The Antipolo, Rizal, Philippines Wet Market

Man selling rice in Antipolo

The last time I was in the wet market in Antipolo I didn’t take a lot of photos because I was worried about offending the stall owners.  Well, that and thieves.  The place was really crowded at the time.  On our last trip I realized I had my camera with me and the place was relatively quiet, so I started snapping photos.  The reactions were different from what I expected.  A lot of the girls behind the counters smiled and laughed.  Then the guys started laughing at them for getting so excited over a picture being taken.  It was fun!

Rice in the Antipolo Wet Market
Rice in the Antipolo Wet Market

We don’t normally get our rice inside the market.  We go to a stall just outside it.  I haven’t checked to see if the prices are any different, but my wife’s family all buy rice from the same guy, so it just seems natural to go there as well.  Besides, the stall owner is always smiling and seems really pleasant.

Man selling rice in Antipolo
Man selling rice in Antipolo

I can’t remember if I posted the photo or not, so I’ll post it again here!

Antipolo Wet Market

Pig feet and intestines

Pig feet anyone?  No?  How about those intestines?  Nothing goes to waste in the Philippines and every part of the animal gets put on sale.  Someone must be buying it…

Longganisa at the Antipolo Wet Market

A Filipino type of sausage called longganisa.  We bought the redder looking kind on the left and had it for breakfast.  It was a little sweet for my tastes but it was good anyway.

Fish at the Antipolo Wet Market

Fish, crab, shrimp… You can get almost every imaginable seafood here.  I think I even saw some sturgeon for sale.  I noticed that there were a lot of very large bangus (milk fish) for sale.  Some of them were as long as my arm.  My wife said that after typhoons the milkfish swim closer to the shore so it’s easier for fishermen to catch them.  The prices were low too at 40 PHP (about 0.95 USD) per kilogram.

Vegetables and cooking supplies at the Antipolo Wet Market

A row of stalls selling vegetables and random cooking items like oil, spices and sauces.

Going to the wet market is always interesting because there’s so much activity and so many people wandering around.

Religious Procession Through The Town Center

Sometimes interesting things cross your path, in this case literally, which is why I’m glad I almost always have my camera with me!

We had just been dropped off in town by the tricycle so we could walk down the street and do a little shopping when we heard a bunch of loud bangs and then saw hordes of people with candles walking down the road we were supposed to cross.  When we got closer, we could see it was a procession coming from the Antipolo Cathedral and going down the main road.  I had no idea what was going on, but I figured it was a good time to take photos.

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After getting my pictures I asked my wife if she knew what the procession was for.  I’d seen her asking someone what was going on, but she wasn’t sure what the guy was talking about.  He had said, “It’s the last procession of the month!”  That doesn’t make sense though, because these photos were taken just a day or two ago, at the beginning of July.  If there’s more than one procession a month, which his answer implies, then the last one wouldn’t be at the beginning of the month.

Regardless, it was an interesting sight and it was very lively with the fireworks going off just above us.  They weren’t the kind that make patterns or lights, just loud noises, or I’d have taken photos of those too.

This also reminded me of a segment of the Filipino history book I’m reading.  When the Spaniards first started imposing their way of life on the natives here in the Philippines, Catholic missionaries would try to lure in the more stubborn people by holding frequent festivals in the towns.  The festivals and religious ceremonies and events were purposely gaudy and exciting as a way to entice Filipinos to come, enjoy and then hopefully convert, and after converting start paying tithes of course.

Since we’re talking about tithes, I also read that back then if you were a member of the church and didn’t pay your tithe, you were publicly humiliated for it during the sermon in front of all of the people from your town.  My wife says this practice still occurs in some churches in the Philippines, most notably the Iglesia ni Cristos, which is a Christian sect in the Philippines.

Settling In Update (with some good photos)

Everything has to be done in small steps, in increments.  When I got here to the Philippines I was throwing myself into the house renovations while trying to buy furniture, stock groceries and household items, find a job and figure out my visa all at once.  It’s great to be motivated, but it’s burning us out too.  We haven’t taken any time for ourselves recently, unless you count laying on the bed, exhausted, with our laptops in front of us.  Hopefully we can work in some time for that, because we’re about to put the brakes on this headlong rush, hopefully by the end of this week.

