Feline Friends

While riding my bike (The Beaver) through an unknown town, my thoughts often wander, depending on the surrounding environment.

“Can sea birds see the air currents?”

“I’ll bet monkeys and deer are searching for food back in those woods.”

Where does your mind wander when you are traveling alone? Do you think about things you want to say to friends or family? Do you feel the urge to ask a local for some tips on the area?

Descending into a port town or through a busy shopping district, I am the stranger among people carrying out their daily work. I slip through their lives as both a traveler and a deaf person.

The latter means asking something as simple as “What’s that fish you’re drying?” must be done with a nod and a smile instead of words. I can’t let go of the handlebars to reach for a pen and paper, unless I’m willing to dismount my bike. Oftentimes this limits our communication.

However, this is a daily reality for the deaf. Even though we are still in Japan, we experience something akin to being a foreigner in a land without a common language. Traveling gives you the freedom and opportunity to meet people, but there can be an unmistakable loneliness if you can’t communicate.

Expressing yourself through diaries and e-mails can be difficult as thoughts lose their way and words fail. At times like these, when I cross paths with a stray cat, I’ll telepathically communicate my thoughts and the day’s events. Most cats respond by rubbing up against my arms and legs.

Sometimes I’ll be camped out when a homeless cat approaches, and it will undoubtedly strike a pose and beg for food. I usually have to substitute a Caloriemate bar for cat food or rice, but recently I’ve made a point to throw a can of cat food in the side pocket of my bag.

I have become a wandering traveler secretly providing nutritional support for Japan’s stray cat population. Yet it’s good to know there are feline friends throughout the country, so you are never alone when traveling in Japan.