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

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Poti Shenanigans, Part 2

Finally reached this week!  This past Monday, Ben and I met after work (which is early afternoon for us, sorry office people), at a place near the Bazari called Oscar's.  (I will do a separate post on the Bazari soon -- truly Lewis Carrol-esque in its very foreignness.)  Julie called me and I invited her to join us.  She didn't make it out for about two hours though, which meant that Ben and I had plenty of time to do justice to more kachapuri and kinkhali (seriously getting a lil tired of these, but Oscar's does not have an English menu so we had to stick with what we knew they had,) and also a fair couple of beers.  It was the first really beautiful day I'd seen since I got to Poti -- there wasn't a cloud in the perfect sky and the sun was like a welcome, long-lost friend.  I was super jazzed to be just sitting outside and enjoying everything, from the company and English conversation to the warm breeze and Georgian passers-by and even Oscar's horrible Turkish toilet (these horrid travesties will also get a post of their own at some point).

Ben and Julie, lovely outdoor table at Oscar's
 With everything, we ended up hanging out at that table for... quite a long time.  The beer got switched out for wine eventually, and we did justice to two bottles before Ben called his host dad to pick us up.  Only... Gia didn't exactly want to take us home.  And we ended up at another, far nicer, restaurant/bar with a Turkish flair.  We sat upstairs, at one of their extremely cool semi-private tables that could be drawn off with red curtains if you felt the need to remove any wayward eyes.  And... this, of course, is GEORGIA.  And we are now with a Georgian man.  You know by now what that means -- more bottles of wine and platters of food!  Of course!  Naturally!
Our "private" table at the Turkish place.  Me, Julie, Ben's host dad Gia
This place had live music downstairs, playing the typical eclectic mix of Georgian, Turkish, Russian, and Western classic rock.  We danced and lots of Georgians thought we were just the coolest things ever.  I was having a fantastic time but eventually had to put my foot down and ask Ben to convince Gia to take us home.  For reals this time.

As I needed to make up some good graces with my host family, Tuesday and Wednesday were mostly quiet.  I did successfully buy a bike on Wednesday, with Nata's very appreciated translation assistance.  I rode all around on Wednesday afternoon, finding the beachfront.  There's really not much to Poti's beachfront, but I enjoyed a half hour or so sitting on a crumbling sea wall and reading Game of Thrones on my kindle, watching the sun slowly set over the Black Sea to the west, and magnificent snow-capped mountains in the distance to the east.  Breathtaking.  I can't believe I've gone my whole life and never seen real mountains like this until now.

But on Thursday, I got a call from Misha, one of the Georgians from Aragvi's last week.  He wanted to take me out, and I accepted, making sure it was okay to bring a friend along.  I called Julie for support and she graciously came along, which turned out to be VERY good because Misha brought along a friend as well, David.

This was supposed to be coffee, initially.  Then it turned into "a drink."  But -- where are we, boys and girls?  Oh right, this is Georgia.  David and Misha took us to the nicest restaurant I've been to in Georgia so far.  It was right on the water and they had a huge wall of glass windows looking out over the port.  Awesome!  Plus, they had an English menu, which included a page of cocktails!

Let me just tell you one thing about Georgia, and really Europe in general.  They don't do ice here.  I am a huge fan of ice.  They also don't do cocktails.  I am a huge fan of cocktails.  For instance -- a proper vodka cran with a twist... and plenty of ice.  Does.  Not.  Exist.  Here.  Up until this point, I had yet to see either a proper mixed drink or a single goddam ice cube.  Which made the below all the more incredible...

I have a COCKTAIL!  With ICE!!!
This was supposed to be a screwdriver.  It really wasn't a screwdriver, but those two cubes of ice pretty much sent me skyward.

Julie and me, cocktails with ice.  Woot.
Our Georgian companions for the evening, Misha and David
Misha and David did some "cocktail" ordering of their own -- a bottle of vodka and a pitcher of peach juice.  Georgians drink their vodka in shots, followed (sometimes) by a chaser.  As far as I'm concerned, this can get to be a tad overwhelming, pretty fast.  Especially if you're also eating and want to maybe actually enjoy what you're drinking rather than just aim to get drunk as fast as possible.  Don't get me wrong -- I absolutely loved taking those cha-cha shots with my host dad (I think it helped us bond some), but I don't want to do shots all the time.  So, emboldened by our cocktail success, Julie and I made our own custom mixed drinks with the vodka and peach juice.  This was extremely strange to Misha and David.

"You drink very... little."  Misha commented.  I tried to explain that most Americans, especially girls, tend to drink slowly, particularly during a meal.  And that shots are usually reserved for special occasions, like weddings and college.  (Those of you back home will probably find my comments hilarious, based on my well-known love of a good stiff drink.  But seriously people, these Georgians take it to a whole new level.  My host grandpa honestly got a touch upset with me the other day because I wouldn't down my entire glass of wine in one gulp after a toast.  Dude speaks no English, so my plaintive explanation that I prefer that my wine actually serve as a compliment and  accompaniment my food, and that I actually like to taste and to enjoy my glass of wine rather than knocking it back like one gigantic shot, was kind of wasted.)

Both Misha and David spoke pretty good English but there was still a language barrier, but they seemed happy enough as long as our glasses were never empty.

They also -- of course -- ordered a ton of really good food.

There's really no such thing as "grabbing a beer" in Georgia.
Still treading lightly from my late-night transgression on Monday, I made sure that the boys took us home at a reasonable hour.  I had a really fantastic time at this place.  Misha and David were utterly wonderful and gracious gentlemen, and I definitely wouldn't mind them taking us out for dinner again. :)

On Friday, after work and dinner with the host family, I called Ben and suggested a walk.  Low-key, innocent, and free.  We walked and chatted and ended up passing Aragvi.  I'm sure it comes as no surprise what happens next.  It wasn't our fault.  We walked past it, without even a glance.  But one of Ben's students came boiling out the door and all but physically dragged us inside, where we met a full baker's dozen Georgian teenagers, full-steam ahead in tying one on.  In less than 30 seconds I had a beer in my hand and Ben had already done a vodka shot.  We had our picture taken about 20 times, so I'm sure that awesome face I made with my first vodka shot is now all over Georgian facebook.

But after a beer and couple of shots, the boys had been pretty much on their way out when they spotted us so they were ready to go.  We left.  But as we were on the sidewalk saying Nahkvamdis, a very nice man with impeccable English came out of the bar and asked where I was from.  This man's name was Walter, and he was a Georgian who'd been living in Ohio for the past 12 years and was just back for a visit.

You're starting to get the pattern here now, for real.

Up the stairs we went, to join his six very jovial companions at their outdoor table.  They'd already eaten, but the guys ordered a full spread for us before we could even blink, and a new bottle of vodka.  I had a LOT of fun with these dudes, but was determined to get home before midnight as I was still feeling awkward about Monday... and I mean, hell.  I'd told my host family that I was going for a walk... like, five hours ago.  Also, no pictures again.  Dumb of me.

They wouldn't hear of us helping to pay, of course.  And hailed a taxi for us, and one of them rode with us to make sure we got where we needed to go.  We have plans to meet again on Monday.

I love Georgia.

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