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

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Work Orientation

So my Program finally figured out what we volunteers are going to be doing this summer.  We will be teaching English to local police officers.  I'm looking forward to actually being able to lead a class, to teaching adults, and grateful that steady summer work did in fact materialize that will enable me to both keep myself out of trouble (at least three times a week, two hours a night), as well as keep the lari flowing into my bank account.

This past weekend, the Police Academy and our Program took a bunch of us to Anaklia, a town on the Black Sea that's about a two-hour drive from Poti, right on the Abkhazian border.  The Poti Gang lucked out -- folks from western Georgia had a commute of ten hours or more.  Our hotel was really modern and beautiful, and right on the Black Sea, but everything else around us was undergoing very heavy construction.  In a few years this will be a beautiful resort town, but for the time being, there was a lot of mud.  And bulldozers.

On Saturday afternoon, my host Mom drove me, Mark, and Julie to Senaki, where we met up with a huge double-decker bus bearing the rest of the gang.  One more stop in Zugdidi and then it was up to Anaklia.  The police took really good care of us.  After the long hours and grueling schedule of our Orientation week in Tbilisi, I was expecting more of the same.  But when we arrived the hotel had put out a truly delicious buffet spread.  They had Ceasar salad that was actually Ceasar salad!  With lettuce!  I died a little.

After lunch we checked in... roommates again, of course.  I got paired with a very nice, very quiet woman from Glasgow named Louise.  The room was awesome -- we had a balcony overlooking the Sea!!  Beautiful.  Plus air conditioning!  We had a short intro meeting, where it was announced that we had the afternoon and evening completely free.  Too good to be true! :)

My host family had packed me off to Anaklia with a gallon of their white wine, so Julie, Mark, and I gathered in her room to put a dent in that.  Dinnertime rolled around -- fantastic little mini-sandwiches and other light fare.  The kind of stuff I always tended to lean towards in the States and completely took for granted while I had it. And... free beer and Georgian wine!

The one bummer about the weekend was that the weather was less than perfect.  The hotel had a pool (a pool!!), but it was too chilly to swim.  All the same, we had a perfectly sublime evening hanging out poolside and catching up.  Of the 11 people in my Orientation group, nine made it out for this weekend.  It was very cool to see everyone again and hear about their experiences in Georgia so far.

Susan, Suzanne, Mark, Kathrin
Johnny and Patrick
Going to look at the beach at sunset
Lookin' a little rough, but very happy

Right after this picture was taken, my camera battery light began to flash.  Oh, NATCH.  So I put it away, hoping to get as much as possible of the rest of the weekend.  Thus, I missed the huge and incredible bonfire that we built on the beach once full dark set in.  Sitting on the sand in front of the fire, sipping Georgian beer and singing "Wonderwall" (sorry Ping!, it wasn't my idea), I had one of my full-on genuine floods of amazement and gratitude that somehow -- this has become my life.  I played one of my favorite games with a few friends -- "What would you be doing at this time back home?"  None of us could think of anything that topped a bonfire on the Black Sea.  If I could -- I would teleport my favorite people to be there with me, so we could sing proper songs (BooB, maybe?), but I wouldn't wish to be anywhere than where I was at that moment.

The next day, the Orientation meeting started at 10:30.  (Thanks, police.)  It lasted an hour and a half, and then guess what -- we were free again!  They loaded us back on the double-decker and took us to the Abkhazian border, just for kicks.  As is so often the case in the Georgian mountians, some Ravenloft-esque fog rolled in.

There's a dam, a river, and Abkhazia somewhere over there.  I promise.

Posing in front of the non-view
Then, it was time for the real purpose of the trip -- a full-on traditional Georgian supra.  A supra is a feast, complete with literally more bowls of food than will fit on the table (they're stacked three and four high sometimes), and liberal amounts of wine.  With wine -- always -- comes the toasting.  Lots of toasting.  Health, peace, family, country, honoring those who have passed away.  And more that I forget.  Gaumarjos!

Plates just starting to stack up!
As the night wound on, Georgians of course got up to dance.  Naturally it was about then that my camera finally gave up the ghost.  But not to have us expats outdone by the Georgians, someone hooked up their iPod full of excellent classic rock and American dance music.  We had a ball!  And danced our hearts out for what felt like hours, until the restaurant closed and they kicked us out.  On the bus, someone came up with a bottle of red and a bottle of white that the restaurant had given him on his way out.  Some people have all the skills.  It was a fun ride back.

Back at the hotel, a day-long rain had drenched the beach, but we attempted to make a fire anyway.  Unsuccessful.  Survivorman we are not.  Or even Bear Grylls.  Some of the more adventurous souls went nightswimming in the Black Sea, but it was way too cold for me without a fire to warm up with after.  Ended up having an earlier night than Saturday, much to my benefit. :)

On Monday we had to leave.  So of course the sun shone.  Oh well.  Uneventful ride home with an extended layover in Zugdidi.  Mark, Julie, and I went to our favorite outdoor cafe and relaxed with beers and good food.

A three-hour nap happened pretty much immediately following my eventual return to Poti.  Fantastic weekend.  Thanks Georgia police!  I promise to be a spectacular teacher.  Least I can do.

1 comment:

  1. OMG, Mary! What a time!! It sounds wondeful. You made me LOL a few times during these entries. How lucky CAN you get??!! So happy for you and so happy things are going so well. If times ever start getting tough, you'll have to remember these days most fondly. Give my best wishes to your host family, esp the Mom & thank her esp from me. Love and kisses!