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Welcome to the dark months. January is dreary and cheerless under normal circumstances; I knew that it would be even tougher during the pandemic, especially since we’re still under the strictest lockdown in the Czech Republic.
And so I checked in with myself. Was I doing okay, this far into a pandemic?
Yes. I’m okay. I’m taking this time as a hibernation period of sorts. I’m not putting my foot on the gas work-wise; instead, I’m keeping up a normal level of work and filling my days with cats and baking and meditation and books and working on my finances. And while there are often times when I’m seething with the frustrating sameness of these days, life has been good overall.
A lot of my travel friends have been struggling with not traveling lately. So many of them, in fact, that I wondered if I was a freak for not feeling that way myself. How much did travel actually mean to me if I barely noticed that four months had passed without me even leaving the city limits?
But more than anything, travel has taught me patience. You cultivate a certain kind of patience when you’re crammed into the back of a Cambodian minibus with your backpack on your lap for an eight-hour journey. A certain kind of patience when your luggage has been lost for days and you’re back at M&S buying a third new outfit that makes you look like a PTA mom.
My mental health has been good through this time, and I’m deeply grateful for that. Not everyone is so lucky.
What has helped me has been acknowledging that this is a season in our lives. A shitty season, yes — but a season. A finite period of time that requires you to work with what you have, not lament how else it could have been.
Our lives will not always be like this, and we just need to hold on a little longer.
Prague, Czech Republic
Celebrating Biden’s inauguration! Fucking finally. We always knew we’d be celebrating with bubbly, and we enjoyed another bottle of the Jazz cava that we discovered in December. It was a good day, and even the kittens enjoyed themselves!
Adjusting to life post-Trump. It really hit me the weekend after inauguration. I woke up and had no idea what Trump was up to. He had been banned from Twitter. He had gone quiet. He couldn’t use the presidency to harm people anymore.
And once I realized that, I was at such peace. No joke, my FitBit data says that I’ve been sleeping much better since Trump’s been gone.
That, of course, does not mean that everything is magically better; for the most vulnerable people in the US, change is marginal at best. Which is why we need to continue donating our time and money, communicating about the issues that matter, and holding our public officials accountable.
Lewis’s health is improving!! THAT is the highlight of the month. But there were also some bad times — see the full description below in “Challenges.”
Business is ramping up. Part of me thought that December would be crazy, as there are often brands eager to spend their budget and quickly, but to my surprise, January brought forth several interesting opportunities, including some new consulting work that I really enjoyed. I hope it continues.
Getting a speaking gig at Traverse Money Minicon! I’m excited to be speaking at this virtual conference. This round is specializing in all the different ways travel content creators can make money — and I’ll be speaking about how starting a Patreon saved my business! It’s on February 18 and you can find out more information here.
Lewis’s illness had two scary setbacks this month. Our kitten Lewis was diagnosed with FIP on December 28, and this is what our lives have revolved around ever since.
FIP is one of the worst diagnoses a cat can get. Until two years ago or so, FIP was about 98% fatal (100% for wet FIP, which is the type Lewis has, and 96% for dry FIP) with no treatment available beyond palliative care. BUT THINGS HAVE CHANGED. There is now a treatment available called GS that has an 80-90% cure rate!!!
However, GS has not been approved by the FDA or the equivalent in other countries. Therefore it’s marketed as a “nutritional supplement” and the few vets who are familiar with it can’t prescribe or administer it; shipping it internationally can be a mess. How do people get it? Facebook groups. There are incredible networks that help people save their cats around the globe. It’s a gray area of legality, making it a black market environment.
And for that reason, most vets don’t know that this treatment even exists. So they tell you to put your cat down — as our vet did.
THANK GOD we found one of these groups. The day Lewis was diagnosed, Charlie drove all the way to Brno to pick up medication in the form of pills from the local Czech contact in the Facebook communities. We got Lewis started that night, and we found a new vet’s office in Prague that knows this treatment exists and supervises people who treat their cats with GS. Our vets are angels and we are so lucky to have them.
