Quin's Progress


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Tattoo d’Etat

BrainsI have not been in my right mind for quite some time, gentle friends. Before the amused chorus of “you don’t say” rises from amongst you, I should be clear, this time, I’m talking about the right hemisphere of my actual brain. You know how, apparently, the left side of the brain controls logic, reason, analytical thought, and verbal skills, and the right side is where creativity, art, music, imagination and rainbow unicorns live? Well, I’m a lawyer, so you know my zip code is on the left side of town. I’m all about words, not pictures. Recently, however, I decided to pay a visit to the other side, just to have a look around.

That is a banana blossom, about to be turned into a scrumptious salad by yours truly, in Cambodia.

A banana blossom, about to be turned into a scrumptious salad by Yours Truly, in Cambodia.

It all happened quite innocently, at first. As I’ve mentioned before, I love to take cooking classes. As most such courses focus on formulae (recipes) and technique mastery—i.e., science—my left brain stays comfortably in command, while my poor right brain stands off to the side, whispering ways to freestyle the recipe into something even more magical with other ingredients when I get home.

That's supposed to be a flower.

That was supposed to be a flower.

I took several cooking classes in Vietnam, and each featured a segment on fruit and vegetable carving to garnish the finished plates. I, of course, sucked at that part. I even cut the bejeesus out of my thumb while attempting to render a lotus blossom from the butt end of a carrot.

IMG_0791I do not like sucking at things. (Insert Beavis & Butthead snicker here.) Ordinarily, if I can’t do something well, I just avoid it. And, although one might argue that I could easily avoid fruit carving, something about it challenged me. I became determined to master at least one tomato or carrot flower, even if it killed me.

Suck it, bitches.

Suck it, bitches.

So, I hired myself a fruit carving sensei, and buckled down. And I must say, aided by good instruction and the proper tools (there are special fruit carving knives), as well as a bunch of practice, I got to where I could turn out a respectable variety of blossoms and woodland creatures from everyday items found in your local produce aisle. IMG_0788Not too shabby, eh? Remember me next time you have a buffet table to decorate for a bridal shower or red carpet awards show viewing party.

Emboldened by my admittedly moderate success at crafting fantasy vegenalia, I decided to take it to the next level: Tattooing.  On people, not fruit. Such an obvious next step, I know, forgive my prosaicness.

IMG_0589As I quickly discovered, tattooing isn’t something you can just sign up for at the Learning Annex and go do. The people in the industry don’t make it easy to get in—and they shouldn’t. Basically, the way to learn is to get an established tattoo artist to teach you, in an apprenticeship. There are some instructional materials available for purchase online, but I wanted to do it properly, so I wasn’t about to go to correspondence school. After much investigation and multiple inquiries, the tattoo masters at Bangkok Ink agreed to take me on for tutelage.

IMG_0740Bangkok Ink has a deep bench of really talented tattoo artists, including Krit, who specializes in traditional bamboo tattooing—no machine, just tapping the tattoo into the skin by hand with long needles. This guy does cleaner, more precise work in bamboo than most artists can do with a machine. It’s something to behold. They also have a relationship with a Buddhist temple, where sacred Sak Yant tattoos—done bamboo style, and supposedly embodying a sort of protective magic charm—are blessed by a monk, and sealed with a piece of gold leaf.

IMG_0743When they have room, Bangkok Ink also takes on students. It’s kind of a commune of learning, where all the resident tattooists take part in helping out the newbies. You can even learn bamboo tattooing from Krit, if you want, but I wanted to start with the modern machine style.

Bangkok Ink's guard kitty.

Bangkok Ink’s guard kitty.

I was so nervous. I had no idea if I was going to have any aptitude for this at all, and I sure didn’t know if I was going to fit in at the shop. I was the oldest person there by a good margin, and my image is pretty clean cut. I could just see the cartoon thought bubbles over their heads when I walked in that first day, words in Comic Sans font, saying “What’s that middle-aged Farang (Thai for ‘foreigner’) lady doing here? Someone give her directions to Starbucks.”

This thing scared the crap out of me every time I rounded the corner.

This thing scared the crap out of me every time I rounded the corner.

