Mary

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“Are you really bringing Mary to Athens?”

My sister responds with a picture message of her cat sitting on the floor of her car.

She tells me she couldn’t leave her at our dad’s house, which I understand. It is far better for Mary to be an inconvenience than ignored.

Three hours later, Lea is in my apartment and Mary is settled. She scurries around the vicinity, taking in flashes of her new surroundings. It doesn’t take long for her to become comfortable, and she darts into my room for a more thorough exploration.

But Claire sees her, and naturally, Mary has to approach any new being she encounters.

“Oh no. Why is there a cat in here?”

Minutes later, Lea spies Mary in Claire’s arms.

Lea thinks that Mary was born erratic. Claire told me that since she’s technically still a kitten, she’s still in the phase where she wants to play with everything – and for her, playing is clawing and biting whatever comes her way. I say she experienced a somewhat terrifying event as a baby. Why else would she always be on the defense? Whatever the back-story may be, one cannot deny that there is something about Mary – it’s just hard to determine whether this something is a good thing.

Despite the threat of attack that still exists after her recent declawing, you want to touch her more than anything.
You want to cuddle with her and hold her like a baby. You want to scratch her chin and feel her fur that’s so soft you swear there’s a rabbit gene somewhere in her chemistry. Getting to feel her fur for a number of seconds is worth whatever scratches and bite marks she inflicts on you – yes, she’s that fluffy. She’s so fluffy that she feels luxurious, and it doesn’t even have to make sense.

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She’s so fluffy that she looks fat – she’s actually very skinny, though, which was proved the time she decided to jump into the bathtub with my sister.

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She holds a fascination with anything that is bathtub. If you shut her in the bathroom, the first thing Mary does is run to the ledge of the tub and hide between the shower curtain and its plastic liner. Always. She does it when I shut her in my bathroom before we leave. It is out of respect and precaution.
I have already been blamed for Mary’s great escape in December. I am not about to put up with this demented animal’s antics again.

She darts.

She invades spaces and claims new territories – atop a desk or buried away in a closet.

Earlier today I spied her trying to climb my coat.

She has taken a peculiar liking to a large Ziploc bag back home, and likes to lie inside it, face out, like she’s inside a transparent sleeping bag. She’s staring at my sister in the photo. She always stares.
I still don’t understand how a creature without thumbs can warp this way.

But then again, I don’t really understand much about her.

Late last night, I awoke to find her nestled beside my legs. She looked straight at me, her eyes yellow and wide like twin full moons.
She didn’t race up to swat my face or pounce on my thigh when I turned. She just sat there and stared at me. She might have even been purring.
Mary and I had officially formed a bond.

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Victory!