And what an UNBELIEVABLE improvement! Lewis responded almost immediately to the medication! Every day he did something new: reaching for a toy instead of looking at it, eating TONS of food, jumping up in the air, fighting with his brother. His personality came back and his swollen belly shrank.
But after two weeks of treatment and joyful improvement each day, he started getting worse. We took him to see the vet, concerned about his rapid breathing, and after spotting lingering fluid around his lungs, she recommended that we switch from pills to injections. Some cats don’t absorb pills well, and they only had experience treating FIP with injections.
We started doing daily injections, taking him to the vet every day until we were comfortable doing it ourselves — and Lewis did improve again! The fluid around his lungs disappeared! His personality came out even stronger!
But Lewis does NOT take injections easily. The vets say he’s one of the most difficult cats they’ve injected. And it doesn’t help that this medication is thick, requiring a large needle, and painfully acidic. Some cats flinch. Lewis shrieks, flails, and jumps straight up in the air. He starts whimpering when you come close. One time when we injected him at home, he actually ran off with the needle still inside him!!
So his health improved massively with injections. Then last week, Lewis started vomiting every few hours. We took him to the vet and she didn’t think it was related to the FIP; she got him some shots. Then two days later, MURRAY started vomiting like crazy — four times in two hours! We took him in and gave him the same shots.
After worrying like crazy for days, both cats are now back to normal, eating like piggies and chasing each other around the house.
We adore our cats to pieces, and constantly worrying about their health is exhausting. But it’s so worth it, because they are the best kitties ever.
Lewis will be getting daily injections until late March or early April, depending on his bloodwork, then he’ll enter a three-month observation period.
Trade license and visa difficulties. My Czech živno, or trade license, was supposed to be active beginning January 1, but the government wouldn’t approve it for some reason. And because my visa (a completely separate process) requires evidence of health insurance, we were waiting for the trade license to go through so I could get on Czech public health insurance.
Eventually my immigration found out that the affidavit I got at the US Embassy was the problem — this kind of affidavit was no longer being accepted! So I had to go back to the US Embassy, get another affidavit, pay another $50, and this one was accepted. Both my immigration agency and the US Embassy were in disbelief that the first affidavit didn’t work, but oh well.
As this post goes live, my trade license should be active. I hope I get my visa soon, too.
Our favorite neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant, Ngô, closed. Moving from our quirky neighborhood of Karlín to chic, pricey Vinohrady, because of course they are. We’ve since been sampling all the pho in the neighborhood (it’s Prague, so there are TONS of Vietnamese restaurants everywhere), but no one else comes close. Hmm…
The insurrection. I had bought a month of SlingTV so we could watch the vote on CNN, and we had poured cocktails and were waiting to enjoy the process. Then terrorists stormed the Capitol. We watched the entire thing aghast.
I’m not surprised that Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, nor am I surprised at how quickly the party of “Blue Lives Matter” started killing cops, because all along, Blue Lives Matter was about white supremacy.
I’m surprised that they were able to get in. I’m surprised that they had coordinated plans to gas Congress. And I’m surprised that even after erecting a gallows and chanting, “Hang Mike Pence,” how easily this event is being pushed under the rug by the Republican Party.
Blog Posts of the Month
Your First Post-COVID Trip Should Be to Croatia — I hope to see a lot of vaccinated travelers in Croatia this summer. Perhaps you’ll be among them. Perhaps I’ll be among them, too.
The ABSOLUTE Best Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico — I adored my time in Oaxaca, and it’s home to some of the coolest things you can do in Mexico.
This Month on Patreon
On the Adventurous Kate Patreon, I publish exclusive content and never-told stories that you can access from $6 per month. We also have a private Facebook group and members get free access to the Book Club each month.
This month’s long form essay was about my party weekend in the Hamptons in 2018 — a trip I only wrote about briefly here.
Guys, the party scene in the Hamptons is nothing like how it was depicted on Sex and the City. Not even close. That weekend I felt like an anthropologist observing all the people, thinking to myself, “Do they know it’s not as good as they think it is?”