To top it off, the day I arrived, nobody knew who I was, because they had been expecting a man (I get that a lot because of my name), and Aum, the tattoo artist who was supposed to teach me, was in the hospital following a bad motorcycle accident. But, when the owner, Martin, arrived, all got sorted out quickly, another artist took over the task of instructing me, and I got down to work.

IMG_0602It was all very informal, but immediately hands on. My teacher printed out some illustrations of various things off the internet, handed me some special carbon paper, and told me to make a stencil of the image by tracing over it to get the carbon on the back side of the paper. My first several tries were dreadful, and I got purple carbon paper ink all over myself and everything around me. IMG_0597After I got a stencil of a big, cabbagey-looking flower sort of passably acceptable, she gave me a hunk of pigskin they got from the butcher, and showed me how to transfer the stencil ink to the pigskin using a tube of Mennen SpeedStick deodorant. Then, as the stencil dried, it was time to learn how to assemble and use the tattoo machine.

IMG_0605I labored over my first practice effort for almost five and a half hours. When I was done, hand cramped into a nautilus curl, Martin looked at my work, dispassionately said “not good enough,” and went on about his business.

My first attempt.

My first attempt.

I was so demoralized, I went home that night thinking, “what the hell am I doing here?” I was sure I’d made a huge mistake.

But, Day 2 went a little better. Same routine: pick an image, make the stencil, transfer to pig skin, and ink with the machine.

Day 2

Day 2

Bucket o' Pigskin

Bucket o’ Pigskin

It was still not something you’d actually want to put on a human being’s body, but nevertheless, some improvement was evident. Praise was received. I verily skipped home. Maybe I wasn’t going to suck so much after all.

Ugh.

Ugh.

Day 3, tried shading. Another disaster. I almost cried. Suckage, assured. Dragged my ass home in a funk. This endeavor was going to turn me bipolar before long.

Waf, the Phenom.

Waf, the Phenom.

It didn’t help my morale any that there was another student there, Waf, from Belgium, who started two days before I had, and on his third day there was already working on real live people, doing beautiful work. Min and WafIn fairness, he was an artist to begin with, so he already had the skill and confidence to gracefully create images. This was just a new medium for him. He was great, right out of the gate. And, so nice and encouraging to me, too, as I struggled along my much steeper learning curve.  If he wasn’t so nice, I’d have been really jealous of him.

L->R:  Aum, Tom, Ori and Waf

L->R: Aum, Tom, Ori and Waf

Two other guys—Ori and Tom—who were not beginners (at least, not by the time I got there) were also in residence.  When they weren’t cracking us up, they were spending some time polishing their already impressive skills, banking some experience, and developing their individual styles.

Ori, inking his own leg. And me, in the mirror.

Ori, inking his own leg.
And me, in the mirror, taking the photo.

When the shop was quiet, Ori would get bored and tattoo his own leg, while sipping a beer for the pain. And, can I just tell you, even though he was half in the bag, and all twisted up like that, his lines came out as clean and perfect as if he’d used a ruler. Dude is a natural.  (Click here to see more of his work.)

Practice, Practice.

Practice, Practice.

I, on the other hand, was clearly not a natural. You could just hear the rusty gears creaking in my head and smell the smoke coming out of my ears as I concentrated so hard on getting the lines even and the shading nice and feathery. My teacher was pretty laissez faire, which was probably good, as I get very frustrated and touchy when I’m having a hard time mastering something.

Hung prominently in the shop.

Hung prominently in the shop.

From the look of the work I was turning out, I was having a very hard time. The only thing I had any immediate gift for was creative draping of pashminas around the other guys’ more modest female clients who didn’t want to expose too much while they were getting worked on. A useful skill, sure, but not what I was there for.

IMG_0679But, around day 5, something shifted. Things started to click, and the machine felt more natural in my hand. I held it less tightly, and it flowed more easily over the pigskin, and suddenly, my lines looked better. The shading looked softer. The colors were going in nice and solidly. Day 5 was a good day, indeed. In fact, at the end of it, my teacher said I was ready to work on a person. IMG_0745I said no, I’m not ready. But, Pang, the manager came by and looked over my shoulder, clucked with approval, and went and put my name on the schedule board for a live, human model the following Monday.