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Last night I turned in early yet again because all I could think about was how exhausted I was and revising something that I’m writing. Determined to top four and a half hours of sleep, I popped a whole sleeping pill in my mouth, grimaced because it started dissolving before I had swallowed it, and plopped into my bed.
When I awoke, my first thought was, “fuck, it’s 4:30 and I’m awake.” My alarm went off five seconds later.
Realizing that I actually had gotten a full night’s sleep for the first time in a week gave me an added surge in my energy. The window didn’t feel too chilly, so I could wear a tank top, I hadn’t lost any sleep, and I was about to drink some tea and enjoy my breakfast. You know how I love my breakfast. I wouldn’t even need a cup of that wretched coffee!
Since I wasn’t a zombie, class went better than usual. I aced my Daisy Miller quiz, and even though I fully expected it since I’ve read the story before, I still felt a brightness as I looked at the 20 with the smiley face in the 0 scribbled on the top of my page.
Evelyn said she would go to the lake with me tomorrow. I haven’t done much with any locals aside from talking to creepy older men in bars and impressing our housekeeper and Joyce, so I really want to go. We can talk about things I actually care about: food; literature; places; our families. And why shouldn’t I befriend a local?  We have common interests, and I haven’t really been able to bond extensively with many people here. Well, girls at least. It’s so much easier for me to talk to guys here. They like food, and good food at that, and they don’t give a fuck about counting calories. I should probably hang out with more guys.
After my class ended, I walked around the city for a while. Aside from a store where I could buy tweezers and a gelato stand, I had no destination in particular, and that was really nice. I haven’t managed to find a portable keg like the one I saw somebody wearing the other day, but I did see a Mozart shot glass, and that amused the hell out of me. I want to say I walked past a few useful places too – a bike shop, a Thai restaurant, places that sell sunglasses. Even going out was okay, because the dollar drinks for today actually tasted good and I befriended some guys who really like food. Maybe I’ll go eat with them one day or something, because they are the only other people I’ve encountered who are as excited as I am about a Thai restaurant being here. And I ate a grilled cheese sandwich.
All that’s really been on my brain is editing and producing. I really want this story I’m working on to be good. I mean, it is good, but I really want to make it the best it can be. I’ve been rereading it relentlessly – learning about Hemingway’s revising techniques is getting to my head.  At the same time, I’m really excited because I’ve never thought about writing so much. Sometimes all I want to do here is separate myself from everybody else and expand my ideas, edit my story, and churn out some reflections to post on here. Sorry if this post didn’t really have a point. I’m just in a great mood. I’m finally starting to feel like an active writer.
If I go to the lake with Evelyn tomorrow I’ll put some pictures up. I don’t really feel like the pictures I’ve taken so far are very blog-worthy.
And for now? A shower, a little The Sun Also Rises, and ideally, some more writing and editing.

Jet Lag

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Never in my life have I felt like such an old woman. All I seem to care about is going to class, reading, writing, drinking hot tea, sleeping, and eating – my priorities aren’t necessarily in that order, though, because I’m finding that sleeping overrides nearly everything. I don’t even know if I’d be going to class if I weren’t subject to penalties for skipping; missing one class drops an entire letter grade, and I’m kind of banking on making A’s in both of my classes here – and I should, because they’re easy classes.
My sickness is finally subsiding, and for that I am grateful. Now sleep deprivation is the only thing that can make me feel like shit. Unfortunately, I’m not coping with my jet lag very well. I don’t think I’ve ever had it this bad, honestly, and part – well, most – of that is because I have complete liberty in what I do after my classes are over. After class, I should be eating lunch, walking around the city a little and taking pictures, eating gelato, and working on my plans for weekend travel. But am I doing that? Of course not. Because I’m waking up at 4:30 every day, my mind turns into complete mush by 10:00, which makes sense since that’s 4:00 a.m., the time I’m used to falling asleep, over in the Eastern Time Zone. Once I’m out of class, nothing matters more to me than going back to bed, and it sucks because unless I get at least five hours of sleep, I’ll remain in a complete fog. And that means I don’t really have time to walk around the city and learn things, and that would normally devastate me, but at this point I’m far too tired to care.
But it bothers me that I have barely taken any pictures here and haven’t even bought new shampoo (Garnier Fructis does nothing for my hair but clean it and make it ridiculously frizzy) or gone out and bought some of the things I forgot to pack. It bothers me that I don’t have many things to talk or write about. I feel like I’m not living up to my potential – hell, I know I’m not.
I know what you’re all thinking: “coffee exists.” I’m very aware of that, and coffee is definitely not scarce here. The thing is that ice is. And guess how I prefer my coffee? Iced and loaded with milk and sugar to help camouflage the bitterness. I refuse to grow up with coffee, and I know that isn’t good, but how am I supposed to like something that sends shudders down my back? It’s the same with alcohol! That’s another thing- everybody drinks here. No, let me edit that sentence. Everybody completely abuses the opportunity to get wasted every single night. And, you know, I don’t have much against going out. Nothing is wrong with being social, especially because I’ve never really been that social. Sure, I’m quieter than everybody else and not really making a fool of myself – but can you blame me? Every time I get drunk I end up in tears, and nobody needs to see that. – but I like to convince myself that people aren’t grieving my company. I mean hey, I’m the camera girl, the girl who is occasionally hilarious and has lots of great stories about colonoscopies and a Nazi housekeeper. People like that kind of stuff, right? Plus we took shots with a middle-aged Asian woman named Joyce and the housekeeper for our dorms the other night. Where else can I do those kinds of things but Europe?

