Tink! 2!

Reading this week:

  • The Mute’s Soliloquy by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

This post is a special request from my only and most loyal reader, my super amazing girlfriend. You all will recall the wonderful day that I put up my first post about the world’s most wonderful cat, Tink! This is a follow-up post to let you all know how she is doing!

She is doing quite well! Back when I wrote the first post we had only had Tink for like a week or two, so although our love for this perfect cat was pure, it was young. Now, with the fullness of time, we have learned so much about Tink’s personality and habits. Some things haven’t changed. For example, in the last post I waxed on about how much she loves windows. She still loves windows! Her usual habit these days is right after breakfast she hops up onto the windowsill in our bedroom (pictured below, the one above is the office) to watch the birds out there. That is the prime bird-watching location because there is a tree underneath and so there are lots of birds to watch. Having been inspired by none other than the New York Times, we occasionally put cat TV on for her, which she seems to appreciate. The advantage of cat TV is she can watch it from the couch instead of the hard windowsill. She still prefers the windowsill, and gets grumpy if we fail to open the blinds for her, but it’s nice that there are options.

Another thing we’ve done for her is get her some cat grass. She quickly got into the habit of nibbling on every plant in the house, despite the fact that nearly every plant in the house was not good for her. We told her this, but we all know how 6-year-olds can be. So we grew some cat grass and she loves to munch down on that, especially when (in her opinion) dinner is late. She is fed at 7 and 7 every day and so at about 4 in the afternoon she starts making sure to remind us that dinner is in only three hours. To satiate her rapidly diminishing form, she’ll turn to the grass.

Of course we must remember that she is correct and she needs lots of nourishment. This is because she works hard every day. Her rent is only $50 a month but between you and me she has yet to earn it. This is despite all the time she spends on the laptop typing out emails or whatever else it is that working people do. She makes up for it instead by prowling around the apartment ensuring that all is well and that we don’t have to worry about everything, demonstrating her fierce capability to protect us by chasing down toys. She finds the ones with feathers to be particularly vicious and so takes extra delight in demonstrating to us how she would take them down if they ever posed a more substantial threat.

She’s not all work however. Tink knows the value of excellent work-life balance and pursuing hobbies. Here she is napping in her bag full of sewing and knitting projects. She hasn’t made much progress on them because being a cat she doesn’t fundamentally understand clothing, but she is getting there and we make sure to encourage her by petting her and giving her scratches on her perfect little head, the sweet baby angel she is.

One place Tink has made a lot of progress is in becoming a lap cat. Tink, who I will remind you is perfect, is not the world’s most cuddly cat. She enjoys the new perspective on the world getting picked up brings, but once she has verified that all the books in the bookshelf are still in place and there is still no likely way she is going to be able to get up there, she is ready to be put down. However, she has warmed up to the notion of cuddles. You will remember from the last blog post that she liked sitting on pillows. If you make yourself particularly pillow-like, she is, on occasion, willing to climb on top of you and knead you a bit and, if you are very very lucky, settle in. A good alternative to this process we have come up with is to lay down next to her and act like it was her idea the whole time to cuddle. If you catch her in the right mood, she’s delighted to play along:

And with that is my latest update on Tink for you all. We love her very much and miss her whenever we leave the apartment, which still isn’t much frankly, so that isn’t a huge problem for us yet. Though if work ever starts making us come in we might just have to quit our jobs and go live in a cabin in the woods or something just so we can make sure to keep Tink company. She’s worth it.


Our friend bought us a box of cat goodies to celebrate our new family member; Tink appreciated the box for sure.

Reading this week:

  • Born in Blackness by Howard W. French
  • Out of Darkness, Shining Light by Petina Gappah
  • Children of the Forest by Kevin Duffy (this dude wants to have sex with a pygmy)

Dearest readers, I have a new light in my life, a new joy and a new obsession. As I warned in the final paragraph of my latest Cat Café post, my super amazing girlfriend and I have adopted a cat!

