“Kids, I have bad news,” Annie said soberly after reading her Wechat messages. “Zoe is sick. Xiao Xia said that after seeing the veterinarian, she has not been eating or drinking and is losing weight.”
Annie continued, “At the vet, they took her blood for testing and Zoe got really scared. After that she seems to be worse. The result of the test showed that something is wrong but the vet seemed not to know what he is doing. Xiao Xia said that the vet was flipping through medical books to understand the test result. Just the test cost RMB750 already.”
“Can we call the doctor that used to see Zoe? I don’t want her to be scared again…” Joani said almost bursting into tears thinking about the emotional and physical trauma Zoe might have just gone through. “Can we fly back to China now?”
It was Nov 23rd. We got the fateful Wechat message from Xiao Xia while traveling along the Nile in Aswan, Egypt. Zoe has been sick before. She had a surgery many years ago to take out tumors in her uterus. Zoe is close to 11 years old, which is over 60 years in cat years. The last few months, Zoe had become more and more picky about what she eats. Xiao Xia, who is pet-sitting for us in Kunming, had been more than patient in trying different food for her to eat. Just the day before, Xiao Xia placed three different types of food in front of Zoe for her to choose. Xiao Xia had been taking care of Zoe even more patiently than we would have. She even took one week off of work to take care of Zoe.
The next afternoon, we prepared to visit the Temple of Isis and the Tombs of the Nobles around Aswan.
“I think I will stay in the house,” Joani told us few minutes before we were about to leave.
Throughout the morning, all of us felt down as well, not sure whether we should ask Xiao Xia to bring Zoe to the doctor again or for Zoe to stay home to recover, hopefully. Knowing Joani’s feeling, I decided not to push her to come with us and let her rest at the apartment that we had rented through AirBnb. We ended up only going to the Tombs of the Noble as there was not enough time. The sunset view on top of the tombs were one of the most beautiful I had seen anywhere. We all felt good to walk outside and to enjoy such majestic sceneries. On top of this, I got another WeChat message while we were visiting the sites.
“Good news! Xiao Xia said that Zoe started to drink by herself again. Although she hasn’t eaten yet, she has not thrown up for 2 days. Today she walked around, stopped by Paz’s bed, and also went on top of her favorite scratching box,” I announced to the family happily.
We were all gladden by the news, especially Joani. We knew that it is possible to survive without food for a while but no one survives long without water. Since it was Thanksgiving Day, after our 3AM trip to Abu Simbel Temple 250km south of Aswan near the border of Egypt and Sudan, we went shopping as a family to cook a big Thanksgiving meal. We bought two chickens, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, egg plants, mayonnaise, chips, and a big box of ice cream for the special meal. Olivia and Joani were really happy because everyone was into celebrate Thanksgiving, making it feel special. Since Olivia was born on Thanksgiving Day, this day was even more special.. Everyone helped out to make the meal, except for me as I was having a fever.
We shared our thanksgivings during the meal.
“I am thankful dad is so generous!” Joani shared. “He bought us a big box of ice cream. We never even have that in Kunming. He’s really changed.”
We all laughed as we enjoy the delicious fried chicken, ice cream, and chips. The first 20 minutes of every meal, it is usually quiet as we concentrate on eating and asking others to pass the food to us. Only after we all had some food in our bellies, do we usually start to share.
“I am thankful Xiao Xia is taking care of Zoe,” Annie shared.
“I am thankful Zoe seems to be better,” Olivia added.
The next day, we started our 3 days, 2 night felucca boat trip along the Nile towards Luxor. On the boat, there was no internet so we had no further news of Zoe’s condition. Sailing down the Nile was so relaxing and beautiful. We all agreed that it was one of the highlight of our one year trip.
“Zoe is not doing well,” I told the children after I saw the WeChat message at the end of our boat trip. “Xiao Xia said that last night at 9PM, Zoe threw up twice in a row. She threw up some liquid that looked like the nutrition fluid Xiao Xia fed her. This morning at 6AM, she threw up again, except this time there was nothing for her to throw up. Xiao Xia wanted to know what she should do?”