IMG_0831I tell you what, if there’s anything that’ll motivate you to spend the whole weekend hunched over a piece of spoiling pigskin in the Bangkok heat practicing lining and shading, it’s the knowledge that some naïve kid who wants a free tattoo is going to be putting his pristine arm in your hands to indelibly mark for all the world to see. I didn’t want some epic tattoo fail ending up on the Internet—or anywhere else, for that matter—on my watch.

My walk to work along the Saen Saep Canal in Bangkok.

My walk to work along the Saen Saep Canal in Bangkok.

Monday arrived—Day 8—and I hadn’t slept much. I made sure to eat a good breakfast so my hands wouldn’t shake, and went to the shop to await my first victim. When he arrived, two hours late, I was nervous, but composed. He didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Thai, so Aw, the shop assistant, translated for us. The model was a skinny slip of a kid of about 20, and he indicated he wanted his tattoo on the inner side of his forearm, but he didn’t have any particular image in mind. I found that strange, but I had bigger fish to fry.

Aw, our trusty shop assistant, and interpreter.

Aw, our trusty shop assistant, and interpreter.

We sat down at the computer together and sifted through various tattoo styles until he saw one he liked: a neo-traditional pocket watch flanked by some roses. He was a toothpick, though, so the image wrapped almost all the way around his arm, and he refused to let me shrink it to fit the flat part of his forearm. But, as Tim Gunn says, it was time to make it work.

All stenciled up and ready to go.

All stenciled up and ready to go.

In those last few seconds before I touched the needle to his skin for the first time, I stopped to take a breath, and looked at his clean, smooth baby skin. It was never going to be the same again. Whether it would look like a poem or like tire tracks by the end of the day was up to only me.

Ori, fixing my cable.

Ori, fixing the cable.

Unfortunately, I was beset by technical difficulties, right away. The power cable to my machine was wonky, and I kept losing power. Ori fixed that for me.  Then, because of the location of the tattoo site, and the way we were sitting, my boob was in the kid’s hand the whole time I was working.  He didn’t complain, though, and I forgot about it after a while.  Also, because I was obsessively cleaning the skin as I worked, the stencil was rubbing off.

Yes, my boob is in his hand.

Yes, my boob is in his hand.

Aum, who had returned from the hospital a couple days before, was standing over me, his eyes still swollen and black from his accident, urging me not to stop, to just continue working freehand.

Half-way, and the stencil is rubbing off.

Half-way, and the stencil is rubbing off.

But, he had a whole lot more confidence in me than I did that I could do that without utterly defacing this child’s arm. So, I kept stopping, referring back to the printed image, and manually drawing the stencil back on. After about the fifth time redrawing the stencil, though, Aum was getting impatient with me, saying we were going to be there all night.

Finito!  My very first tattoo on a real, live human.

Finito! My very first tattoo on a real, live human.

I said an inner “TAWANDA!!” and did my best to finish the rubbed-off parts freehand. And, for a first effort, I think it came out reasonably well. Only took six hours. And, boy, did I sleep like a rock that night.

IMG_0876

Did that one, too.

The ensuing days were a flurry of sweet, tough, Thai kids happy to let me cut my teeth on them in exchange for free tattoos. Oddly enough, they usually didn’t have any specific image in mind when they came in, frequently saying “Up to you,” when I’d ask (through an interpreter) what they wanted. Up to me? Really? Well, then guess who’s getting a tattoo of a penguin in a hula skirt dancing on the tip of a giant corndog! That usually got them engaged in the image selection process pretty quickly. It also ensured that I ended up doing a lot of skulls flanked by roses. It’s a classic choice, easy to make on the fly.

The picture he brought.

The picture he brought.

What I gave him.

What I gave him.

BOOM!

BOOM!

In fact, there was only one time someone came in already prepared with a picture of what he wanted. It was a kind of rough illustration of a knuckle dagger that he wanted tattooed on his tricep, exactly as pictured, but embellished with some blood dripping from the blade.  I had to do an especially good job on this one, too, as my victim had absolutely gorgeous work done already by my comrades—mostly by Tom—and I didn’t want my contribution to the glorious canvas of his body to be an ugly toad. In the end, both he and I were very happy with the result.

