roads,

and narrow paths.

We loved seeing the way farmers use their land so efficiently, growing as much as they possibly could on the land they own. On this lot, tangerine trees tower above thick healthy cabbages, which are neighbors with hot chili pepper plants and any remaining spaces are filled in with peanut plants. All the crops work well together – providing what the other needs for healthy growth, maximizing the yield.

In some areas there were fields of these large hot peppers, and in other fields, grew small even hotter red peppers.

We cycled through several tiny villages, each with their unique temples.

Periodically we’d come across farmers and their families weighing and loading crops onto trucks heading to the city.

I could just imagine the soups, salads and entrees that would be created with these beautiful juicy cabbages.

We passed little old ladies carrying heavy bags up and down uneven ground in the jungle. I wanted to help them all, and can’t believe their strength.

We also passed sweet little old men who got big smiles on their faces when we greeted them in Indonesian.

Some of the villages were larger than others and seemed to have been there with all the same people for hundreds of years. A spell cast. I want to go back and listen to their stories, learn their ways…

Early afternoon we passed a school bus, carrying excited children who waved and smiled at the weird white people sweating on their bikes.

One of the areas we passed through was where much of the concrete is poured into molds and set for building temples. The structures which are either grey, black or orange in color, are then transported, set in place and further carvings into the concrete are done on location.

Grey structures are made from regular concrete, the black is from concrete containing sand from the black sand beaches and the orange is from concrete containing the orange/red colored sand from various places around Bali. I love the breasts on the little old lady in front of this temple!

Shortly before entering the rice paddies, we came across women in a village drying rice on the road on tarps.

The dry rice was then scooped up into bags and sent to be husked. Adi tried convincing us that at breakfast they all sit around husking one grain at a time!

Four kinds are rice are grown here in Bali: Long grain white rice, short grain white rice, sticky rice and brown rice.

My favorite part of our entire day was cycling through the rice paddies. Small paths through endless green fields, chimes ringing out across the expanse in the breeze, a coolness in the air…it’s so incredibly beautiful!

We passed an old woman who was working knee deep in mud in her field, and I asked Adi what she was doing. He said she was weeding.

I immediately asked if I could help her, and Adi spoke to her and she nodded her head. Jude and I kicked off our shoes and climbed in!

It was only after I was up to my shins in mud and water that I took a closer look at my surroundings and realized that I had entered frog heaven. I looked up at Adi and asked, ‘Adi, what lives in the rice paddies?’
He replied, ‘What lives in the rice paddies Mum?’ I said ‘yes, Adi, what lives in this mud and water?’ ‘Oh!’ He smiled, ‘what lives in the rice paddies is snakes, leeches and fr…….’ I stopped him right there with my finger held high. ‘No Adi, don’t say it! Frogs do not live in the rice paddies!’ I tried to convince him of that. ‘Yes Mum, lots of frogs, lots and lots of frogs and tadpoles!’ Just as he said that a brave little soggy froggy of disgustingness jumped onto my hand! I sent that thing flying faster than Danny can fly a jet. Jude laughed at me and just then, something large moved under her foot and she squealed. Our sweet grandma in the paddy laughed at our sissiness.
Emma joined us and weeded too.

We decided to suck it up and keep helping. The process was to pull weeds, then push them deep down into the mud so they would act as fertilizer. In no time at all our backs were killing us but we continued on. Adi said these people will wake early in the morning, get to work and stay till sunset.

Day after day after day…
We saw the little huts farmers live in, and outside them each family had their alter to make offerings to the Gods.

We continued on through the rice paddies, constantly in awe of the beauty there, and so grateful to be witnessing it.

After 5 hours of cycling, we reached the end in Ubud, where we were served lunch in a beautiful Balinese home. Teresa and I love the kitchen.

We had made friends with a family from Australia, and all sat at the table together.

Lots of deliciousness was served, and we were incredibly hungry!

Yum, yum and more yum!

I wandered through the yard, enjoying the peaceful setting and admired the simplicity of it all.

Adi showed me a lovely little spider,

and traditional things around the grounds.

Many alters stood in the garden where offerings are made daily.

In the center, out in the open, is the bed that is slept in the night before some of the more sacred ceremonies.

I could not imagine spending the day in a more beautiful place!

Bali is so beautiful. The people here are wonderful. It’s an amazing place to call home.

Racing against time

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Mt Agung continues to rumble. Aside from steam escaping from a vent way up high, it looks like a sleepy mountain. Then there’s the constant rumblings – averaging 800-900 a day, and when looking at seismic activity on paper, it’s obvious that ‘sleepy’ is not a word to describe Agung.

We had heard many stories of how, when fleeing the ‘danger zone’, which is a 12 km circle around Agung, understandably people had to leave their livestock behind, and also their pets. We are on day 10 of high alert now, and the rush is on to go back and save as many of the animals as possible. It’s risky because Agung could blow at any moment, but a single cow is worth so much to a family. The average Balinese family has an income of 1,500,000 IDR a month – thats a little over $100! A cow makes all the difference in the world. Land owners are also rushing in each day to tend to and harvest crops to sell. It’s their only income.
We heard of a group of people called BARC, that are like the SPCA of Bali, that had secured temporary shelters and were frantically trying to go back up Agung and save any pets they could. These animals – mostly dogs and cats were starving to death, and so far a couple hundred have been brought to an area 10 km from Agung, while about 7000 are still up there. 2000 of them are in areas that can be reached and the other 5000 are where no one is allowed to enter till after the eruption. The twins, Jude, Jordan and I, hopped on the scooters and rode 2 butt numbing hours to the shelter, where we volunteered for a while.

Dogs in all colors and sizes lay around, ran around, growling, barking, playing, fighting, passing time and I’m sure, thoroughly confused.

Those that ran the shelter had placed different colored collars on the dogs and marked on them the location they’d been found. A few loving owners had actually dropped their dogs off at the shelter, hoping to see them again once the dust (and lava) has settled. Trouble makers and females in heat are in cages, and bark constantly.

Some look like they have had it pretty rough,

while others are up to nothing but mischief!

We cuddled and scratched,

And played and petted.

They loved all the attention.

Feeding time was interesting because all the bowls are filled and have to be placed on the ground at the same time or fights erupt! So we each carried towers of filled bowls and on command, quickly placed them on the ground all over the shelter to keep the dogs apart while they ate.

They love their rice, chicken heads and dog food mixture!

When bellies were full, we cuddled and stoked them as some fell asleep…loving the love and attention.

Such precious little creatures.
This little guy craved attention so much. He placed his head on my lap and didn’t want me to stop cuddling him.

We stayed as long as we could – all the while praying Agung stayed quiet since we were in the danger zone.

I don’t know if we really made a difference…

At this point I’m sure we are long forgotten and they continue to be there – afraid and confused, but maybe, just for a moment we brought them a little joy. A little love.

The group are trying to find another location to move the entire shelter to, so that they are out of the danger zone. In the mean time, Stanley is slowly but surely fattening up here at home, and is such a sweetheart.

We have also become foster parents to a dog named Angel, who is dying of kidney failure and has a broken leg. He looks rough and doesn’t want to touched. He was found 2 weeks ago and has been stuck in a small cage at a veterinary office.

When I heard about him I just couldn’t stand the thought of him living out the rest of his days – be them 2 or 20, in a cage. So, he’s here with us, being fed, protected and shown lots of love. Just last night he allowed Mycah and I to pet him for the first time. The vet said he’s comfortable right now, but when he acts like he’s in pain, or if he starts to vomit, it’ll be time to put him down.