The housework is coming along nicely.  We’re getting the place cleaned up, we’re selling the scrap metal and we’re taking out the useless junk to my burn pit, which is actually more of a burn mound now.  I need to find time to scoop all of that up and put it on the curb.  It’s becoming very unsightly.  There’s a lot of things I’d like to get done around here, but I’ve moderated my plans to fit time and budget constraints, for now.  Gotta be realistic about this.

The biggest issues now are my visa and finding work.  Thankfully, we just found a lucky break while downtown at the Bureau of Immigration.  There’s an old law that says that I’m entitled to a one year free stay in the country by virtue of returning to the Philippines with my wife, who is a citizen.  That will give me plenty of time to apply for the resident visa, which takes a load of stress off our shoulders.  I’ll have to post about that process later, if it works out the way it should.  Finding work shouldn’t be difficult.  The laws here on hiring foreigners are nowhere near as strict as in Singapore, and with that one year pass and later a resident visa, the whole thing about my being a foreigner should become a non-issue.

Here are a few things that have been keeping me occupied for the last week or so.

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We stopped to check out this huge hole in the ground.  The construction is congesting traffic and giving the local shopkeepers a headache since some of them had to close down to make way for the work.  Eventually this is going to be a multilevel car park that should free up a lot of road space in Antipolo’s town area.

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When possible, we’ve been browsing the markets.  You can find a lot of interesting (and weird) stuff in them.  Occasionally you even come across a great deal on something that you’d pay double or triple for elsewhere.  The stall in the picture above sells mostly religious stuff like creepy dolls and statues and tons of rosaries.  Ya.  Creepy.  I know they’re supposed to be religious and inspirational, but most of them look like something that would scare the crap out of me if I caught sight of them in a darkened room.

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Don’t ask me why, but there was a random steel bolt sticking out of the wall in our bedroom.  I got a hacksaw and put in a lot of work to cut that thing short.  Later, I’ll cover it over and then repaint the wall.

We also spent some time in the hospital with my father in law, who is now thankfully doing a lot better than he was when we rushed him up there.  That was a stressful experience and I’m glad he’s home again.

One of the things that I like about living out here in Antipolo is the look and feel of the neighborhood we’re living in.  It’s full of people all day long.  I don’t know how, because you’d think everyone would go to work, but at any time of the day you can look outside and see kids and adults walking around or sitting down and talking.  At night it’s so quiet you can hear the second-hand on a wall-clock ticking.  That makes for some good sleep.

Here are some photos:

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The neighborhood is down in a valley.  The view as you’re going in or out is pretty nice.

Anyhow, day after tomorrow we’ll be heading to downtown Manila to Intramuros, the old Spanish administrative area from the colonial era.  The main Bureau of Immigration office is there and we need to pay them a visit.  Afterwards we’ll hopefully get to see the Manila Cathedral and some other landmarks in the vicinity.

Also, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here before, but I’m posting other, less personal, stuff about the Philippines on EverythingButBalot.com. Check it out if you have time.

My Own Personal Pit of Destruction

A few days ago I posted an update talking about hauling useless crap out of my in-law’s house and burning it.  Just to go into some details, that useless crap includes things like broken hangers, rotting wood, shredded electrical wire (that’s likely to burn the house down if used), random plastic caps and knobs and broken light switches, molded paper, completed crossword books, old newspapers, 3 year old grocery receipts, random pages of magazines, broken umbrellas, molded clothing that’s literally rotting, and other unpleasant ‘treasures’.

The trash pick-up here is only once a week, but with the amount of crap I’m hauling out, in addition to regular daily household wastes, I had to get creative.  That’s why burning it is the best option.  It also prevents animals and scraggly children from tearing open the bags to see what’s inside and leaving a pile of trash in front of your house that has to be bagged up again.

