Monthly Archives: July 2012

Ghaniri

First, thank you so much to everyone who donated to my fundraiser. I’ve reached my goal of $500 quicker than I could have imagined and will be able to purchase new books for the students at the Tskaltubo Village School. There is still several weeks before the fundraiser ends if anyone would still like to donate. You’re all helping to ensure that the children here have access to a world of knowledge they as of right now don’t know about. I hope that many of them will become lifelong readers and that the new materials available to them will open up a whole host of new opportunities for them. They will have the chance to read books that are popular around the world in their own language and also be able to read books in English, improving their communication skills. So, thank you again!!

The past week I’ve mainly just been hanging out at home. My job teaching in Kutiasi ended on the 13th and I’ve been trying to be as conservative as I can with my money. I’ve had the chance to devour lots of books, I’m up to 15 since arriving, and watch some new movies. Was feeling a bit of cabin fever by the end of the week though and called up a fellow teacher who lives in a somewhat nearby village. Asked him if I could come and hang out and see his digs.
Left Kutaisi on Friday afternoon on a marshrutka headed to Samtredia town. The ride took about 30 minutes. Saw a couple of interesting things on the way. One house we passed by had a giant missile in the front yard. It was painted white and propped up on this tall stand (almost two stories). Really, really random. Kind of wishing that I could get up and straddle the monstrosity Dr. Strangelove style because really when else am I going to find a giant missile in someone’s front yard.

The other thing I noticed was cemeteries. I had yet to come across any since arriving and I need to see if I can find one nearby to walk around in. The graves appeared to be above ground with gardens planted on the top. The headstones were large with people’s pictures painted on them. Was driving by so I didn’t get to see much more than that, but they didn’t look like any cemetery I’ve seen in the US.

From Samtredia I had to get on another marshrutka to Ghaniri (you pronounce this with a French ‘r’ at the beginning). I found that I’ve been slightly spoiled living here in Tskaltubo. There are three marshrutkas that go to Kutaisi and there is always one available from 8:30am – 7:00pm. You might have to sit on one for like 5 minutes before it leaves, but never longer than that. Since I was on my way to a much smaller village I found myself waiting for about 30 minutes before a marshrutka arrived. It was another 15 minutes before getting to Ghaniri.

Now I didn’t really expect there to be much of a difference between my village and Scott’s* as we’re not very far from each other. However, there were a couple of things I noticed right away. Lots of people were riding bikes around the village. I’ve seen a couple of kids with bikes here in Tskaltubo, but never an adult. Ghaniri is very flat and so bikes make an excellent transportation device. Several times I even saw multiple people riding the same bike.

Another difference was the number of horses I saw. Some were drawing buggies or carts, others were just free range. I’ve seen a person riding a horse once in Tskaltubo and while we have lots of cows, pigs, and chickens wandering about there are no horses.

Free range horses.

Scott met me in front of his house and we sat on the porch waiting for the father of one of his English students to come pick us up. Scott has a student he’s started giving private lessons to and I accompanied him to this one. The father is the captain of a shipping vessel and spoke very good English. We went to their home where we all sat around a big table. Scott gave his lesson, the father helped translate and chained smoked, and his wife kept the food coming out. We got melon, cornbread, cold vegetable soup, bread, cheese, chicken, and this delicious red fruit which is similar to plums. Of course coffee and Georgian white wine was brought out too. I told them I didn’t drink, but I was still given a glass. I took a sip to be polite, but the father questioned me as to if I was going to drink it. I again told him that I didn’t really drink and he looked at me and said, “But this is Georgian wine, it doesn’t count. We usually drink a liter an hour. One glass is nothing.” Even after Scott finished my glass we were both poured another. This isn’t the first time that this has happened to me. Telling someone no here doesn’t really mean no.

I wish my house had swings out front.

