I’ve been slacking on this blog, but for some of that I’ll blame Georgia. But since it was a couple weeks ago, I’ll forsake normal narrative form and tell some vignettes.
Adventure — Yeah, adventure follows me, but I’m always surprised by it. The first night I traveled by myself I stayed in Giorgi’s Homestay in Kutaisi for $10. It was this cool old mansion from 100 years ago, built around a stove brought in by boat from Ukraine. I hung out with the grandfather — who didn’t speak any English and thought I was hilarious — and daughter, spent time with an Indonesian woman and German guy also staying there and an English Teacher from New Jersey. (Side note: German guy’s favorite part of the US is Eastern Colorado and Kansas…because you can see so far and there are no tourists.) Anyway, trying to decide what to do the next day and New Jersey asks if I want to teach English to elementary school kids in a village. Heck yes! That’s what Georgian life is really like. The village, the family, cows staring at you after using the outhouse, toasts over dinner…
Georgian people — Are engaging, friendly, hospitable and very emotive. I cut onions for Grandma at the house I stayed at in the village and we were fast friends. I stopped to smell flowers at a flower market in Kutaisi and take this picture…she gave me flowers. I struggled with 10 words of Georgian, a babushka on a marshrutka (bus) would adopt me for a couple hours or someone younger would chat with me and tell me everything I needed to know about buses or sites. Georgians are also very loud and emphatic with each other. There were some serious raised voices multiple times during my trip.
Cheap Transportation — Cheap everything really. But a 7 hour train ride ran me $3. Four hour bus (marshrutka) ride? $4. I took a cab that took me from the middle of no where to a church, waited for me and back to Kutaisi. Roughly an hour. $4. And I think he thought he ripped me off. Georgians would get this little smirk when you asked them how much something was, and then quote a ridiculously low number.
Churches — For someone who hasn’t seen an operating church in two months, Georgia has churches everywhere. Beautiful cathedrals that thousands of people flock to on Sundays. Most Georgian Orthodox Churches are usually for about 1000 years ago. And they are everywhere. And usually in the most breath-taking of locations. Tibilisi is a sweet, European style city too.
Weddings — Crashed my first wedding at Gelati church (UNESCO site). It was very interesting to watch the ceremony. Everyone had candles. The maid of honor had a seriously short skirt. There were some awesome gold crowns for the bride and groom. And after being married, they walked around the church 3 times with the priest.
Breads — Sweet breads. Spiky breads. You might be able to seriously hurt yourself or others with this stuff. It’s name started with a “Z” and had a bunch of consonants. There’s also Khachapuri Cheese bread, which might be the staple of the country.. Delicious. Cheap. Everywhere. Grandma showed me how to make it.
Sulfur Baths — A Georgian babushka with rub you down in sulfur baths in Tibilisi for a pretty fair price. Cool locale. My skin has never felt so soft.
Alcohol Consumption — Turning down tea in Turkey is the closest you get to something forbidden. Turkish tea is also served nearly every hour of the day. I love that about Turkey. However, turning down alcohol in Georgia is nearly as forbidden as turning down tea in Turkey. It’s there way of offering hospitality….any time of the day. We’re talking elementary school teachers drinking homemade wine at 10am. No time, place or age has alcohol restrictions in a Georgian village. In the house I stayed in, Grandma wanted to do shots of cha-cha (ubiquitous homemade vodka) at dinner…but also at brunch. I prefer my Turkish tea.
Georgia’s Political Situation — Russia’s a big bully. During commie years, there was some mass migrations involved to change the demographics especially of the provinces of South Ossetia (the Russian name for it) and Abkhazia. Those were the two provinces there was a war between Russia and Georgia for in 2008. Abkhazia has it’s own language that’s dying in favor of Russian. Giorgi filled me, because as much as I learned during Extemp days, it’s really complicated. Anyway in this sunset picture you can see South Ossetia from Gori, Stalin’s hometown.
Stalin — I went to his hometown, saw the first house he lived in, and a museum with atrocious poetry from him high school days. Some old people still like Stalin for winning World War II, but none of the middle-aged/young seemed to be fans…except American expats…
Georgian bathrooms — The less you know the better
Unseen Costs — Upon returning from Georgia, having spent very little cash, I learned that the costs for me were not numerical. I came back feeling sick…and with bed bugs. So the two weeks following were mainly a matter of keeping my head above water teaching and killing bugs inside and outside me. I got me a Turkish exterminator though…and saran wrapped my bed. I’m hard core. So consider yourselves caught up on my life up through the middle of last week.