The lot next door is unoccupied, so it’s front ‘lawn’ makes a great place to build a fire.  Here’s the fire pit as it stands now:

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It’s a bit messy.  I have to get out there with a rake and a shovel to dispose of the remains but I haven’t had time to yet.

It feels great to get rid of all of that crap.  The house is gradually getting cleaner and livable.  It’s a big place and it’s a waste if it stays the way it is, not to mention it’s unhealthy for everyone that lives here, so I’m staying motivated to get the job done.

Tomorrow I think I’ll finally finish cleaning out the back of the house.  We bought a washing machine 11 days ago but haven’t been able to install it because there was too much scrap wood and metal in the way.  It’s a good thing too, because I’m almost out of clean underwear.

The Antipolo Library

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My wife and I love to read so we were excited to check out the Antipolo library when we saw the sign near the town hall.  We couldn’t figure out how to get into it at first because the whole lower level of the building is taken up by unrelated offices.  We had to ask a guard for directions.  There’s a narrow stairwell on the left side of the building that leads up to the entrance of the library.

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We expected to have to pay a fee to enter, but instead we only had to sign in on their guestbook.  We also had to put on home-made shoe coverings before we were allowed to walk around the library.  I wasn’t too thrilled with that, since they’re reused without being washed.  I’m not a big fan of getting toe fungus from strangers.  Oddly enough, when we left, we were asked to deposit the shoe covers back at the entrance and then told to walk through the library to a separate exit without them.  Kinda defeats the purpose doesn’t it?

I’m really impressed with the fact that Antipolo has a library at all, though I can’t say I’m all that impressed with the titles available.  The place is small.  It’s about the size of a small classroom and has 8 to 10 racks of books which are about 6 feet tall and 6 tables that each seat 4 people.  The books that are available are all very old, some outdated to the point of being useless information, the medical books being the biggest example of that.  Medical practices and knowledge change constantly and you can’t learn much that’s still relevant, or even correct, from a textbook that’s 20+ years old.  The categories cover very basic topics that seem to focus on high school level education and the area for fiction and literature seemed really small.

There were two or three computer terminals available, but all of them were running what appeared to be a game that’s used to teach basic English and logic with a 5 year old audience in mind.  I didn’t notice any signs for Internet access, but I didn’t get to check the terminals.

What the place excels at is providing a relatively cool, quiet place for groups of people to study and read.  Peace and quiet is rare in Antipolo.  If you happen to want to use the library, I suggest bringing along your own reading material and your own laptop with a mobile broadband USB modem.

Hopefully, better facilities will be available when we move to Manila proper but for a provincial area, this is more than I expected.

Our Lady of Peace Cathedral in Antipolo

Exterior front of Antipolo Cathedral

I’m not sure if this cathedral is actually the center of town, but it certainly feels like it for me.  It’s where we usually get off the tricycle when riding into town from our neighborhood.  We catch the FX to Manila nearby.  The town hall is within sight of the front steps and the area is often host to a number of local celebrations and events like this ballroom style dancing that I saw and recorded a bit of in 2008:

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Alter area of Antipolo Cathedral

The main cathedral is simple, by Catholic standards at least (compared to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City), but it still manages to convey a majestic, reverent atmosphere that reminded me to remove my cap when I passed through the doors.

Parishioners at Antipolo Cathedral

The pews inside are occupied by quite a few people at any given time of the day, but it’s especially jam packed on Saturday nights when mass is held.

Stained glass window at Antipolo Cathedral

Stained glass window at Antipolo Cathedral

These are some photos of the stained glass windows in the cathedral area.

Statues of Saints at Antipolo Cathedral

Statues of Saints at Antipolo Cathedral

And these are some of the statues of saints that are arrayed around the outer wall of the main chamber.  In the first image, you can see a woman laying her hand on one of the statues and praying.

People praying at a Jesus statue at Antipolo Cathedral

This is a very stylistic interpretation of Jesus carrying the cross, which people are laying hands on while offering prayers.

People lighting candles as offerings at Antipolo Cathedral

Burning candle offerings at Antipolo Cathedral

There are also areas where candles are lit.  I don’t understand the exact significance of these candles, except that they’re meant as symbolic offerings.  I suppose they’re used to ensure that the person’s prayers are heard?

