Fish tankToday after a disastrous day at work I cheered myself up with algae.

Look, it’s not quite so weird.

I am talking about marimo. They are, simply put, fluffy balls of algae. They come in a variety of sizes and grow very slowly, but can live for a long time. When I went to Hokkaido they had marimo souvenirs everywhere- key rings of them, and soft toys of them and of course, jars of them in various sizes. I even saw a huge tank of them- some the size of a small melon. It was love at first sight for me.

However it’s not like you can put a jar of algae in your luggage, let alone take it on a plane.

Fast forward two years and I have only just realised you can simply buy marimo off Amazon. My father sent me the link and I got so excited that I purchased them and there on the bus. A little reckless but I couldn’t wait. Then today I went to the pet store for a fish tank, and discovered a whole tank of “moss balls” for sale there. I don’t know if they are actually genuine marimo, but I felt a little silly.

Nonetheless I picked up the cheapest tank I could, even if it was the ugliest and was also plastic and also had the words “my first aquarium!” plastered over it childishly. I did not need anything fancy, after all. I couldn’t resist buying an ornament though- a Japanese 5 story pagoda to fit the theme. After paying I discovered the plastic bag I’d brought wasn’t big enough so had to fashion a carrier from my scarves. I got some looks on the journey home, for both the fish tank and the unusual way of carrying it. Eventually I got it home, and in one piece (myself and it, to be honest) I didn’t even wait to have supper, or even something to drink, and launched myself into setting up the tank. It was a lot fiddlier than I imagined, and I had to phone my dad, holding my laptop at awkward angles so its webcam would pick up what I needed it to.

My father knows as little about these things as myself but together we figured it out. There’s a nice home waiting for my marimo now. I just need to pick up a jug for water changing and a temporary container for my marimo to go when I need to clean the tank. Of course, I also need to receive the actual marimo.

I am taking my algae very seriously. They should be fairly tough, but I have killed a cactus before…twice. So I remain wary of my ability to keep anything living alive and well. That doesn’t stop me from being ridiculously excited about owning them. Or soon to be owning them. I wish it was Saturday already (not just for the usual reasons!)

Meanwhile, I’m sitting here listening to the buzz of the filter as I write and it’s comforting me. It reminds me of aquariums- which reminds me of being relaxed and happy, of traveling, of being with my sister. It brings up good memories and all the feelings that go with them.

unknownpictureI was cleaning my room at my parents’ house when I stumbled upon two old photo albums, and even more interesting, two old disposable cameras which had not had their contents developed. I flicked through the photo albums and it was amusing, seeing my clunky captions in my big, shaky childs hand writing, seeing photos from when we went on safari for the first time, when digital cameras and zooms were not common, were expensive, so all we’ve got is these terrible pictures from a disposable. (My father actually had a better film camera, but he never carried it around so disposables it was.) “Spot the giraffes” the one picture says. You have to bring the photo close, squint, and there in the distance you can just about make out the shapes of two giraffes. It makes you realise how weird it is that people obsess over vintage filters when really it’s amazing and we are very lucky to have moved to an age where we can get crisp, clear photos for nothing at all, with a decent zoom also being affordable. Still, it was interesting seeing those old pictures. The other album was slightly more recent – 2004 – and by this point we had an OK digital camera. My current phone camera is about triple the resolution of this at the time very expensive, very basic digital, but still, at the time it was great, and the photos are certainly an improvement from the disposables. The album wasn’t finished, so I trawled through our old photos on the computer, picked out the ones I wanted and printed them off to finish it off. Creating an album from about 2004 to 2011, when I started university. It’s fun to have photos in a “real” format, something tangible to hold on to for the future.

Then there were the two cameras. I was dying with curiosity when it came to those – how many photos were they? Were they still OK? Or had they completely degraded? And just what were they photographs of?

I googled and found out about Photo Hippo/Fuji Film and the good reviews and decent prices inspired me to send one of my cameras off, just to see what would happen. They had an option to just have the photos developed and put on a CD, which meant they didn’t need to be printed, so if they were bad they could just be shoved somewhere on my computer and forgotten about! I sent it off on Tuesday and today my photos have arrived, on Friday. Talk about quick service. I was so nervous as the photos began to load, and even more so when the first picture was black. But 3 pictures in and it was clear they had come out. (And that first picture was just me being a bad photographer, even then.) It was also clear that these were photos taken randomly on a school outing. I cannot remember which or who anyone is, really, which makes me feel terrible. None of the photos are particularly good or interesting, or indeed worth developing. Again, I realise how great digital cameras are. None of this waiting, anticipating, and possible disappointment – you can see immediately what has been taken and delete it as necessary. I am now pondering whether to send the other camera off. Will it also be as random and disappointing as this one? On the other hand, the photos are remarkably OK for having been in my cupboard for the past decade+. Fuji Film did an amazing job, very quickly, and it wasn’t that expensive. Although a little frustrating, it is also a little fun, experimenting with this old school way of doing things.