Tink came to us from Mt. Purrnon Cat Café, where she had been rescued from a hoarding situation. She was apparently hugely popular there, and there was quite a lot of interest to adopt her. We decided to not change her name because she knows it (and will even come when in the mood), but I do tend to refer to her as “Tinkerbell” in a very high-pitched voice because I wuv her and her fuzzy widdle tail so so much.

Tink is 6 and knows what she likes already, which is high-up places and cuddly couches. We were very excited to discover that she is so bookish, given that we have so many books (this is the guest room bookshelf). She has her spot on the couch, and also her spot on the cat tree we got her, and also a lovely cat bed that she just nestles right into, but her absolute favorite spot is on a pillow on top of the couch. She appreciates luxury like the aristocat she is.

Look at this perfect baby angel.

One of her favorite activities, besides hanging out in the vicinity of us, is to hang out on windowsills, where she can observe the outside. She is an indoor cat, and seems to be a little afraid of the outdoors when the balcony door is open, but very much likes to watch all the birds from the safety of the windowsill. We got her a whole windowsill cushion so she could keep an eye out for intruders for us while my super amazing girlfriend works at her desk:

All in all she is the world’s most perfect cat, and is also absolutely the world’s smartest cat, and the cutest, and we love her a whole lot, and we would do absolutely anything for her, because of course we know she would do the same for us. I don’t actually think she likes being held like a baby much, though:

And that’s Tink!

Cat Café 5

Yes, dear readers, we are already on Cat Café 5. Last Friday, in our ongoing efforts to truly absorb the cultural sights of our new Alexandrian home, we went to the extremely cute Mount Purrnon Cat Café and Wine Bar. As you can tell from both the opening sentence of this paragraph and also of course being a long-time reader, dear reader, this is not my first experience with cat cafés and I am well placed to give you my review of this one.

My review: it was great! My super amazing girlfriend discovered Mount Purrnon by just walking around Alexandria one day and spotting the sign. It was instant love. First of course the name is a presidential pun and that is almost guaranteed to win my super amazing girlfriend’s favor. Second, their logo and (as of this writing) front page picture on their website feature a cat in a tricorn cat, which is exactly the right kind of twee to send her over the edge. And finally, the pièce de résistance, the coup de grâce for our feelings about the place, was the fact that we are very much in the market for a cat to adopt and so we have been thinking about cats a lot.

Cat mugshots

Our most recent cat café experience before this one was Crumbs & Whiskers, and while Crumbs & Whiskers is an excellent cat café that I can personally recommend, the experience here at Mount Purrnon was much different. Crumbs & Whiskers would also like you to come and fall in love with a cat and take it home, but they have aggressively optimized for the perfect instagram experience. Mount Purrnon has been open for about a year, and while they also have an excellent instagram, they haven’t gotten anywhere close to that point yet. They in fact reminded me a lot of Crumbs & Whiskers when they had only been open for about a year, so who knows what the fullness of time will bring.

Mount Purrnon is split into two levels, with the ground floor being the wine bar that is in their name. They also serve beer, cider, food, and dessert. Going to Mount Purrnon was for my super amazing girlfriend and me our big Friday night out, so we came early to get a drink before our appointed time with the cats. That was great! Then we head upstairs to meet the cats. We had the place to ourselves, because for some reason our version of a big Friday night out was not the same as everyone else’s. It was a very chill experience, with our non-feline hosts popping in only to make sure the cat’s food was topped off. So my super amazing girlfriend and I got to just hang out with all the cats and really get a taste for their personality.

One unfortunate thing for our particular visit is that the cats had, right before we ascended the stairs to the cats, been in a cat fight. This put a number of the cats on edge and also meant another number were hiding underneath one of the chairs. This is simply the nature of cats. About half the cats in the place when we visited had recently come from a hoarder situation, and the socialization aspects of cat cafés had yet to take full effect. But this is one of the points of visiting a cat café, to give the cats some practice being around a variety of friendly humans that just want to give them pets!

Nonetheless we had a great time hanging out with all the cats. There were plenty of toys and plenty of cats and plenty of time to see how each of them are. We went home talking about which of the cats were our favorite and the next morning we put in an application to adopt one! By the time you read this we will potentially be happy new cat parents, and then this blog will go from being purely a tour of every single Smithsonian to being an endless stream of cat photos!

