"My soul is elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there." -- Rumi

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Playing Catch-Up

Been a bit.

Stuff’s been happening, which is exactly why I haven’t been posting.  By the time I’m finally able to say Ghamem Shvidobisa and retreat upstairs, I’m usually so damn beat it’s all I can do to change into the warmest PJs I have and hit the sack.

My host family is very nice but damn if the entire situation is just not really overwhelming.  I think I’ve used the word “overwhelming” more in the past four days I than I have in my entire previous life.  And it does feel that way completely – like the life I had it America was one completely cut off and strange to this life I find myself living now.

So where do I even start?

The car ride from Tbilisi to Poti was probably one of the more awkward experiences of my life.  My co-teacher came along for the ride, for which I will always be eternally grateful.  Because also in the car were my host sister Nata (Natalie), and my host mom Nana.  Nata speaks very good English but was extremely shy with me, and Nana speaks hardly at all (although she is definitely trying to learn, props).  But that didn’t stop her from talking to me in Georgian the entire ride back, which ended up being more like seven hours after we stopped at a grocery store and for a “snack,” which turned out to be a super-delicious but very full and heavy meal.  We finally pulled into their house at around 8:00, where the grandma, grandpa, younger sister Anna, father, and cousin were all waiting.  Yikes.  What was that word I liked so much?  Oh yeah – overwhelming.  There was of course more food – all very good but I was so tired and stressed and strung out from the car ride and all the new things that my stomach was really upset and I could barely touch anything.  I felt really bad about that and I caught Nana giving me the eye a couple times.  I tried to get my co-teacher, Nino, to translate that the food was delicious and that I was just really tired, but I don’t think my full sentiment got through.  The father and grandfather toasted me about a dozen times though, which was a lot of fun.  The family makes their own wine, which is also really cool.

After dinner, Nata gave me a tour of the house, which is huge.  Probably about the same size as my folks’ house in Virginia.  My bedroom is on the second floor – also huge.  King-sized bed, big writing desk, big wardrobe and a little makeup table thing with a tall mirror.  I got really lucky here.  Also, they have an indoor, Western toilet.  Fucking WOOT.  Can I just tell you how unenthused I was at the possibility of squatting for the next year?  (I have yet to pee at school so no idea what those toilets are like, and so far most all public toilets, like in restaurants and what not, are all Turkish.  So I’ll get my non-Western merit badge all the same, for sure.)  Probably the least awesome thing about the house is that there is no heat.  It’s been freaking freezing here in Poti, and I am simply not used to being cold all the damn time while indoors.  Definitely did not pack enough cold-weather gear, but I am taking comfort from the fact that summer is certainly just around the corner.  Soon, I will probably be wishing I was cold.

My first day with the family was really quiet.  I unpacked, attempted communication, ate, had more food than I wanted forced on me, attempted communication, ate, and had more food than I wanted forced on me.  I have a pet peeve about people putting things on my plate that I didn’t ask for, and this happened a LOT the first two days.  Not today though, so maybe my constant (awkard!) putting my foot down finally made an impact.  In the afternoon, the principal and the head teacher came for dinner, along with Nino.  More toasting and food!  Then after dinner Nino, Nata, Anna, and I took a walk around Poti.

Poti is a small city, mainly an industrial port town.  There’s not a ton to do, but there are a few restaurants and cafes and markets and what not.  One of the most frustrating things I’ve encountered so far is that Georgians seem to hate giving a straight answer about anything.  As such, I have yet to discover where the other two teachers in my group have ended up, or where the train station is, or where to buy a bicycle.  Poti is really flat so a bike would be a great thing to have, but everything in Georgia is just a little harder than I am used to, it seems.

Yesterday was my second full day.  Nana asked if I wanted to go to Batumi.  Of course!  We weren’t leaving until 3:00, so I had the morning free.  I successfully managed to get out by myself for a walk, but not two minutes out the door and my roommate Suzanne called to say Hi.  While I was on the phone with her, I ran into Nino by chance.  Nino (as always!) was amazing and sweet and generous.  She took me to the market, which seemed  almost alien in its hugeness and craziness and diversity.  Everything you could want, from slabs of dripping meat to chickens with the feet and bits of feathers still on them, to plastic novelties, shoes, baby clothes, curtains, spices by the shovelful.  Pretty much anything, that is, except a map of Poti, a wastepaper basket, and a bicycle, which are the things I need.  Oh well.  After the market, Nino took me out to lunch.  Awesome.  Fabulous quiet place with good food; I was happy she showed me because there’s no way I would have found it on my own.

Welp, I was hoping to at least get through Batumi with this post, but I am tapped.  Batumi trip with photos, and my first day with the students -- stay tuned!


  1. I meant to tell you that we had some developers from Georgia attend Transparency Camp. Apparently they are working on a way to 'map' the country, as even Google Maps doesn't have enough information to adequately provide a map.

    It could be that there aren't maps available of smaller localities...

    For the food thing, do they refill your plate before or after you've cleaned it off? In some cultures, a cleaned plate means that they haven't fed you enough...

  2. Hey there -- sorry about the delay in replying. Sporadic internet and limited alone time...

    Mapping Georgia is a fantastic idea. I am so totally down to help with that in any way I can.

    And yeah... my plate pretty much never gets the chance to get cleaned off. :) Host Mom is doing a lot better on that front these days though, so that's progress.