It was nice to speak in English with a Georgian. Haven’t had as many opportunities to do this as I would like. At one point we somehow got onto the subject of race. The father informed us that he didn’t like black people. Or more specifically he didn’t like black people from Africa. He actually compared them to monkeys. This was quite difficult for both Scott and I to digest as we discussed later that evening. Think a lot of this mindset is simple ignorance and lack of exposure. There are really not a lot of black people here in Georgia. While many of the people here are darker, they tend towards a more Middle Eastern complexion. The people I know here who are black get stopped by Georgians to have their picture taken and are stared at even more than I am. This doesn’t really excuse the racism expressed by this man, but I hope as more people visit Georgia this narrow view of the world will start to change. For thousands of years Georgia has been essentially isolated from the rest of the world. It’ll take time before the majority begin accepting those who are different from them. Living within a group of people who are so tolerant of others back home it was uncomfortable to hear racism like this being thrown about so casually.

After the lesson Scott took me around the village. Behind his house there was a large field filled with rubble. Apparently there was once a large auto factory there during the Soviet era. When the Russians left they destroyed the building. This seems to be a common theme in places I’ve been to so far. While there is a ton of new construction happening, there is a lot more buildings in ruins. We walked past the rubble, across a little bridge and to a huge open field where horses and cows can graze. I was pretty elated to see all the horses, including their babies. What can I say; I’m a city girl and get pretty giddy when I see animals that aren’t behind a fence. As we ventured closer to the horses Scott pointed out that the field was lined with blackberry bushes. Oh.My.Gawd! Again, as a city girl I’ve never had the chance to pick wild berries. We grabbed ripe ones off the bushes and just popped them into our watering mouths. Berries seemed to be everywhere and you could just stop and pluck a few off whenever you wanted to. I’m so jealous of his immediate access to the sweet fruit.

Field of rubble.

Quite a picturesque little village.

Blackberries! They were sooo good.

We walked around for a little bit and then joined “the corner boys”. Scott has coined this affectionate term for the group of men/boys you see in villages who sit around all day and do nothing. A group of about 10 people were gathered under a tree by a little store. They ranged in age from 16 to probably 50. One of the boys who spoke a decent amount of English asked Scott if he liked chacha. When he said sure the boy left for a few minutes, returning with an unmarked bottle and several plastic cups. He poured the clear liquid into cups; the very intense smell of rubbing alcohol permeated my nostrils.

The smell seemed to fit the surroundings perfectly. The grass had all been killed, from people walking over it for years, leaving a dirt floor to stand on. This floor was covered with trash. These boys sit here all day, every day, dropping their wrappers, bottle, cigarettes, and whatever else on the ground. Scott told me that there is no garbage pickup in his village; instead all the trash has to be burned. If the women don’t pick it up and burn it than it just stays where it is thrown.

As if this wasn’t depressing enough, a filthy dog was laying on the ground eating a plastic sausage wrapper. I guess just the smell of meat was enough for the dog. He looked up at me and there were rings of puss around his eyes. At one point someone tried giving the dog a lit cigarette and Scott and I quite vocally stopped him from doing so. Made me quite sick to my stomach. Scott told me later that when he asked someone about dogs here they told him that they didn’t have souls so you could do whatever you wanted to them and it didn’t matter. His response was, “Well you’ve obviously never loved a dog.”
The pet culture here is really different from back home. A lot of the dogs I see around my village belong to people, but are free to wander around. We have two dogs at my home who I’ve named Munchkin and Prancer. I’m not really sure if they even have names. They live outside, don’t have collars, and I’m 100% sure they’ve never had a bath. I haven’t actually seen anyone pet the dogs, besides an occasional rub with a foot. They’re cared for, but not in the same way most people’s pets are in the US. The great-grandmother has a bamboo cane/stick thing that she likes to chase them off with. They literally run away cowering anytime she comes near them. The dogs are fed table scraps which are thrown out every morning for them to fight over.