Cat Café 4

This blog has many themes. Love, hope, family, the usual. One of these recurring themes, besides 3D printing, Renaissance Festivals, and African colonialism, is of course visiting cat cafés! This past weekend my super amazing girlfriend and I decided to visit Crumbs & Whiskers and it was a hoot!

We decided to go for several reasons. One is that we live in DC now and I had mentioned Crumbs & Whiskers somewhere between several and many times over the course of our relationship. Another is that we are in the market for a cat and we thought it might be nice to go and look at some. The most important reason is probably that it is a lot of fun. This post is titled Cat Café 4 because I have been to cat cafés four times now, once in Singapore, once in New Haven, and twice at Crumbs & Whiskers, though the last time I went to Crumbs & Whiskers was years ago now and they have since moved so it is like a whole new experience.

Well not really a whole new experience. No matter what the general gist of the thing is the same, though I gotta say over the years Crumbs & Whiskers has really refined their experience. It was good last time I went but it was clear they were getting their feet under them, but this time it was a well-oiled machine. Brought you in, sat you down, gave you the ground rules, had you take off your shoes, and carefully monitored you during your time. That sounds like a cat-based big brother, that last sentence, but no it was great. We mentioned we were in the market for a cat and they tried to find the perfect cat for us among the lot, and gently pushed us towards cats they thought would match our personality (or just carried those cats over to us). They also include a polaroid with admission and the hosts were carefully seeing when a good photo op would be. They took a very cute polaroid of the two of us petting a cat. The below picture is not that polaroid, the below picture is me looking out of my mind while surrounded by cats:

We opted for the 70 minute experience on this trip and so we got over an hour hanging out with cats. There are a lot of different things you can do with cats over 70 minutes, especially when there are like two dozen of them. I was impressed by how used the cats were to being handled, especially while they slept, and seemed little perturbed when they were picked up in a comatose state. The hosts knew each cat’s preferred toy and they were more than willing to train us up on proper cat toy usage (trickier than you think!) to get the maximum play out of each cat. I especially liked how waving a toy around could gradually garner you a larger and larger crowd of cats.

But while 70 minutes is a lot of time it is unfortunately not forever and eventually we had to leave. This was a sad moment but now I have a Crumbs & Whiskers sticker and a Crumbs & Whiskers lapel pin and many many cat photos to remember our time together by. I’m excited for Cat Café 5. Until then, here is a picture from the next day of me on the National Mall along with a DeLorean that was there, which felt kinda silly to look at because like, I’ve lived it. Not the time travel bit, but the unreliable car bit:

Cat Café 3

Reading this week:

  • Invisible Governance: The Art of African Micropolitics by David Hecht & Maliqalim Simone
  • This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

I have named this blog post “Cate Café 3” because it is the third time I have been to a cat café. Frankly I have not gone nearly enough. For those that didn’t bother to click the last link, the first time I went to a cat café was in Singapore, the second time was in Washington DC, and the third time was in our very own New Haven.

The cat café here in town is called, appropriately, Mew Haven. They run on the DC model, where they partner with a shelter and you can adopt the cats, vice the Singapore model, where the cats were exclusive to the café and were featured on all the merchandise. I follow both Crumbs & Whiskers and Mew Haven on Facebook, and frankly Crumbs & Whiskers has much better photography. This led me to incorrectly believe that Mew Haven would be an inferior cat café experience, which was probably part of the reason that it took me a year and a half to get to the place. I could not have been more wrong in my impression! Mew Haven was great!

But first the getting there. I finally booked tickets for my girlfriend and I when I guess the unbearableness of not having a cat became too much, and also it was something to do to get out of the house and also I have been feeling like I should contribute more to my community in the monetary sense and the cat café is a good cause. It’s on the other side of town, so a scooch after lunch we piled into the DeLorean and set off. We had never been to that side of town and were surprised to discover a sweet little downtown area with a dance studio and a hip-looking coffee shop and a vintage store. Very nice!