Book Club This Month
If you’ve never been part of our Book Club, this is a great month to join! This month we are traveling to the Middle East for the first time and reading Celestial Bodies by Omani author Jokha Alharthi.
This is the first book originally written in Arabic to win the Man Booker Prize (!!) and the first book by a female Omani author to be translated into English (!!!). She also got her Ph.D in Arabic Poetry in Edinburgh of all places and teaches in Muscat today!
“In the village of al-Awafi in Oman, we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla, who chooses to refuse all offers and await a reunion with the man she loves, who has emigrated to Canada.
These three women and their families, their losses and loves, unspool beautifully against a backdrop of a rapidly changing Oman, a country evolving from a traditional, slave-owning society into its complex present. Through the sisters, we glimpse a society in all its degrees, from the very poorest of the local slave families to those making money through the advent of new wealth.”
Our meeting is on Sunday, February 21, at 1:00 PM Eastern Time. You can sign up here. Tickets are donation-based and I suggest $5. Patreon members get in for free.
Most Popular Photo on Instagram
Prague Castle on a clear day! How lucky I am to have so much beauty to enjoy on my daily walks.
For more photos from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.
What I Listened To This Month
I really like the “Feel Good Dinner” playlist on Spotify — it’s good background music but also uplifting, positive mid tempo songs that put a smile on your face.
And from this playlist I’ve discovered Durand Jones & The Indications, a band that I was convinced I had been listening to on the radio for decades.
Turns out I was listening to their album from 2016! WHAT?! They have such a specific 70s sound, with strings and horns and falsettos! It’s seamless. “Don’t You Know” is a great song to start with.
What I Watched This Month
BRIDGERTON! As did everyone else on the planet! I went into the series only knowing that it starred a really handsome guy and had a lot of sex in it (correct on both counts, particularly episode six. YOWZA!). But it was so much better than I expected. This show is just FUN and COLORFUL and WELL-DONE.
Shonda Rhimes took her time developing Bridgerton, and it shows. As far as storytelling goes, it’s paced and structured brilliantly. It’s fun and funny, the characters are fleshed out, and the costumes, while far from historically accurate, are joyful.
It’s also a nice seeing how society could have looked if we had obliterated white supremacy centuries ago.
But you know what I love the most? How the male gaze is totally absent. Yeah, there’s sex, but no gratuitous lingering boob shots — you just see boobs when they happen to be there for logistic reasons.
But there are a LOT of tension-building romantic shots instead. My favorite? A close-up on the Duke as he ROLLS UP HIS SLEEVES. That is one of the sexiest things a man can do!! What a gift this show is.
What I Read This Month
And a new year of reading begins! I hope I can break my record of 80 books in 2019. Maybe even get to 100.
This year I’m doing the 2021 Book Riot #ReadHarder challenge — a 24-book challenge that prioritizes getting out of your comfort zone and reading works by marginalized authors.
In my first month I managed to finish 12 books. Here we go!
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (2014) (#ReadHarder category: A realistic YA book not set in the US, Canada or Europe) — Sahar and Nasrin are two seventeen-year-old girls in love. But they live in Tehran and could be executed if their relationship is found out. When Nasrin’s family arranges her marriage to a man, Sahar, desperate for a solution, discovers that gender confirmation surgery is legal in Iran, and if she chose to live as man, she would have a way to be with Nasrin.
I had no clue that not only is transitioning possible in Iran, but that gender confirmation surgery is paid for by the government! It’s seen as fixing nature’s mistake. What a story, and a fascinating visit into Tehran’s queer underworld.
On top of that — this story was heartbreaking in seventeen different directions. I felt SO hard for Sahar and Nasrin and these are the two characters I have kept with me ever since finishing the book. A very engrossing read, a relatively quick read, and an interesting journey into contemporary Iran.