This cathedral is known particularly as a place for travelers to pray for safe journey.  I was told by my wife, who grew up in the area, that it’s common for people to make a ‘pilgrimage’ there before embarking on international trips to pray for safety.

The thing I found most peculiar about the cathedral is this sign:

Antipolo Cathedral Car Blessing Sign

If you look towards the bottom right you’ll notice that there are services for car blessings.  My wife says that during this service the priest will sprinkle holy water on the car as a blessing against accidents.  Call me cynical, but this immediately brought to mind a time when the Catholic church would sell a blessing or an indulgence for just about anything, if you could pay the right price, especially with the name and logo of a bank at the bottom of the sign.

I Guess It Couldn’t All Make It Through Shipping OK

One of the running jokes about having things shipped by the military is that you’re bound to have something get broken.  When I was a kid, we did a military move from Hahn AFB in Germany back to the US and the movers managed to lose a whole section of a German wall shrunk, as well as damage some other stuff.

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This is an example of a German wall shrunk.  How do you lose even a section of something so big?

I thought I’d left that behind along with my service to the Army, but I guess mistreatment of shipped goods is a universal problem.  My HP F2120 All-In-One didn’t quite survive the trip.  The glass on the scanner bed was shattered in one corner.  It’s a shame too, because I was hoping to get started on scanning stuff and now I have to see about getting reimbursed.  I have no idea how to start the process.  I guess we’ll take the receipt and pictures of the broken device to an LBC office to find out what the procedure is.

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This is what’s left of my HP F2120 All-in-One. Thanks a lot guys!

The real issue is that there’s a huge price difference in these types of things between Singapore and the Philippines.  Even if we get a full reimbursement on the scanner, it wouldn’t cover the cost of the exact same scanner in Manila.  There’s a mark-up.  Singapore is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy electronics, so unless we get a one-for-one exchange where they give us money to cover the purchase cost of a new unit, we’re just SOL.

Can’t win ‘em all I guess.

Speaking of that, I’m still engaged in an e-mail battle with Philippine Airlines to get a reimbursement on the pet carrier that they damaged during the fiasco where one of my cats wound up running around on Changi’s tarmac and in the belly of the plane before take-off.

Tomorrow (or later today) I’m heading to the Bureau of Immigration in Manila.  I have to get my Visa taken care of before I wind up being here illegally.  Hopefully that all goes smoothly!

Playing With Fire

Today was one of those big bursts of cleaning activity that I mentioned in the last post.  We just looked around and decided that we couldn’t stand it anymore, changed into work clothes and then got cracking on taking out the trash and cleaning up the dining room, kitchen, the side and back of the house.

I did the side and back of the house because it required quite a bit of lifting of heavy stuff.  There was a huge amount of half rotten wood laying around, most of which looked like broken bits of carpentry and cabinetry.  I did find one piece of wood that looked like a gnarled tree branch stripped of bark.  I have no idea what that was doing back there.  I also found a basket full of torn and shredded clothing that I took out.  Everything else was scrap metal, paper boxes, Styrofoam lids, broken broom handles, bottles half full of God only knows what sort of liquids and little plastic bits from broken toys.

So, what to do with all this crap?  Well, in this rural neighborhood burning shit is completely legal, so I unleashed my inner pyromaniac and built a massive bonfire out of all of this rubbish, with the exception of the scrap metal which I intend to sell and reinvest into renovations.  I heaped on the regular household trash as well as random sticks and yard debris that was in the area.  I even through a half-rotten wooden bench into the pile.

I lit it off with burning newspaper and the end result was a big ball of flame that reached at least 8 feet into the air and kept me about 5 feet away from the fire until it burned down quite a bit.  Who knew plastic burned so well?  The wood burned down into a nice bed of coals that left me with a great place to toss other rubbish as we found it for the remainder of the afternoon.

It turned into quite a spectacle and after about an hour, half of the neighbors on the street were out to watch, including kids who decided to add whatever they could find to the blaze.  It was inspirational.  Other people decided it was a good time to burn their yard waste as well.