They’ve got some COVID protocols in place, and so the sessions are only 50 minutes long, making me antsy to get in. But they had to process people so it took a few minutes, but all happened smoothly. And then we were in with the cats!

It was a really good cat café session. They had something like 17 cats all crammed into there, and a large number of those were kittens who were very playful. Unfortunately they don’t let you pick up the cats, in which case I would have tried to hold all of them at once, but it’s probably for the best. I entertained myself trying to get two cute little kittens to bother an adult cat who was trying to take a nap, while my super amazing girlfriend quickly found a friendly momma cat and dedicated a good chunk of time to petting her. I also found out on this excursion that my girlfriend has a particular for large cats, and there were some excellent chonkers to keep her quite happy.

I was sad that at the end of a very short 50 minutes our time with the cats had come to an end, and we had to shuffle out of there. The Mew Haven cat café is very well run and has excellent cats and I can’t recommend them highly enough if you just want to get more cats into your life. Someday, when the lease allows, I’ll just go ahead and get an in-home cat café, but until then I’m willing to outsource to Mew Haven.

Farm Country


Reading this week:

  • The Last Emperox by John Scalzi

This past weekend, my super amazing and super smart and super good-looking girlfriend, who is all those things not only because she is the sole regular reader of this blog, and I had an opportunity for a socially distanced change of scenery, aka spending a few days in an unoccupied house her parents own. So we went! It was really nice being able to spend a few days in her hometown. I even sorta kinda got to meet her parents, from an appropriately social distance. Now I can put accurate imagery to all her stories of her youth.


Some of the most interesting stuff going on was happening in her own back yard. In the area several different solar farms have popped up. I’m all for solar, even if I like nuclear power more, and given the massive area of land that it will take to generate a sufficient amount of solar-powered electricity, we all need to get used to having solar panels near us and around us. But solar panels are of course contentious, unfortunately. People tend to think they change the character of the place. One of the more disappointing things about Yale is that apparently the thing keeping them from covering the whole place in solar panels is that they want to maintain the look of the place. Kinda sad that even at the liberal tree-hugging bastion that is purportedly Yale saving the planet ranks lower than aesthetics (not that a few solar panels on Yale are going to save the planet or anything).

The other interesting development is that nearby a marijuana farm is moving in. This, like solar panels, is also contentious. But soon you’ll be able to stand on the hill and look over fields of solar panels and weed, which has have been the weird wet dream of at least certain hippies back in the ’70s or something. I don’t live in the place, and I didn’t grow up in the place, but a large part of me thinks that these changes should be embraced. Solar farms and marijuana farms aren’t exactly traditional agriculture, but they are farms nonetheless, no?


Although we had to stay socially distant from people, that was very much not true of animals. And fortunately new forms of rural land use have not yet pushed out the wide variety of pastoralism in the region, so there were very many animals to pet. Reviewing my photos, my new kink appears to be pictures of my girlfriend scratching animals’ snouts:


Emmett, the friendly ram.


I like this photo because it looks like this super-cute calf is like INTO whatever she’s got on her hand.

The real bonanza for animals was the local Hancock Shaker Village. The Village is currently closed due to pandemic, but my girlfriend knows some people and was able to take me around for the tour. The place is super cool and I am excited to go back when it’s open and I can see woodworking and blacksmithing and hopefully even more animals. My favorite part was Pepper, the extremely friendly cat pictured up top, who liked to climb on people and demand scritches. These are some of the absolute best cat traits. I carried her around as we checked out the animals, which included a barn full of little babies and even more animals around the grounds. These were a small fraction of the total animals that reside at the Village when it is up and running.



Oh, to be a Very Large pig, relaxing in my pig house.

When we weren’t living the authentic life of a 19th Century Shaker, we spent most of the time in the house, relaxing. And also doing like, homework. We’re grad students, you know, and this involves a lot of homework even or maybe especially in the midst of a pandemic. But when the work got to be too much you could look out the wind and view grazing sheep.


So it was an idyllic few days up in farm country, looking at animals, snuggling on the couch, and eating delicious mac n’ cheese and even more delicious ham. We eventually left in the midst of some rain, to return to sitting in our own apartments. I’m excited to come back up when the weather is nice enough and we can watch clouds that look like sheep go by, and have sheep that look like clouds nibble our pockets.IMG_4870

Barn find (not really).