The Shop.

The Shop.

IMG_0709Once I found my footing, just being in the shop was a blast. We had a mild, comic uprising when someone put techno music on, as it made everyone’s lines come out all uneven and bumpy. In fact, the only music no one ever complained about was Johnny Cash. I settled a mystery for those who thought the clients were sniffing glue for the pain during tattoo sessions, by imparting my earlier acquired knowledge of the universal Thai addiction to menthol nasal inhalers (they really are great if you are feeling dizzy from the heat or pain). MuralWaf painted fantastic graphic murals—his original wheelhouse—on the exterior walls of the shop. Tom would sing while he worked. Pang would bring us food, sometimes with chicken feet in it, that we’d eat at the picnic table on the patio, sometimes under the laundry strung up to dry. PicnicGroups of loud, vacationing blonde girls would come in groups of three or four, get matching tattoos, and squawk away at the top of their voices about their supposedly-wild-but-actually-pretty-tame sexual exploits in a manner clearly contrived to garner the interest of the guys in the shop, but that resulted only in us making vicious fun of them after they’d left. (Seriously, ladies…no one cares who you blew.) It was very colorful, in more ways than one.

Pretty sure that's research.

Pretty sure that’s research.

One afternoon, we were all absorbed in our respective projects, and out of the quiet, Tom said: “Do you guys remember that Friends episode where Phoebe and Rachel go to get tattoos?” Ori, without even looking up, answered, “No, I didn’t watch that show.” I, however, had actually just been thinking about that very episode a couple days before, so I chimed in with, “Yes! And Phoebe chickened out, and just had a dot on her collarbone, saying ‘it’s a lily, as seen from space!’” To which, Tom responded “No, it was ‘This is a picture of the earth from space!” Ori finally interrupted us and said, in a mildly exasperated tone, “No, it was: “It’s the way my mother sees me from heaven.” Tom turned around, eyebrow cocked, and answered, “I thought you said you never watched it.” Ori shrugged. “Well, I didn’t want to admit seeing it, but if you’re going to quote it, you should at least get it right.”

(If the video doesn’t show above, click here.)

The last one I did before leaving.

The last one I did before leaving.

As my time at Bangkok Ink drew to a close, it was clear to me that, although I had come a very long way from that first disaster of a cabbage flower on pigskin, I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go if I’m going to be anything but a dilettante at this. I am really hoping to get back there someday, to see how much better I can become.  I’m also looking into other places in the world where I can continue to learn and improve my skills as I continue my travels.  We shall see.

Words to live by.

Words to live by.  Written on the wall of the shop.

If I’m honest, though, I think it’s safe to say that, unlike Waf and Ori and Tom, I’m just not an artist. I sense that the best I’ll ever be at this is a competent technician. I’ll always have to farm out creation of the actual artwork to a real artist, or, you know…the Internet. I can live with that, though. I’ve come to accept the fact that I’ll just never really be completely in my right mind. I mean, brain.


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Update: Miss Nancy Has a Home!

Good news, gentle friends! Nancy Tran, the kitty I rescued in Vietnam, has found a happy home.

Scrawny little Nancy, getting strong at VAWO

Scrawny little Nancy, getting strong at VAWO.

The good folks at Vietnam Animal Welfare Organization (VAWO) in Hoi An took her in, as reported in my last post. In their loving care, Miss Nancy flourished and got bigger and stronger, and became fast friends with another rescued puss-puss cutie named Bunny Boy. The kitties were such good friends, in fact, that VAWO was reluctant to let them be separated for adoption. Luckily, they didn’t have to, as some wonderful expat lady took them both!

Nancy Tran (left) looking big and healthy, with her pal Bunny Boy (right) and her new mommy.

Nancy Tran (right) looking big and healthy, with her pal Bunny Boy (left) and their new mommy.

Look at my big girl. She has turned into a puma! I am so relieved and glad that this story has come to a happy end. Thank you VAWO–Emma, Cat and Phong–Dr. Quang, and to Miss Nancy and Bunny Boy’s adoptive mommy, from the bottom of my heart, for caring for this little creature who captured my heart!  Thanks, also, to Trang at Hanoi Animal Rescue, and Matt of Da Nang, and everyone else who reached out to me in response to my post regarding Miss Nancy’s plight.  Your willingness to help me help this sweet creature is so appreciated!  Special thanks, too, to Virginia and everyone else who responded to my call to support VAWO in their tireless work to save abandoned and helpless animals.  You are all angels.