I need to quit complaining. I’m in Europe! On a lighter note, breakfast opens in 30 minutes, and I am going to stuff my face with muesli and yogurt. I’ll drink some peppermint tea, and maybe they’ll even have those crazy good pancakes today. And I’ll be an adult today and drink multiple cups of coffee. I’ll need them.
Here is a picture of me at a pizzeria. Service in Europe is impeccably slow, and the kitchen actually forgot about my order. Nevertheless, my parma pizza was incredible.

Stellenbosch

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This is Stellenbosch. It’s beautiful, right?

After leaving Phinda, the four of us (me, my sister, my dad, and our friend Schalk, who lives in Stellenbosch and therefore showed us around) drove back to the Durban Airport. Our flight to Johannesburg actually got delayed for five hours because there was a crack in the plane’s windshield. It was okay, though, because we found another flight (shout-out to OneTime Air) and British Airways gave us a refund (shout-out to British Airways too, because that was really nice.) So that only left us an hour behind schedule.
And what did we do on our first night there? Oh yeah. We ate, and then we got drunk at a bar called The Mystic Boer. Well, they got drunk. I kind of took one shot of something that tasted atrocious (oh yeah, it was Patron!), looked around the room and saw lots of guys, and it made me miss mine. I am obstinately loyal, and all I really wanted to do was go back the hotel because it had heated bathroom floors and the bed… oh my god.
I slept beautifully, especially because I didn’t have to wake up at 5:00 the next day. And then I got to have coffee and French toast and fruit and yogurt (Bulgarian yogurt is the best yogurt ever, by the way) and I was so happy.

Then we went out to this place that um, has a bunch of cheetahs… I forget what it was called. All I know is that I got to pet a cheetah and his name was Joseph and I foolishly took a Doxycycline pill without a Tum so I felt really sick. Also I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures in the cage.

We thought the cheetahs there were drugged because they were so… calm. They weren’t, though. Cheetahs keep their activity to a minimum when they don’t have to do anything that involved running because running at high speeds takes up so much energy for them. Except I don’t really know how they’d get much running done in a fenced-in area.
Cheetahs also have a wonderful sense of humor, I’ve discovered.

And yes, I have to represent my country.

Stellenbosch (and greater Stellenbosch) is famous for wine and Stellenbosch University. I’ll start with the wine.
From my observations, Stellenbosch is South African wine country. And the wine is pretty good, which is saying a lot, because I can’t really drink alcohol without making a funny face and feeling shivers run down my back.
Personally, I think the cheese was better. South Africa is renowned for cheese as well. Heaven!

A giant wine bottle obviously means that my sister needs a new profile picture.

After all that, we just went back to the town and walked around a little. I think Schalk drove us around the university too. Lots of white buildings.
We made a few friends, too – part of it might have been fate, but most of it was my dad’s lack of restraint when it comes to talking about himself around people he just met. But it turned out well. We ended up going to Cape Town that night with them to see our new friend’s son’s band 3rd World Spectator play a show at a restaurant. It was pretty fun. I got to try pizza with bananas on it, which is actually really good. I knew it would be, too. And the band was great. They can do a mean cover of “Where Is My Mind?” by The Pixies, and I really like their song “Ambulance.” And then I sat by a fire and fell asleep sitting upright, which was a great new accomplishment for me. Ha!
The next day we actually went to Cape Town again (because we had actually planned it far in advance instead of mere hours before), so that means I’m out of Stellenbosch pictures and tales. Actually I have one more. We ate Indian food with all the people we met, and it was a really good time. I do have a picture of that.

 Well, that’s all I’ve got from Stellenbosch. I need to go to bed – I’m kind of in trouble because of something my puppies chewed up. And I have tons of Austria things to do tomorrow, so I need to fall asleep within the next hour. The internet just loves to distract me.
Anyway, I’m out. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back tomorrow!