It was Nov 29th, six days after hearing the initial bad news. We just arrived in Luxor, the former ancient capital of the New Kingdom and populated densely with temples and tombs from dynasties all more than two to three thousand years old. Luxor can be divided into the East Bank and the West Bank. Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple are the two must see sites on the East Bank, which was where we stayed. The West Bank has many famous tombs because the sun sets in the west. The Valley of the King, filled with 62 royal tombs from dynasties past, is located here. During our travel in Egypt, we had not seen any ancient palaces but we had visited tombs after tombs. As soon as a future king is born, the building of the king’s tomb would begin. They didn’t build palaces to last but they built tombs to last for eternty. It was interesting to see how the pharaohs were so focused on their life after this life, and rightly so. At the Cairo Museam, we saw even mummies of various animals such as crocodiles, and even cats. Similarly, our family had been pondering on the same subject, death, as well.
“We don’t know what to do as well…” I texted back to Xiao Xia.
We did a video call with Zoe that night by calling Xiao Xia Although it was painful to see Zoe lying there with no energy, we were moved with joy whenever we heard any faint meow from Zoe. Miraculously through the advent of technology, I felt I was there next to Zoe even though I was worlds away. We cooked our own Chinese hotpot for dinner that night.
Let’s play a game,” Olivia proposed while we were all in the kitchen helping to prepare the Chinese hotpot. “Let’s go around and say something we are thankful for until someone couldn’t think of anything anymore.”
“I am thankful for Evelyn who gave us the hotpot sauce,” Annie shared first.
“I am thankful for ice cream!” Olivia smiled.
“I am thankful for Xiao Xia for taking care of Zoe,” I went next.
“I am thankful that we got to see Zoe through video even those we were so far away,” Nathan followed.
We went around and around and shared, except for Joani who didn’t want to join. Tasting the long missed taste of Sichuan numbing spices, eating Nestle ice cream, and watching a new Korean drama, Pinocchio, briefly took our minds from thinking about Zoe.
The next morning on Dec 1st, Xiao Xia texted again,”I am really worried for Zoe. Yesterday, she went inside the cat sand and just stayed there as if she had no energy to come out. She tried to throw up three to four times and didn’t sleep the whole day and still didn’t want to drink any water. She seeming to have no more strength and is meowing in great pain inside the cat sand box. I can’t bear to look at her.”
“Here is a photo of Zoe in the cat sand box. I am sorry that you have to see this…” Xiao Xia texted as she sent over a photo of Zoe lying on the cat sand.
At the hearing of the latest news, all the children became depressed again. Originally, we were planning to visit the famous Valley of the Kings. But Olivia felt God wanted her to stay in the hostel room for the day to rest. Joani laid in the hostel bed and cried for two hours and was angry at God for allowing this to happen. Nathan sat on the roof terrace staring at the setting sun, which happens to be the symbol for afterlife in ancient Egypt. Besides dealing with the possibility that we might never see Zoe, we were dealing with other pains as well. Joani accidentally broke the screen of her precious iPad. Nathan’s new favorite camera was stolen from his waist pouch by two professional thieves that waved a scarf in front of him to distract his attention. Olivia had been feeling dizzy since the felucca boat trip. Annie was dealing with a major life crisis with one of her best friend. Our host family in Nepal had their laptops, iPhones, and iPads stolen while they were sleeping the day before Thanksgiving. I ripped a hole in my favorite pants and I was depressed that everyone was depressed.
“How did your parents comfort you when you were sad,” Nathan asked me when I sat next to him on the rooftop terrace. “I can use some comfort right now.”
At that moment, I couldn’t remember how my parents comforted me. My mind was so confused at that moment that I didn’t know what to say except to sit there staring out into empty space…I missed another opportunity to show my love to Nathan.
“Can you send me photos of Zoe?” Joani texted Xiao Xia.”Also some videos as well.”
No one was in a mood to see the Luxor Temple but since that day was the last chance I will have I decided to go nonetheless. Olivia graciously offered to go with me to keep me company. It became our one-on-one date.