Unfortunately, the idea of taking pictures slipped my mind during the excitement, so I’ll just have to post a picture of the aftermath tomorrow.

I did get a picture of a giant toad I found though.  It was hiding under some half-rotten wood on the side of the house.  Kinda scared the crap out of me too.  I didn’t know what I was looking at for the first few seconds.  The toad is about the size of my outstretched hand and would sit comfortably on your average dinner plate.  The second photo has my thumb in it for a bit of comparison, but I kept my hand a good distance away.  I didn’t know if it would try to bite me or spray poison or something.  There are a lot of weird animals out here.  I had already dodged two giant brown cane spiders while clearing the back of the house previous to this find.

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I also took a picture of the huge box full of scrap metal I collected.  That’s not all of it.

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The box in the above picture is the same box from yesterday’s post, just so you have some basis for judging it’s size.

By the end of the day I was covered in dirt, ash and grime, but I was feeling pretty good about the progress we made.  I wasn’t quite as happy about the black boogers I was blowing out of my nose though.

The Real Battle Begins Now!

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We had that litterbox for two years. I’m sad to see it go because it’s really nice looking and you can’t find litterboxes like that in the Philippines.  Or at least, we couldn’t find one.

Our last day in Singapore was a pretty exciting one.  We went downtown, saw menstrual blood splattered all over a train seat, met the guy that runs the @Trattoriasg Twitter account (who is a part-owner of Trattoria in Somerset), did a little shopping, transferred money from our Singapore accounts to the Philippines, celebrated a birthday, and then went home late to finish clearing out our place and packing our bags for the flight.  We finally got out the door around 2 AM.

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This seat was really reserved, by menstrual blood.

Changi was a lot quieter than I expected.  The place is usually bustling with people, but I guess even an international airport can empty out in the early morning.  Did you know that between 2:30 AM and 5 AM the Skytrain doesn’t even run?  You have to take a free shuttle instead, which we wound up using because we went to another terminal to find a place to eat at.

Our check-in was incident free, but the flight was probably the most uncomfortable I’ve had.  It was through no fault of the airline though.  I expected to have a quiet, stress free flight this time, because we didn’t have our cats with us.  Unfortunately, three Filipina prostitutes were in the row behind us.

Let me ask you guys something?  Could you sit in a plane and speak loudly about how many guys you’d fucked over the past two weeks?  How about for 3 and a half hours straight?

Well, these hookers could.  They kept ordering alcohol too which just made them even more obnoxious.  By the time we landed in Manila, everyone for three rows in every direction around them was pissed off and giving them disgusted looks.

They didn’t care.  They were ugly though, so maybe that was the only way they could get attention?

After getting out of the airport we went directly to the taxi.  As usual, the fare wasn’t right.  Even though it was a metered taxi, he suddenly wasn’t willing to use his meter for the area I wanted to go to.  He said it was too far away.  He wanted 1,180 PHP to go to Antipolo.  That’s 380 PHP more than what we paid when we used the same taxi service on the 6th of last month.  So, instead we told the guy to keep his meter on and just drop us off at a place called Junction.  The meter was at 470 PHP.  We jumped into an FX (another form of privately owned public transportation like a van) and paid 40 PHP to get to Antipolo and then paid 70 PHP to ride a tricycle to my wife’s neighborhood.  So, 580 instead of 1,180.  If we’d taken the taxi to the nearest mall and then taken an FX from there, the total bill would have likely only been around 260 PHP.

Anyhow, flight and travel drama aside, the real battle for the house begins now.  Our earlier visit was like a scouting mission with minor skirmishes.  Now I have an idea of what needs to be done and, after getting the furniture tomorrow that we didn’t get today, I can pick up where I left off and get this place into tip-top shape.  Well, as good as it’s going to get anyway.  I’m not going to sink our entire savings into fixing up this place.  It’s just not practical.