* NOT sponsored

“It just goes to show you can’t leave anything behind. You bring it all with you, whether you want to or not.”

So now I’m going to carry on from this post and I’m going to try and keep this positive, because I had my whine in the last post.

So rewind: two weeks back. It doesn’t seem long ago. My sister dropped me off and perched in front of the TV at home, whilst my mom and I went out shopping together. We actually had a lot of fun together- chatting and browsing idly whilst forgetting what we had actually come for. My mom spoiled me a little. It had been years since my mom and I had gone shopping – before I became depressed I think we may have gone out quite often together. As I walked along that high street I was amazed at by how much it changed, but also by how much the same it was. I felt like I was younger again, and I remembered. I remembered me and my mother going out together, and how we got along. It’s crazy how much being a teenager changes you and the relationships between yourself and others, and my depression didn’t help. Anyway we went grocery shopping next, and then we came home. I cooked supper. My sister got ready to leave. My sister left. My mother and I ate sitting side by side on the couch watching some reality program. My mother really enjoyed the meal I made here, and I felt happy. I cleaned the kitchen nicely for her as she finished her program, then we put a film on, some romantic comedy that was very enjoyable at the time but not particularly memorable. That night I slept in my mothers bed, in the void left behind by my dad. We watched another film first, another romantic comedy, then went to sleep. I had a fantastic sleep. I did not wake up once, I did not have weird dreams. In the morning I woke up feeling comfortable, relaxed and refreshed. I could have just stayed there. My mother and father’s bed really is the best. Its the same frame they’ve always had, so it feels like the same bed that I used to go to when I was little, still in South Africa, and afraid of the dark. When I was younger and I got sick, I would stay home, curled up in my parents bed, always on my fathers side. It’s a place of comfort and healing for me, no room for bad thoughts. I slept so damn well.

That Sunday I went to the food festival with my mother and sister. My mother was in a bad mood and my sister was in a bad mood and the festival wasn’t as good as the one I went to with my sister for my birthday this year, but it was still quite good. I ate a lot of bratwurst mostly. As the sign at the stall said “money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you an 8 inch sausage.” That made me laugh. There was a South African stall too- run by a guy from Joburg. We had the usual chat about why they’d moved, how bad the situation in South Africa is and how much better it is here, how much the weather sucks here, although he did not mind too much. We bought miniature milk tarts and butter milk rusks. Very random to stumble across it, but nice. It’s always nice to bump into fellow South Africans, although also sad. So many people are leaving. So many people you meet have so many bad things to say about SA, and they are hardly wrong. Its not like it comes from a place of hate- its comes from a place of disappointment. And that’s what is so sad. That these people, that my family even, love South Africa so much but cannot see a viable future there for themselves or their children. So they pack up, leave, start again somewhere else.

We got home and I hung out with my sister watching bad reality TV then went to bed. The next morning I did some chores for my mother, then went to the train station to return to my uni home. Since then its just been the same old routine of uni and work and driving lessons. Coursework deadlines are creeping up, as are exams and I’m feeling under pressure. I’m still struggling. I’m supposed to be positive in this entry though so I’ll stop there.

I developed a cold last week, was coughing and weak for a time but seem to be better now, which is great.

Finally a random collection of positive things from the past couple of weeks:

This was the really great article on disordered eating mentioned in the last post.

➔ Driving went really well this week and last week, despite having a week off. A little shaky on clutch control, but my driving instructor is still letting me loose on fairly busy roads. Progress!

➔ My best friend emailed me today and we are going to meet up soon! Just when I had given up ever hearing from her again. I’m so excited, but I’m trying to refrain myself from writing back right away so I don’t show it. I don’t want to look desperate.

➔ I am really enjoying work. It does make me a bit anxious, but the work is very manageable, almost relaxing at times, and my co-workers are really nice. We have interesting chats, at least it is for me. It does feel good to take a few hours away from university every week to help out in the shop, and to have a chance to interact with other people. Even if it makes me anxious, it also feels good and helpful. Stops me from becoming too self absorbed, you know?