Being an animal lover I’ve started to pay attention to my dogs, giving them pets and love. However, since they never get attention like this they are untrained. Been working on teaching them not to jump up on me and behave a bit better. They’ve identified me as a sucker and follow me around, jumping up and getting under my feet at every opportunity. Prancer has decided he’s brave enough to start sneaking inside now too, I sometimes find him lying by the foot of my bed. Of course none of these animals are spayed or neutered and the population of stray animals just keeps increasing. It’s sad. Know there are some organizations in Tbilisi which are trying to educate and help the animals. I’ve seen a couple of pet stores and here and there a dog is on a leash. Think the mindset on pet ownership is slowly changing.

We sat with the corner boys for a bit before they started to disperse. One of them invited us over to his home which was across the street from Scott’s place. He spoke a little bit of English, but not much. We sat at a table in his front yard and were of course given wine right away. A large 2.5 liter beer bottle filled with homemade sweet red wine was brought out and the toasting began. Many hours were spent by both parties trying to figure out what the other was saying. Gender roles have never been more obvious to me. This Georgian man had a wife at home, a new baby, and a little boy about 5 or 6 years old. His wife brought out food for us, took care of the children, and whenever her husband didn’t know something in English he would yell for her to stop what she was doing and translate for him. While I sat next to him for about four hours he only spoke to me once or twice. Instead when he had a question about me he asked Scott.

It seems to me that the male volunteers here probably have a vastly different experience than the women. You don’t ever see groups of “corner girls”. The women are all busy and don’t have time to sit around talking, drinking beer, and smoking all day. Occasionally I’ll see a group of old grandmothers gathered together, but they’re not exactly who I’m dying to spend my time with. The women my age are pretty much all married and taking care of their young children. It’s really not socially acceptable for women to hang out with men. Even when you do it’s been my experience that many subjects are taboo or they just won’t address you at all. It’s frustrating. Back home I often hang out with my boys and they’ll talk to me about anything, not the case here.

Anyway, over the course of the night Scott and his Georgian neighbor managed to knock back a little over 2.5L of wine. The drunker they got the more crazy the toasts became. I believe we determined that his neighbor fought and killed Russians, that he played goalie for a soccer team in Tbilisi, and that he considered Scott to be his brother and would take care of any problem for him. Oh and that he’d slept with like nine Russian women. While it was fun to sit and watch them toast I was glad to leave when we did as the neighbor kept on reaching over to pet my head and kiss my cheek.

I helped Scott stumble back home where he made us a delicious midnight snack of fried chicken. The chicken had been killed a few hours before. Probably the freshest chicken I’ve ever eaten. We sat on the porch talking and then fell asleep nerding it up The Fifth Element. The next day we lazed around, he showed me their baby pigs, and I caught the marshrutka back home. It was a most welcome venture outside of my village. This weekend I’m heading up to Svaneti for the largest religious festival of the year. It’s one of the hardest places to get to in the country and I’m really excited to see it!

Baby horse getting milk from mama. Cuteness!

They even had three piglets.

*Name has been changed

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Georgia’s Creepy Hug

This last week has had a lot of ups and downs. I’ve been struggling with homesickness, culture shock, language barriers, and unruly classrooms. On the other hand I’ve met some great people, had interesting conversations with locals, and acquired taco seasoning; all wins in my book. This tumultuous week started last Friday after school…

Upon leaving school for the day I followed my usual routine and headed over to McDonalds. I often sit there to use their free wifi and just not be at home for an hour or two. My marshrutka home leaves from the back anyway, so it’s a convenient enough spot to relax after work. On this day a fellow TLG’r from my training group, Sally*, met up with me and we made our way to the ‘ex-pat’ grocery store, Populi. I’ve wanted to cook something for my family and was planning on checking out their selection. I quickly realized that I would need to speak Russian to buy anything other the obviously familiar products. Gathering up the essentials, which means I got chocolate and cookies, we left to meet up with a Peace Corps Volunteer, Fran*, who worked with me at Progress.

Chocolate covered mushrooms. These things are slightly addictive.