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Me & Miss Tran

P1130487Since I’ve been traveling in Southeast Asia, that soft spot in my heart that is reserved for animals has taken more than a few pointy-toed boot kicks. I’ve told you about some of them; others I’ve kept to myself because I don’t want to bum you out too much. I’ll tell you about this one, though, because it has a happy ending. Or, at least, it will, by the time I’m done.

P1160798Hoi An is an enchanting little town in central Vietnam, at the bottom of the China Beach crescent, about 45 minutes from Da Nang. Pastoral and quiet, flanked by cinematic marble mountains and rice paddies, Hoi An is an ideal place to hit the pause button and regroup for a while after a long stint on the road.

P1160869I was having a most entertaining morning wandering through the town market the other day. I’d been accosted by two old grannies (who turned out to be about my age) who announced “you come, mama take care of baby,” and proceeded to denude me of all unwanted body hair on every decently exposable part of my body, right there on the sidewalk, with twisted loops of thread. spring roll wrappersI’d gotten a lesson on how to make the wrappers for fresh spring rolls from scratch, as well as those addictive, flavored rice crackers that look like hunks of Styrofoam. IMG_0248I’d had a foot massage, and was about to have another cà phê sữa đá, that dangerously delicious Vietnamese iced coffee with sweetened milk. It was shaping up to be a pleasant day.

P1160884As I passed the central market square, I noticed a tiny, black figure skitter across the entrance to the food stall area. When I looked closer, I realized it was a kitten. Barely even there, it would have fit in a teacup with room to spare. I gasped when I saw its ribs showing through vacuum-packed skin, its thin fur sticky and dirty, face crusty. A woman selling sugar cane juice nearby saw my shock, and put her hand over her heart and shook her head, saying “he no have mother.” I stood there for a minute, unsure what to do. Deciding there was nothing I could do, I walked away.

fishermenBut, I couldn’t get that scrawny bag of bones out of my head. I took a boat up the river to see the fishing villages that afternoon, but, the whole time, I was thinking about that sad little creature scrounging around the market, looking for food. At dinner, I just picked at my meal, feeling guilty. P1170007That night, I tossed and turned, unable to sleep, the image of that pathetic, little thing appearing every time I closed my eyes, reminding me that the vilest thing about me is, and will always be, my ability to observe suffering, and walk on by.

IMG_0396

The market, at night.

Finally, I just said to myself, “To Hell with it! I may not be able to save all the helpless creatures I see, but I can try to do something for this one.” So, I got up, got dressed, and walked across town to the market in the middle of the night, and hunted for him. I managed to find several rats in the process, much larger than the kitten, but I figured they could take care of themselves. They seemed pretty healthy, actually.

IMG_0397

This is where I found the kitty.

There was an older couple still working in the market hall, and I asked them if they had seen a “meow meow,” and indicated “small” with my hands. Oh yes, they knew exactly what I meant, and before long, we had located the little guy, and the gentleman crawled under a booth and grabbed him for me. The lady emptied out a box, and we nestled the kitten in there with my beach sarong, that I had brought along to wrap him in. I heard them laughing as I left. They must have thought I was nuts. They could be right.

formulaI know better than to feed a kitten cow’s milk (unless you want to spend the rest of the day cleaning up explosive diarrhea), but it’s not like there is a Petco in Hoi An, or anywhere I could buy kitten formula and a kitten baby bottle. So, I bought some cooked chicken and fish from a street vendor on the way home. Better than nothing.

I smuggled him into my hotel room, and first things first, gave him a good, thorough bath, which I’m sure traumatized the poor thing. It wasn’t optional, though, considering where I had found him, and the state of his fur and face. Oh, that poor little sticky, goopy thing! He must have thought he was done for.

IMG_0245

Poor baby!