➔ There’s a couple of cats down a road near me who always greet me when I walk past, and I likewise. I petted them on the way home one evening last week, and looked up to see a little girl watching me out her living room window in confusion. I guess I must look crazy. I don’t care. It always cheers me up to see them.

➔ I’ve managed to talk to my father a couple of times this week. This has really helped stress wise. My dad has a way of making me feel motivated about university, and making me feel like I’m capable. I really appreciate that I have the sort of father that doesn’t mind taking the time to explain things to me. I probably would never have become an engineer if not for my father always taking the chance to explain things to me since I was a little girl– regardless of that fact I am a girl. I’ve grown up listening to my father informing me on how the world works and encouraging me to be curious – how a car works as we drive to get groceries, how all kinds of technologies new and old work as we walk around a museum, how the electronics of items work as he takes them apart to fix etc. I’m not sure I’d be able to carry on with my degree without it.

➔ I went to see the doctor and he told me it was great to see me looking so well. He said I looked happy and healthy. He seemed genuinely pleased with my process. It made me feel good. Yes, I am still struggling, but if I look back at where I was… I have improved in many ways. I’m glad I went to the doctors. And I think the antidepressants are going to be a good thing in the long run. There’s a lot more I can be doing myself, after all. See: willpower and discipline.

➔ I have completed three job applications and started two more. I spoke to the careers advisor again to get more advice and motivation. Gotta keep going!

➔ I have done some studying these past two weeks, actually. Even if it doesn’t feel like I’m making much progress, I have made some effort at some points. (positivity fail? Oh well.)

➔ I have started, just occasionally, doing yoga and I think I really like it.

➔ I have been reading some fabulous books lately. The Tenderness of Wolves was excellent,so rich in historical detail and with incredible characterisation, although it was utterly heart breaking. I cried once I finished it because I was so overtaken by how it had effected me and how much loss I felt at it being over and like that. There was so much longing in the book – not just for love – and so much of it unrequited and with no realistic resolution/going nowhere. I wanted to write about it here but words failed me. Even what I’ve written now feels inadequate. I’m reading The Falling Woman currently which is incredible in the way it presents religion, ancient history and mental illness and questions our perceptions of what is real and normal without being preachy. In between, I have been flicking through the new scientist last word books which are very entertaining.

➔ I found a local organic supermarket which is expensive, but sells amazing items – like brown short grain rice, spelt flour, puy lentils and every kind of alternate product you could wish for.

➔ I started using cloth sanitary pads and have been quite impressed. Am pondering writing a post on them – I’ve already written posts on not using shampoo and on mental illness so maybe I’ve already crossed all tmi boundaries, or is this one a further one? Hard to know what is too much (information). I’ve been blogging too long.

There, a nice (?) solid list of 13 things*. That wasn’t too hard, actually.

*Bloggers always go for multiples of five. Well, I’m using a prime number OK? I like awkward numbers. Whatever.

I’m not sure what to do about the book posts. I’m not really keeping track of what I’m reading – quite enjoying flicking from this to that as my mood changes. Although I do miss writing about them. I do try to sit down and write but I find it difficult to pull my thoughts together. I was probably a little bit over ambitious with the attempt at regular book posts – if its not already obvious, I’m not good at regular blogging.

I have been reading a lot lately though. I’ve read nearly everything from Elizabeth Haynes and loved it. She writes about mental illness in an incredibly raw, realistic way with an appreciation of how devastating it can be, and how mean to both the one suffering and those trying to help. Her firsts books are truly psychological thrillers- unsettling and creepy, delving deeps into the mind of the victim, as well as the criminal in the case of Human Remains. Her latest, Under the Silent Moon unfortunately departs from her previous books and becomes plodding police procedural. I do think though that her earliest Into the Darkest Corner was so incredible (despite the rushed, somewhat forced happy ending) that I have quite high expectations for her books, which an ordinary procedural did not meet. I tried some more Brian McGilloway (after enjoying Little Girl Lost ages ago) and continue to enjoy his very ordinary police men and women, in a genre filled with alcoholics and or/divorcees with Dark Pasts. His Inspector Develin struggles with the demands of his job and how it effects his otherwise healthy family life, his Lucy Black has a very difficult job to do, and struggles with detaching herself emotionally from her work. It’s low key but no less interesting. I’ve been delving into some classics with some Bronte – I’m currently half way into The Tenant of Wildfell hall and am surprised to find I like it – although none of the characters are particularly likeable, I do admire the story line being what it is for the time it was written. Its strange, I’m not sure I’m enjoying it, but I find it so interesting that I find myself reading on anyhow. I have Villete lined up next as well as a handful of other classics. I’ve also got some historical romances, and some general fiction and some fantasy lined up.