Yesterday we rested.  I was up for 25 hours straight and my wife only got about an hour’s worth of restless sleep on the plane.  Today we snored until 1 PM, had lunch and then went to the town to drop off laundry we’d left here for washing and then we hit the grocery store.  I don’t know where the time went but by the time we got home it was 10:30 PM.  Then, we spent about an hour and a half cleaning the kitchen and giving the fridge a thorough scrubbing / defrosting before putting anything in it.

I’m tempted to just hire a dozen domestic helpers and handymen for a few days, but I haven’t given up yet.

House Cleaning Update!

The process of cleaning this house and doing repairs is going to take longer than expected.  The biggest time killer has been going into town and finding the best deals on materials like paints, cement, brushes, and other necessary items.  My in-law’s house is in a rural neighborhood in a valley between two mountains, outside of Antipolo.  It takes about 30 minutes to get into the town by tricycle and then walking around from small shop to small shop can eat up a whole day before you know it.  Next thing you know you’re dizzy from the heat, haven’t found a damn thing and the sun is going down.  Then you have to get something to eat and get back to the house before the crazies start coming out.

There hasn’t been a whole lot of progress to report since the door was put in.  Nothing major anyway.  The cement is done on the door and it needs to be painted.  Also, I rearranged the second floor landing (which is as big as a bedroom) but I’m holding off on photos until I finish putting everything back in place.  Just getting the furniture moved was a lot of hassle because everything was covered in boxes of junk that I had to either carry up to the attic or down to the curb, depending on its potential usefulness.

What I’m planning on doing with the 2nd floor landing is turning it into a small library.  This house may be packed with useless crap, but it’s also packed with TONS of books, most of which are still worth reading or have a lot of practical value, like history books, encyclopedias and stuff like that.  There are also manila envelopes full of college notes, papers and projects that belong to my wife and her brothers.  I want to arrange it all by category and make the area useable.  There’s even a couch, but you can’t get to it now because it’s buried under photo albums, Reader’s Digests, and Cosmo magazines.

The first floor is gradually improving since we’ve stocked up on cleaning supplies.  We can’t take all the credit for that though.  A cleaning woman came by and she broke her back getting the floor and counters cleaned.  We’ll just have to maintain and improve on that.

After the initial rush of effort we burned out.  I even got sick.  Hell, the handyman that put in the door for us and did a few other odd jobs got sick too.  I blame it on a combination of the heat and bacteria laden dust that was all over the place.  I’ve never burned through a bottle of Lysol so fast in my life as I have here.

I’m recovering now.  We’ve been putting in a lot more ‘do-nothing’ time this week.  We spent some time in Manila too, soaking up the sights and the air conditioning.  It feels good to just relax for a while after putting in so much effort cleaning and organizing a house.

After arranging all of the books in the ‘library’, I’m thinking my next project will be painting.  I’m going to start off with a fresh coat of white just to get everything looking clean and attractive.  Then, for our bedroom, we’re going to get creative.  These are our walls, so why not?  Maybe a house there, a tree over there… a field with a river.  I may even get a guy to come in and do some anime graffiti on two walls if he doesn’t charge too much.

Anyway, I’ll be heading back to Singapore for about a week starting on Sunday.  I have some more stuff there that I have to collect up and have shipped over.  It should be fun to just hang out there for a while.  Living in Singapore made the place feel like an onerous burden, but when you’re just going somewhere temporarily, you savor the experience more.  I’m looking forward to having more chicken rice and jogging at Bedok Reservoir and Pasir Ris Park.

Oh, and here are some photos of cats, to liven this post up a bit:

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This is Gibor, a cat that lives at my wife’s house in Antipolo.  He’s the male version of Thumper and you could almost confuse the two, except Gibor doesn’t walk funny and he has a huge pair of balls that we need to get whacked off.

 

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 The Siamese in this photo is named Pepper. She snuck into our bedroom to see if she could beg for an extra serving of cat food.  Notice the bootleg litter box under the desk.  Thankfully we got that replaced with a real litter box and now that we have a real door installed it’s in the bathroom.

 

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p align=”center”>Dapper, Thumper and Marble are investigating a rush mat I bought.  It’s a local woven mat called a ‘banig’ that you roll out on the floor to sit or lay on when you want to relax, but haven’t showered yet.