Once I got him clean and wrapped up in a towel to keep from catching a chill in the air conditioning, I offered him some bits of food. He lit into that food with such voracity, he bit the end of my finger with his needlelike teeth several times. I’m sure it was the first food he’d had in a long time. I was worried about shocking his system with too much food too soon, so I only gave him a little bit at a time. But, appetite, he had in spades, so, I knew he was strong. With his belly full, he fell asleep in my hands, purring ever so softly. I was toast. What the heck was I going to do with this baby kitten? I was supposed to fly on to my next destination, Hanoi, in just a few days! But, I had a little time to figure it out, so, I invoked the immortal words of Scarlett O’Hara and determined to just think about it tomorrow.

Lookin' a little rough there.

Isn’t that just the saddest creature ever?

The next day, I marshaled my expert information gathering skills to find an animal rescue organization to take my little ward. I enlisted the help of the very tolerant hotel staff, and made calls to every animal welfare organization I could find from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, and everywhere in between. If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s find stuff out.

A tad squinky eyed.

A tad squinky eyed.

Through an animal group in Da Nang, I got the number of a veterinarian, Dr. Quang, who, believe it or not, made a house call to the hotel. He told me the kitten was actually a girl, and that she was dehydrated and had an abscess on the umbilical vestige spot on her tummy. Without asking my permission, he flipped her upside down in my lap, and performed a surgical procedure to clean the infection out, right there on the patio. The poor lamb bit the shit out of my hand in the process—who could blame her?—and I bled all over my pants and the floor and the kitten. It was quite a dramatic scene. The house call and surgery bill came to a whopping $7.

IMG_0253

Either I have giant fingers, or that is one tiny kitty.

Dr. Quang gave the kitty a shot of some antibiotics, fluids and vitamins, and gave me the number of a guy he knew, Phong, who takes in and cares for abandoned animals. I called, and Phong agreed to come for the kitten the next day. Dr. Quang admonished me not to feed the kitten fish or chicken anymore, but to give her rice porridge made with beef stock. Umm, okay doc, sure thing, I’ll just whip up a batch in the coffee maker right here in my hotel room. That wasn’t feasible, obviously. As a compromise, I swiped some paté from the breakfast buffet, and made a kind of mash with some hot water. This went over big with the kitten; she complained loudly if I offered her anything else after that.

"Whyyyyy?  Whyyyyy?  Whyyyy?"

“Whyyyyy? Whyyyyy? Whyyyy?”

She complained a lot, that little thing. With good reason, for sure, she’d had a pretty weird couple of days. When she would cry, it sounded like she was saying “Whyyyyyy? Whyyyyy? Whyyyy?” It reminded me of Nancy Kerrigan after Tonya Harding’s husband whacked her in the knee right before the Olympics. So, I named her Nancy.  It suits her, I think. But, she’s Vietnamese, so her last name is Tran.  Nancy Tran. Miss Tran, if you please.

Nancy thinks Mrs. Meers is creepy.

Nancy thinks Mrs. Meers is creepy.

Nancy Tran likes to watch TV. She is particularly fond of K-Pop videos. But, she’ll watch whatever. Here we are watching Thoroughly Modern Millie, which I contend is one of the most brilliantly deranged and hilarious movies of all time. I could be projecting, but I think Miss Nancy liked it, too. If you haven’t seen it yet, please remedy that immediately. Preferably, with a purring kitten on your chest, if possible. But I digress.

IMG_0271

Snuggly Snookums.

The next day, I got a response to my email to a local animal sanctuary (run by a couple of foreign women, at least one of whom is American), saying they were, unfortunately, already beyond capacity, and couldn’t take Miss Tran in. They are just a volunteer group, with no funding or sponsorship, and they weren’t in a position to accept any more critters. I understood, but it was disturbing, as it began look more and more like Phong was going to stand me up and leave me with this kitten to take care of.

I found a listing online for rescue organization in Hanoi that focuses on adoptions, and read several reviews in English—presumably from expats—saying what a great network it is. So, I rang them up and asked, if I could get Nancy to them, would they take her and find her a good home. Yes, they would, she said.

Looking perkier after only one day of love.

Looking a lot perkier after only one day of love.

