It was a long wait for both my cat Champagne and myself, but the three months separation finally had its happy ending. Two-and-a-half weeks ago I flew to Manila, my flight timed with the end of Champagne’s 90-day quarantine, to pick her up. The results of the Rabies Tither blood test done in Australia were waiting with the vet, as were the rest of her papers. The able team of Beterinaryo Sa Fort (BSF) took care of every little detail for the little Diva’s travel, including the processing of the export permit.

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CatDiva in Berlin ©MTHerzog

It was good to be back and recharge my soul with the people who nourish my spirit on a fundamental level. I can’t really call Manila home anymore, because I had no apartment as such to call my own, and Mommy and Daddy are no longer there either, so the anchor that held me in Manila has suddenly vanished and once again, I am a floating citizen of the world with no permanent address.

The saga of Champagne’s travel from Manila to Berlin can be read on her Facebook page Champagne Trails, but to make a long story short, we have a lot of reasons to be grateful and special people to thank who paved the way for our exciting adventure. Given the fact that I have already experienced losing a pet in transit, I was not about to take any chances with my little girl. Regal Travel Services in Manila made sure that Turkish Airlines Manila was prepared for the transport of my precious live cargo, confirming and re-confirming the reservation. Then we also had the generous support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. Like I said, I wanted all bases covered, and if that meant obtaining military escort and anything else that would ensure the safely of my cat then I was ready to ask.

Turkish airlines has the most unusual policy for pet transport that I have encountered thus far. In most cases, once you check in the pet you won’t see it until the final destination. In Champagne’s case she was carried through the regular passenger channels and then handed over to me at the boarding gate while waiting for the boarding call. She of course was wide-eyed and bewildered, and even more so when loaded onto the plane. I followed up on her status and condition in Istanbul, just to make sure she was loaded onto the right flight and not carted off to Casablanca by mistake.

17 hours later, upon landing in Berlin and passing through immigration, I wondered how and where I was going to claim my cat. While standing at the luggage carousel, I looked out the window and spotted a lonely pet carrier that had been parked next to a locked door. The little cat inside was wide awake, looked utterly and unequivocally perplexed, and had no idea what was going on. The baggage handling personnel signaled through the window that somebody would come around and hand Champagne over officially to me so we could pass through customs.

Since then, it has been a non-stop process of discovery for the little cat. The very next day, the movers finally delivered my furniture and once again Champagne was surrounded by boxes and piles of things. I suspect she much prefers this unpacking process than the other way around when everything familiar slowly vanishes. The colder European temperatures are something that doesn’t understand, but she has accepted the new home hook, line and sinker. Together we are discovering a new pattern and schedule, adjusting to sights and sounds, dreary weather, and making the most of the warmth and patches of sunshine that come our way.

The arrival of my daughter earlier this week for a short visit was a break in the new pattern for Champagne. Just when she had established her own sense of order and knew where everything was, here comes her human sibling and turns everything upside down. It has been a year since they last met but there was a sense of recognition on the part of the cat in a matter of minutes. For the briefest of moments I had two children again, a luxury that ended all too soon.

I had envisioned my 50th birthday in a completely different manner a few years ago. My goal was to finish my pilgrimage, the Camino Ignaciano and walk triumphantly into St. Ignatius’ cave in Manresa, Spain, with beloved friends and family waiting to receive me and celebrate the moment. Instead, I found myself in the complete opposite side of the spectrum two days ago, wandering through East Berlin in the most pagan of situations, walking alongside the ghosts of Socialism that haunt the Berlin Wall, having coffee in an old East German cafe, and strolling down the Karl-Marx-Allee. I had dreamed of praying in the holy Manresa Cave, but Life had other plans in store for me and decided that my Golden Girl champagne was not to be of the liquid kind!

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