My current gluttony for books probably has a lot to do with my new kindle – well, my new old kindle. For my birthday my father funded me a used kindle 3. I’m kind of in love. Its small, lightweight, comfortable to hold and easy to use. I love the interface of the kindle without any flash- it is simple and practical and I love using buttons. (I’m not a fan of touchscreens, to be honest.) The kindle screen isn’t as large as I was expecting, but its not a bad size, and the e-ink is so much easier on the eyes than the glare of my phone screen. I’m not going to abandon physical books any time soon, but they’ve definitely been side lined as I enjoy my new gadget. Of course, I’ve ended up with way more books than I need, and in my excitement for my kindle I find myself flicking from book to book and not getting much finished at all – the aforementioned crime novels were probably the last things I managed to finish. Right now I just want read everything, anything, as long as I can do so on my kindle.

hen and chick
I passed an hour or so gardening today, of the tending to indoor plants variety. Cutting away the dead leaves from a chrysanthemum, throwing out a dead coriander, re-potting a hen & chick, rinsing out the leftover pots, pruning a few of my other plants of dead leaves. At some point, a few hours on a sunny afternoon tending to plants became an enjoyable past time of mine.

For my 18th birthday, my best friend gave me a hen & chick plant as a present – with the intention that it would eventually brighten up my dorm room when I went to uni. It was a little unexpected, I’d never been a plant person and wasn’t sure how I was going to keep it alive. A year later, my father, probably inspired by my friend and taking my dedication to taking care of that plant as enthusiasm, gave me a schefflera and a mini cactus, in a pot painted with other cacti, when I did go to university. Those three plants sat on my dorm windowsill, and I diligently watered them, and kept a close eye on their condition, scared of killing them off. I did not want to report back to my friend or my father that I’d killed their presents. Slowly, I began to realise my friend had a point – they cheered up my room immensely, added a touch of much needed colour and warmth to the bland colors and tired state of my dorm room. I began to enjoy taking care of them, and when I was in Malaysia I would occasionally ask my dad to report on their conditions – feeling ridiculous about it – and he’d laugh at me, as expected, but reassure me they were fine nonetheless. Now that I’m in my own rental my indoor garden has rapidly expanded.

I tried to grow some herbs – basil, coriander and parsley. I faithfully split them up and re-potted them in fresh soil, but the basil quickly died away, and I’ve just had to throw away the last of the coriander. My parsley clings to life, but just. I cannot cook with it and have definitely been put off herb growing. My three parsley pots are on my kitchen windowsill, alongside a christmas cacti. I had some trouble with my christmas cacti as I was over-watering it. After letting it dry out I’m now watering it sparsely once a week and it seems to be making a slow recovery. I had a chrysanthemum on the kitchen windowsill but it got aphids. I put the mum outside, alongside my then flowering and growing nicely coriander which had also become infected with bugs. The coriander died, and my mum shrivelled up, but seems to be clinging to life still. Now I’ve pruned off the dead bits, I hope that it recovers. In the living room I have two windows. On my one living room window sill I have an army of miniature cacti – the original one, and five others. On my other living room windowsill I have an ivy, alongside my original hen & chick, and an array of chicks from that mother plant that I replanted last year and which have grown up quickly. It looks a little bit ridiculous having that many hen & chicks, but I love how the stems droop down which, alongside the ivy’s crawling branches, have begun to cover the wall below the sill. I would like to get more vines and maybe something flowering to drape down my wall to break up the hen-&-chick-ness of it all though. On my bedroom windowsill the schefflera, now double the size, and two ferns.

Every week I water them, and every day I spritz my ferns. I keep an eye on their condition and act accordingly when problems arise- usually involving a lot of frantic googling. When I was younger, I could hardly keep anything alive and did not much care for plants, but I now enjoy the process of taking care of them, and I love how they cheer up my home. I admit, instead of feeling bewildered and nervous as I once did, I now feel a weird sense of pride and joy when it comes to my ‘garden’.