Saturday, September 11, 2010

Street Kitten

As any of my friends or family could tell you, at times I’m prone to impulsive acts. Lately this has included bringing home a street kitten. As impulsive actions usually go, I didn’t think much about the consequences or what the long-term future would mean. All I know is that it was pouring with rain and I saw a drenched kitten sitting near the doorway of my apartment building. In a moment of concern, humanity, and of course impulsivity, I grabbed the kitten, tucked her under my arm and brought her home to my apartment. It didn’t hurt that she’s incredibly cute (pictures to follow)…

Upon reflection of my actions, which is usually what happens after a sudden burst of impulsivity, I made a connection between my work on the streets and rescuing the kitten. The day I rescued her, Rubi (named after one of my sex worker friends), I remember feeling particularly vulnerable and emotionally exhausted. I wrote in an earlier post that at times my work feels emotionally overwhelming and unsustainable. I’m overwhelmed by the poverty and hardships these women face. I’m saddened to no end watching some of my friends fall into drugs—watching people shrink in size, lose their smiles and develop deep lines in their faces. I’m exposed to so much pain and feel completely hopeless. I also recognize that I’m simply an anthropologist. I’m not here to save anyone. Nor do I have the economic means, power or resources to do so. I feel guilty that I can’t do more. I always hope that my ability to listen as people share their stories is a small help—that at least I listen to these women, many of whom have no one to turn to for emotional support.

In my analysis, I rescued Rubi in order to fulfill my need to rescue something, anything, in a tangible way from the street. I can “save” this kitten. Indeed, I did save her. I provide her with food, water, and a warm place to sleep at night. I have brought her to the vet, cleared her of disease and illness. It is satisfying to watch her grow and flourish in my home. It fulfills my maternal (or guilt-driven anthropological need?) impulse, my yearning to rescue someone or something from the pain of the streets. Perhaps I didn’t bring home a street kid, as I’ve often wanted to do, but at least Rubi now has shelter from the rain.

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