Reading this week:

  • Origamy by Rachel Armstrong

This post is about my sweet new cat, Inwanwa. Unfortunately, shortly after I wrote the post Cats, Munono (the eponymous cat) disappeared. I don’t know where he wound up but I hope it is someplace nice; maybe his newfound fame lead him off to Nollywood or similar climes.


Anyways, getting a cat was kind of an impulse decision. Peace Corps regs prohibits the Peace Corps Houses from having house pets. This is an allergy and health regulation, but at our house in Kasama stray cats manage to eke out a living on the grounds despite us reading the aforementioned Peace Corps regulations to them. Cats! At any rate, presumably due to the proclivities of these cats, the house got a kitten infestation.

The story of me and Inwanwa is probably something along the lines of the cutest Rom-Com ever, because the first time he saw me he hissed at me and refused to come near me. By the next time I had come to the house, however, someone had fed the kittens and so suddenly they were all about people. This sounds cute, because it was, but the cats had to go. No longer afraid of people, they would aggressively go after your food on the porch and sneak into the kitchen in the house and wreck havoc (but cute havoc) as kittens are wont to do. So they had to go.


My poor cat here, no one wanted him. I didn’t really want him either, because owning a cat is like, responsibility, but Munono was missing and I have a big ole soft spot for the unloved. So my fellow PCVs, sensing weakness, pressed me to adopt him and so I did. The morning when I left he was unceremoniously put into a cardboard box lined with panty liners and I carted him home. This must have been traumatic for the poor thing because carting him home involved waiting an hour for a minibus, a three hour minibus ride, and then being strapped to the back of my bike and biked home. The poor thing survived in good condition and was welcomed home with some ham.

I was worried he would hate me after that little ride but apparently not. So now I own a cat. I had decided to name him after his distinctive mustache, so he was dubbed “Inwanwa,” which is apparently Mambwe for “mustache.” I asked my host dad and he didn’t think there was a Mambwe word for “mustache” (not a popular hair style) but the dictionary says it is Inwanwa so there we go.


Since getting the cat my hobbies have largely been making cat toys (he prefers toilet paper rolls) and pounding rebar into my walls and damaging the brickwork to make him platforms he doesn’t use. But he is cute and he likes to take naps on my lap and also claw me a lot. He has taken to stalking chickens and so my biggest fear is that he becomes a chicken killer, which would be expensive for me. He doesn’t eat kapenta which means I have to feed him cat food and when he can’t get me to play by clawing at me he bats at the dogs’ tails, which is playing with fire little cat. They mostly ignore him. So yeah, standard issue cat.


Reading this week:

  • Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti

Just to be completionist, this is a post about cats. One cat specifically. His name is Munono:


Munono is another semi-inheritance from the previous volunteer. Munono officially belongs to my host family now, but he likes to hang out. He usually comes over in the morning or in the evening and spends some time curled up in my lap. Like most Zambian animals it seems he was a little bewildered by affection at first, but eventually became a sucker for a comfortable lap to nap on.


As far as I can tell, this cat is useless. I’ve seen him stalk a few things, but the only thing I’ve ever seen evidence of him catching is carbs. He loves carbs. This is because most of what he eats is nshima, which is carbs personified. He hangs out at meals and meows after food, and, when he is persistent enough, he gets tossed a lump of nshima with maybe a kapenta or two in it. He scarfs it down.


Munono, scarfing down the rest of my breakfast cereal.

Because of the cat I have to keep any baked goods high up and inaccessible. To date, he has successfully hunted down a loaf of banana bread and several cookies. I’ve smartened up over time, reducing his kill count.

The cutest thing about Munono is probably the way he sleeps. His tail seems to have a mind of its own, so if he wants to sleep undisturbed by his own tail whacking him in the face, he’s got to pin it down. On top of that, to make sure he has an adequate sleeping environment, he puts his widdle paw over his widdle eyes on his widdle face and curls up tight and is all set to nap until I cruelly have to stand up and get on with my day. I always feel bad about it. I know, I am the worst.