On Friday nights Fran hosts a happy hour somewhere in Kutaisi. Georgians from one of her English classes come and meet with native English speakers, giving them a chance listen and speak in English in a social setting. Sally and I found the park where we were supposed to meet, deciding to take one of the gondolas up instead of climbing the stairs. We were ushered into a very cramped yellow box and took the quick ride up to Kutaisi’s amusement park. Stepping out of the swaying car I saw a carousel just begging to be ridden. I was however lacking my usual partner in crime (I miss you Morgan) and instead resisted the temptation to be silly. There were many rides at the park, though it was pretty empty. Apparently business doesn’t pick up until the sun goes down. It did seem like the perfect tween hangout spot.

Going up and coming down.

Ferris wheel at the amusement park.

We sat eating ice cream in the shade, waiting for Fran and the rest of the crew to show up. She arrived and several Georgians soon thereafter. We talked about a lot of things and soon went to get dinner at a nearby restaurant. While waiting for our food someone suggested we try and find the bear in the cage.

You heard right, bear in a cage. In the back of the restaurant we came across a very lonely looking creature. A cage about 8′ x 8′ was perched on a small hill. An almost overwhelming smell of excrement gave me pause, but I kept moving forward. Inside the tiny enclosure was a brown bear with two chewed tires and trash. The bear turned its head giving us a lackadaisical stare.

I really had to resist trying to pet this bear. I wanted to so bad.

It was obvious this bear was used to humans and showed nearly no interest in us. I snapped some pictures, but it was really sad and didn’t stay there too long. The bear played with its tires and looked depressed. Wouldn’t you be? Made me glad that we have animal rights laws in the United States, no creature should ever be allowed to live like that.

Little bear trying to amuse itself.

Our dinner was pretty tasty and also really expensive. We had mtsvadi which was huge chunks of juicy pork on a two foot long metal skewer, kebabi, a Turkish inspired minced meat dish, and yet another kind of khachapuri. I keep being surprised at just how many varieties of khachapuri there are. Just when you think there can’t possibly be another way to do bread and cheese someone whips out something new. The other night for dinner my host family had Abkhazian khachapuri which was essentially lasagna without the meat or sauce.

Kebabi. I didn’t think this was all that great.

This khatchapuri was filled with an ungodly amount of cheese.

Mtsvadi. Look at all that meat!

After dinner Sally and I spent the night at Fran’s apartment. Staying the night at a non-Georgian residence was a welcome relief. We got a chance to just relax and pretend we were back in the states for a little bit. Fran showed us her amazing spice collection and even gave me two packages of taco seasoning. I was elated and nearly brought to tears and the prospect of eating some Mexican food in the near future. My hope is to cook some up on Friday for my family.

We rode the red cable car on the way back down.

Over the past couple of weeks I haven’t been doing a whole lot more than teaching and reading. Some of my classes have tried my patience while others have been a lot of fun. Part of me is really happy that school is over tomorrow, though I’m sure after a few days of having nothing to do I’ll be longing for a class full of rambunctious youngsters.

Though my days have been fairly routine I did have a most interesting experience yesterday. I got on my marshrutka to go home after school, like I do every day, and sat their reading on my Kindle. This old gentleman, probably in his 70s, sitting across from me was staring at the device. Considering he’d probably never seen anything like it before I showed it to him and told him it was a book. A young man sitting behind me spoke a little English and with my limited Georgian I started having a conversation with this man.

My first thought was that he had kindly eyes. They were a bright blue, unusual here in Georgia. Thought he seemed like a nice old grandpa. He patted me on the hands smiling and even gave my cheeks a little pinch, you know like old people do in the movies. He asked if I would take a walk with him in the Tskaltubo park before I went home. Part of me really wanted to say no. I was tired from working and wanted to go home and lay down. The adventurous part of me starting arguing with my boring self. I starting thinking about why I was here and how I haven’t really hung out with many Georgians. The language barrier makes me a bit hesitant as there isn’t a whole lot to do/say after covering the basics. Thought to myself, “This old man probably wants to buy you a lemonade or take you to meet his family. What a great experience this could be. Stop being such a ninny and go do something other than watch Game of Thrones in your bedroom.”

