Housesitting: Parallel Lives in an Alternate Universe
It’s rather strange to be house and pet sitters when you think about it. We walk into a stranger’s house and make ourselves at home among their possessions and four-legged family. We care for their treasures like we would our own, pamper and fuss over the pets, water plants and bring in the mail, converse with the neighbors and sometimes even add some of their friends as our own. In short, we have a chance to sample and experience an alternative life in a new and unfamiliar city or country without a permanent commitment. How cool is that?
At the beginning of our stay in Curacao the security guard at the entrance recognized the vehicle we were driving but not us, and each new guard required the same explanation about who we were and where we were staying. Shortly, however, a wave and nod and we’d be let back into the gated community with little fuss and a warm smile. We learned some of the idiosyncrasies of the house: the lighting system controlled by a remote, the combination stove/oven with the temperature in Centigrade that cooked with either gas or electricity, the washer with controls labeled in Dutch and the on-demand hot water heater. We never did quite figure out the electronic gate of the fence that enclosed the small property and, if any neighbors watched our comings and goings we must have provided a small amount of amusement. One of us would dance around with the control waving our arms trying to activate the “trigger” or light that powered the finicky beast. The gates would part halfway then slam shut and all the time the driver would be gunning the engine waiting to dart through whenever the gate god decided we’d been toyed with long enough.
And there were, of course, the three reasons our presence as house/pet sitters was required: Grietje, Nina and Simba. Simba, the big neutered Tom called our competence into question right away when he took off the second day of our stay for some nomadic traveling of his own that lasted about two weeks. He slunk back home thinner, wearing some battle scars and slowly insinuated himself back into the household as though he’d never left. Nina, a feminine calico, had one eye (the other lost to an infection before her adoption as a small kitten) and loved watching us from her lofty heights on the refrigerator or the top shelf of the bookcases. She also pounced on unsuspecting toes moving under the sheet early in the morning which was a rude awakening. And Grietja, a tortoiseshell, shed her hair in tufts and was ever mindful of her next meal, falling upon her bowl with famished enthusiasm. All became our adopted family.
Instead of a parallel experience during our stay in Curacao we had a rather bifurcated house sitting gig. One half of our duo, “Immersed”, entered upon a social calendar which included yoga, a charity walk-a-thon, weekly walking/hiking jaunts with a group up and down hills and along the coast and tea or coffee sessions following the outings. The less mobile one, suffering from a twisted knee right before our departure from Cartagena deplaned in Willemstad appearing something like a reincarnated Quasimodo: upper body canting forward and to the right, back and hip in open revolt and the left leg a reluctant appendage at best. “Twisted” spent the first several days of our stay semi-reclined, leg propped up, alternating the reading of historic tomes with fast-paced best-sellers. When rest didn’t work we explored medical tourism in phases: a doctor, physical therapist and finally an orthopedic doctor with a magic serum dispensed weekly by a wickedly long needle. In fact, the orthopedist complimented “Twisted” by casually mentioning that the x-rays showed the knees of a 45-year old patient – Blush! Blush!
And so, in between semi-reclusion and endeavors, the few house sitting activities and the care of our three feline charges we interspersed swimming, sightseeing jaunts by car exploring the island and ultimately on-foot wanderings around the barrios of Willemstad. With the offending knee working as it should “Twisted” was upright and mobile, ready for future rambles. In fact, the big downside to our house and pet sit in Curacao was ….
By Richard and Anita