Cat Cafe

On the same day we visited Fort Washington, Ian and I also went to the Crumbs & Whiskers Cat Cafe in Georgetown. Cat Cafes are one of those things that I thought was a bit weird when I read about it in another breathless “the crazy things they do in Japan” type articles, but now that I’ve been to two I can’t believe they aren’t all over the place.

The first cat cafe I went to was in Singapore. I was exploring the city with a friend of mine when we happened to walk by. I stopped us in front of the door and suggested we maybe give it a go, but I tried to act a bit coy about the whole thing lest I knock a few notches off my manliness quotient. He also acted slightly intrigued but less than enthusiastic, but later we figured out we both really wanted to go in and were just trying to act tough if front of the other one. So later on we gathered like four other dudes and hung out in a cat cafe in Singapore for two hours. The man working the counter was slightly incredulous and then I think slightly scared that six adult Americans wanted to visit his otherwise quiet establishment, but we had a great time.

So upon my arrival back in the States I looked around to see if there were any cat cafes. For those of you a bit lost in my cultural worldliness, a cat cafe is a place with a bunch of cats that will also usually serve you coffee. You pay some nominal entry fee and then get to hang out with cats for an hour or two and then also drink coffee. If you’ve never heard of a cat cafe before at this point you’re probably thinking “OMG WOW THAT IS THE GREATEST IDEA EVER WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?!” and I am over here like “DUDE I KNOW THEY ARE AMAZING WHY AREN’T THEY EVERWHERE?!” so I’m with you. The point is the only cat cafe I could find within several hours of me is the relatively new but absolutely awesome Crumbs & Whiskers Cat Cafe in, as I mentioned, Georgetown.

You can make reservations, which the website recommends, and ours was for 3:30. While Ian and I were there on a Wednesday afternoon we had the place to ourselves (and 20-odd cats) for most of our 75 minutes. When you walk in they also take any drink or snack orders you might have. These take a little while to come out, because they run your order to a fashionable-named “Macaron” down the street instead of make it in-house. But that’s alright because what you’re really there for is cats and boy do they have a lot of them.

I surprised Ian with our visit to Crumbs & Whiskers. We had to kill 15 minutes while we waited around for our reservation, so now that we were on location I explained the idea of a cat cafe to my uninformed and unsuspecting brother. He posed such serious questions as “why would you need a reservation for a cat cafe?” and “why would I want to visit someplace with cats?” but as soon as we walked in he had a huge smile on his face. The man loves animals and since we no longer have any pets of our own (man oh man I want a cat) his access to cute and cuddly things to pet is limited.

Ian was nervous at first and we sat sort of awkwardly admiring the cats. Ian doesn’t always have the best luck with animals but these cats are professional cats. These aren’t the amateur cats your friends have, these cats spend their whole lives being petted and loved and played with and are not at all surprised by the stranger calling them cutesy names in a baby voice. That’s their life now anyways; all the cats at Crumbs & Whiskers are rescue cats and are up for adoption, which makes it totally like “why don’t I take all of these cats home with me right now?” So Ian very quickly warmed up to the cats and got to spend a whole 75 minutes petting the very friendly cats and playing with them using the many cat toys spread around the two stories of Crumbs & Whiskers.

Ian managed to make particular friends with one cat, Brandy. The furniture in Crumbs & Whiskers is largely comprised of very hip pads sitting on the floor that serve as couches. This puts everyone at just about a perfect cat-level. Brandy was a playful little calico that very quickly sidled up to Ian after he sat down on one of the couches. Ian showed some affection and Brandy showed some affection back and Brandy was soon curled up asleep and purring next to Ian while Ian was on the phone telling everyone he knew how awesome it was.

Eventually though it was time to go home and we headed out. My only regret is that Crumbs & Whiskers is not closer to where I live. They offer all-day passes for the person who always wanted to work in an office full of cats, and they offer yoga classes for the person jealous of those YouTube videos. They also have special screenings of the Aristocats which I’m actively considering making the hour-long drive to see. Why aren’t there more Cat Cafes?