So, I decided to walk with this grandpa in the park. Figured, what’s the worst that can happen? He’s old. If nothing else I can run from him or knock him down no problem. We got out of the marshrutka, I retrieved my Georgian-English phrase book out and set out with every intention of trying to have a conversation with this old man. When we began walking he wanted to put his arm in mine or hold my hand. My uncomfortable meter started rising. However, I know Georgians are very physical people. Often this is only between the same sex though. It’s not uncommon to see two men or two women walking down the street holding hands or with arms linked. You do see opposite sexes being close though too. My host brother will often sit in my grandmother’s lap or sleep with his head on her shoulder.

So, again I’m here to push my boundaries and go with the flow of another culture. His hand starts to go a little lower though and I push him away firmly saying “ara!” or “no!”. He smiles at me saying “puli” pointing to himself and then to me. Puli means money. He then starts making kissing noises and a few gestures and tries to grab me again. At this point I scream “ARA!!!” at him, push him away and then very quickly walk away.

Now, when we were in training they advised the women to not even look at Georgian men. In fact they told us to ignore them. I’ve been trying to do this, keeping my head down when I pass by. Those of you who know me know I smile at everyone when I walk down the street and it’s been challenging not to do this here. People don’t smile a whole lot in Georgia and I’ll stand out even more if I do it all the time. Our trainers told us that smiling at a Georgian man may be interpreted as saying that the woman is interested in having sex with them. I knew all of this, but guess I just didn’t really apply it to grandpas. Thank you life, lesson learned. I know that not all Georgian men think or will act this way, but I’m going to have to put my guard up a little bit more from now on.

Some random information:

– The concept of lines does not exist here. People will just hold their money out and kind of push their way to the counter. When I was on the bus the other day some lady tried to elbow her way in front of me to get off first. Coming from the states where cutting is a serious offence this is hard to get used to.

– I’ve had several students pay for my bus/marshrutka fare. Other volunteers have told me that people in their village do this all the time for them. Think I’ve mentioned it before, but for a place where most people have very little they are extremely generous.

– Talked with several of my classes about gender roles here in Georgia. All of the girls want things to change here and for men to treat them like equals. Almost all of the boys thought that a woman’s place is barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Think that this way of thinking one of the big things that is going to have to change if Georgia wants to enter the Western world. This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of men who think this way in the US, but it’s not the norm anymore.

– Got my first book donations for my library project from some Peace Corps Response Volunteers who were leaving the country. Will have my donation page set up tomorrow! Hoping to raise at least $500 which will allow me to buy around 50 new books in Georgian and English for the library. Would make a huge difference for the kids going to school in my village, giving them access to a world they don’t have a chance to see right now.

– Lemonade here is nothing like lemonade in the states and the same goes for pizza. Here lemonade is basically a type of soda and comes in many flavors. Pizza has the same base, but the toppings are different. I had some the other night at home which was onions, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, meat, and mayonnaise. Pretty sure something got lost in translation there.

*Not real name

Batumi

I wish that I had brought my camera with me last Wednesday. A Peace Corps Response Volunteer living in Tskaltubo invited me to see the Italian opera La traviata in Kutaisi. The opera house was grand for a small city, with golden Atlas’s bearing the weight of the roof on their shoulders, and a gigantic chandelier hanging above the audience waiting for the Phantom of the Opera to come swinging in. Tickets were only 5GEL or around $3. Don’t believe I’ve ever gotten the opportunity to see a show for that little money in the US. While I wouldn’t call it a high budget production by any means, it was fairly well done. The sets were minimal, but there was a live orchestra (something many theatres back home have done away with). The female lead had a lovely voice which reverberated throughout the opera house. It didn’t really matter that I couldn’t understand what they were singing about; it was like their voices were a finely tuned musical instrument playing a piece of classical music. With tickets being so inexpensive the place was nearly full, including many families. Really wish that you could go out and see a show for that price back home.