But, Hanoi is about a 14-hour drive from Hoi An, and neither the airlines nor the railroad would allow me to take Miss Nancy Tran on board on such short notice, and without health certificates that I couldn’t get until she is healthier and vaccinated. I was going to just hire a driver and make the trip by car, but the director of the Hanoi rescue hotline told me not to do that, that she would make some calls and try and find me some help closer to where I was. Bless her, she did, and guess who came through? Dr. Quang and Phong! The people I had already been in contact with! There just aren’t that many people rescuing animals in Vietnam, much less, central Vietnam.

IMG_0341

Phong, our savior.

The following afternoon, Nancy was already looking and feeling so much better when Phong came for her. What a sweet, sweet man. Dr. Quang had filled him in already, so he knew all about our Miss Tran. As we chatted, I realized he was with the Vietnam Animal Welfare Organization, the rescue shelter I’d already been in touch with that said they were too full to take another animal.

Breaking my heart!

Breaking my heart!

This worried me, but Phong assured me she would be okay. I promised to make a donation over the shelter’s website to help them take care of her and the others, which I did (http://www.gofundme.com/vnanimalwelfare). Nancy Tran and I both cried inconsolably when Phong took her away. I was a wreck for the rest of the day, and beyond. I’ve gotten email updates from them, though, telling me she is doing well and getting stronger every day.

IMG_0443

More coffee.

When I got to Hanoi, I had coffee with Trang, the woman from Hanoi Animal Rescue who had helped me over the phone. She told me about the foster and adoption network they have developed to save dogs and cats from the meat trade in Vietnam. They have miraculously been able to find good homes for almost all of the animals they have rescued, if they are healthy. They interview prospective adoptive homes, and do follow up checks to make sure the animal is doing well. Unfortunately, they are also a completely volunteer-run group, with no funding or sponsorship, and despite their successful adoption program, mounting vet bills are on the verge of shutting them down. Apparently, the only officially organized and supported animal welfare group in Vietnam that deals with dogs and cats, as opposed to wild animals, is Animal Rescue & Care (A.R.C.) down south in Ho Chi Minh City.

bdngpassIn the meantime, though, Trang has been invaluable help, pitching in with me to figure out a way to get Miss Nancy up here to Hanoi, so she can be adopted. Trang even called a cattery that ships fancy cats all over, and they said Miss Nancy is too small to be shipped alone; she’s going to have to travel escorted, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, anyway. Time is of the essence, though, as the smaller and cuter Nancy is, the more likely she’ll be adopted by someone who doesn’t want to cook her for dinner. (Trang told me that, in northern Vietnam, some people apparently believe the meat of a black cat is very good for the health.

Doesn't our Miss Tran look so much better already?

Doesn’t our Miss Tran look so much better already?

There’s no meat on Miss Nancy right now, but by the time she is healthy and strong enough to make the trip up here, there will be, so it is of paramount importance that she land in the right home. I remember my folks had this problem when we had to get rid of our pet goat, Willy, when I was little. There were lots of people calling, wanting him for a barbecue.)

But, we’ll figure it out. There’s a way, I just have to find it and throw some money at it. One thing’s for sure: I won’t rest until my Miss Nancy Tran is settled into a loving home of her own.

Stay tuned….

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For more information about the animal rescue groups discussed in this post, see:

1.  Vietnam Animal Welfare Organization (Central Vietnam—Hoi An): http://www.vnanimalwelfare.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vietnam-Animal-Welfare-Organization/163375270485035.  To make a donation: http://www.gofundme.com/vnanimalwelfare

2.  Hanoi Animal Rescue (Northern Vietnam—Ha Noi): http://venha.org/en/ or https://www.facebook.com/tramcuuhochomeohanoi.   To make a donation via PayPal, click “send” on the homepage, and enter hanoipetrescue@gmail.com as the recipient.

3.  Animal Rescue and Care (A.R.C.), Ho Chi Minh City (Southern Vietnam—Saigon): http://www.arcpets.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/pages/ARC-Vietnam-Animal-Rescue-Care/156253704415502.

4.  Cứu Trợ Động Vật Đà Nẵng — Animal Rescue of Danang (Central Vietnam—Da Nang):  https://www.facebook.com/CuuTroDongVatDaNang?fref=ts (site in Vietnamese only).