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu (2020) — This novel is a dizzying satire of Asian representation in the film and TV industry, blending the borders between real life and and a production. Willis Wu is Generic Asian Man who dreams of becoming Kung Fu Guy, perpetually moving between his home in an SRO and the Golden Palace Restaurant, where a cop show, Black and White, is continuously filming. Then Willis finally makes it big…and it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
What a crazy book! One of the most creative storytellings I’ve read in awhile. You can’t tell what is real life and what is fake, and some of the ambiguities keep you wondering (like when he talked about his mother as Exotic Asian Lady and how whenever she died on a show they would have more time to spend together at home before she could go back). It’s a very funny book, biting and pointed in all the right ways, and a read you won’t forget anytime soon.
Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo (2020) (#ReadHarder category: A book about antiracism) — What happens when centuries of compounded racism and sexism allow white men to have the highest elevated status — in other words, more successful just for showing up? This book contains several history-packed essays examining college admissions and football to cowboy archetypes and Great Depression-era unemployment, all illustrating how white supremacy hurts us as a nation.
What struck me the most about the book is how Oluo lined up historical events with contemporary events — say, the reaction to Shirley Chisholm in the 70s and the reaction to the Squad today — and it’s striking how little has changed. We look back at the past as being completely ridiculous and yet we’re experiencing the same damn thing all the time.
This book is good but dense. I recommend reading one chapter at a time.
The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story by Marie Kondo and Yuko Uramoto (2017) — This is not the book about tidying up that captivated the world (which I’ve already read) — this is the manga version! Chiaki is a young woman in Tokyo struggling with a messy apartment and a directionless life. Marie Kondo teaches her the KonMari process of tidying, and soon wonderful things begin to happen in Chiaki’s life as a result.
This was a fun and delightful read! Just a feel-good story that gives you warm fuzzies. It’s impossible not to smile while reading it.
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite (2019) (#ReadHarder category: An #ownvoices YA book with a Black main character that isn’t about Black pain) — Alaine is a Haitian-American teenager living in Florida. When her mother, a famous newscaster, has a breakdown on air and returns to Haiti, Alaine follows her to find out what’s wrong. She discovers family secrets and a curse, all woven up in the history of Haiti.
This was a very entertaining book — like bubblegum entertainment in lots of ways, but also sad and mysterious, and works in a good amount of Haitian history. I appreciated reading about a different side of Haiti: the Haiti where wealthy Haitians live in mansions and attend crazy weddings; the Haiti where local people work on start-ups in Cap-Haitien. A nice, entertaining read (and refreshing to read a YA book by a Black author that wasn’t about Black pain).
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2020) — When Noemi receives a letter from her newlywed cousin panicking and begging her to visit, she travels to the mansion in the forest where she lives with her husband’s family. Strange things begin happening at the property, and Noemi soon discovers that all is not normal in this strange house. Soon she uncovers a history of violence and madness that has controlled the family.
I’m not a gothic romance person at all, but this is a hardcore gothic romance. The atmosphere is strong in this one — it’s all mist and hallucinations and mazes and romance intermingled with disgust. There were some parts of the book that were downright difficult to read. Overall, I found it to be an easily devourable novel that is a very different image of Mexico than what most people have.
The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business by Elaine Pofeldt (2018) — So many business books for entrepreneurs prioritize scaling, scaling, scaling, and growing your company as much as possible. But what if you don’t want to hire tons of employees? How do you scale to a million dollars in revenue without a giant company? This book lays it all out with lots of examples.
This is the perfect kind of book for the business I run! I love running a small, lean business, and I always want to grow it in ways that allow me to run it the way I want to. (And keeping it lean means I didn’t have to fire anyone when COVID hit.) If that’s your philosophy, you should check it out.
A Burning by Megha Majumdar (2020) — This novel tells the stories of three individuals in Kolkata whose lives are upended after a terrorist attack: Jivan, a teenage girl who is accused of blowing up a train based on her Facebook comments; Lovely, a hijra (ladyboy), once tutored by Jivan, now trying to make it as an actress; and PT Sir, a P.E. teacher at Jivan’s school who becomes an influential member of a right-wing political party that wants Jivan dead.
This is a fascinating look at the intersection of class, politics, and power in contemporary India. And a lot of it is universal — particularly how PT Sir’s ascent could have easily happened in the US as well. At the same time, I feel like the book was a bit sloppy and could have been several times better in the hands of a more ruthless editor. I felt like it was on the cusp of greatness, but couldn’t quite get there.
This book was published to middling reviews in India and strong reviews in the US. I have the feeling the Americans really wanted to like this book.
Joe Biden: The Life, The Run, and What Matters Now by Evan Osnos (2020) — This book is less of a comprehensive biography of Biden and more of an in-depth look of how Biden’s life has shaped him for this moment in history. This book was published shortly before the election — rushed, yes — and is built from several interviews with Biden as well as those who served alongside him.
I wanted to read more about Biden before he took office and though I know a good amount about his life, this gave me a lot more context into the current day. He really is the luckiest and the unluckiest man. And Osnos pointed out that nobody talks about when he had his aneurysm in the 80s! He nearly died, he was bedridden for months, and he came back! And that is one of the less remarkable incidents in his life.
Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele (2016) (#ReadHarder category: An LGBTQ+ history book) — Despite the name of the book, this book, which intersperses its writing with illustrations, is more of an introduction to queer theory than queer history. It focuses on several of the academics who were pioneers in how we talk about gender and sexuality today. And it is all-encompassing with an intersectional point of view that measures race, class, and other factors along with gender and sexuality.
Again, I expected this book to be more history-oriented, and was a bit disappointed (as was I that it wasn’t a total graphic novel and more of a book with illustrations) — but this book helped me put a lot of pieces together that I didn’t quite have a handle on. I appreciate it for that reason most of all. I also had no idea that Daniel Craig’s little blue bathing suit in Casino Royale was a subversive play on bikini-clad Ursula Andress in Dr. No!
The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Mel Lindauer, Taylor Larimore and Michael LeBoeuf — This book, citing the philosophy of Jack Bogle of Vanguard, is one of the top books cited for gaining a better understanding of investing. And I actually read it before the GameStop incident happened. So many people LOVE this book so I decided to see what the fuss was about.
This is a book that could have been a blog post. The takeaways: slowly and steadily invest in index funds. Vanguard is good for that. DO NOT TRY TO TIME THE MARKET. DO NOT PICK STOCKS. DO NOT GET SEDUCED BY GETTING RICH QUICKLY IN THE STOCK MARKET. YES, I AM TALKING ABOUT THAT GAMESTOP THING. Keep it slow and steady and boring. It works.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005) (#ReadHarder category: A book you’ve been intimidated to read) — In December 2003, Didion’s daughter Quintana was hospitalized and in a coma. Five days later, her husband John died. This book is about the year that followed.
I have been afraid of this book since it came out. It won so many awards and was on so many best of the year lists and even became a play — but it just seemed so SAD. Well, I finally got over it and read it. And to my surprise, this is not what I expected it to be. It was so emotionally distant. While she brilliantly talks about how illogical grief is — how she didn’t want to give away her husband’s shoes because what would he wear when he came home? — she never once talks about her own sadness. The closest she got to an emotion was mentioning that she couldn’t eat anything but congee for weeks.
I didn’t expect that in a book about grief, the complete absence of emotion. On top of that, the book is filled with a cringe-inducing amount of name-dropping. It’s never “my close friend,” it’s “the celebrated author.” She never cooked spaghetti or pancakes; it’s soufflés and crème caramel. She doesn’t stay at a hotel near the hospital; instead, it’s the Beverly Hills Hotel. This book sat strangely with me.
Coming Up in February 2021
It’s going to be another month without leaving Prague, of course. No plans to go anywhere, and we’ll be taking care of our cats around the clock.
But I do have something new to look forward to — my first Czech lessons! I signed up for a small online class that meets twice a week for four weeks. If I like it, I can keep it up, and according to their website I could be in an advanced level by October!
I resolved to learn Czech this year in part because I want to integrate better, I’m tired of Charlie doing all the heavy lifting language-wise, and it’s not right for me to complain about how difficult Czech is without even making an effort to learn the language!
So here we go. Na zdraví!