Friday was my first day teaching at the Georgian-American School, Progress, a private school in Kutaisi. I’ll be at the school for two weeks teaching English as part of their summer camp. My students range in age from 5-22 and have just as big of a gap in their English skills. I am teaching by myself, unlike at the public school where I have a Georgian co-teacher. While I enjoy the freedom this affords me it can be quite challenging when the students speak very little English. The younger classrooms can be chaotic and I’ve been exploring different methods of dealing with it. In one of my classrooms I sent one of the most disruptive students to the office, the next time I had their class they were much better and that student barely spoke out of turn at all. I’ve also just stood at the front of the class not saying anything, just waiting for the students to listen. Students who want me to continue with the lesson will begin getting their fellow students to be quiet and listen. Since I only have the students for about six classes I doubt that I’ll ever really have them under control. Will just have to get to an okay point and try my best to ignore the students causing problems. A lot of the behavior would never fly in an American school. Students yelling over one another, lots of hitting and pushing, throwing things, etc.

I do have one class in particular that is really great. They are the oldest and most advanced speakers. We’re reading a detective novel together, basically having a book club. For the most part everyone is engaged and wants to be there. After my last class they told me how much fun they had during the lesson and that they though it was great. That alone was worth dealing with the other classes. I’ve had a wonderful time in their class and actually feel like I’m teaching them something. Nice to have at least one class to look forward to. It’s also been good to have something to fill my time with.

After school on Friday I met up with a fellow volunteer from my training group, Troy*. He came to Kutaisi were I showed him the big market place. We hopped on the bus to the train station where we took the train to Batumi. It was a steal at 2GEL. I’ve never ridden on a train for any length of time and thought that it was pretty comfy, especially for the price! The seats were wide and there was plenty of leg room. People walked up and down the aisles selling a wide assortment of goods; everything from wet wipes to bread. As we approached Batumi the sun began to set. It was one of the more beautiful sunsets I’ve seen. An enormous golden orange sphere sank behind the trees, dim enough to look at without hurting your eyes. Reminded me of watching the sunrise at the last 4th of Juplaya.

The journey took us about four hours, double the time for a fifth of the price of taking a marshrutka. We arrived just before 10pm and set out to find the hostel. While I had directions, they didn’t really seem to matter and we were fairly lost. Troy thought fast and called up another volunteer who directed us to the ex-pat bar, Vinyl. There we were given a map and directions to the hostel by a friendly TLG volunteer who has lived in Batumi for the last two years.

We found the hostel without incident, though once there we couldn’t figure out how the heck to get inside. There was a sign on one side of the building with the hostel’s name on it, but no recognizable door, just a rusty old gate with no markings. Luckily two guys were hanging out on the balcony and we called out to them for assistance. Apparently that gate which appeared to lead into someone’s backyard was indeed the right place to go inside. We got our bunks, changed out of our sweaty clothes, and headed back out to Vinyl. There we met up with some more TLG people and spent time getting to know one another. I’ve been impressed by the diversity of the TLG volunteers that I’ve met so far. This group included one person from the US, one from Ireland, and another from the Ivory Coast. Before I came I was afraid it was going to just be Americans, I’m happy to see I was wrong in that assumption.

The Batumi Hostel

Towards the end of the night we were famished and got taken to the Turkish district of town for a late night feast. While I enjoy Georgian food I was so stoked to get the chance to eat something different. Turkish food might not be too far removed, but it’s good enough. I devoured my food and then headed back to the hostel. One of the young men working there greeted us at the door asking, “Are you drunk? ‘Cause I am!” They apparently were having a little drinking party and were quite loud on the balcony near the room we were sleeping in. Here’s the part where I use my burner skill set and whipped out my eye mask, ear plugs, and Ambien. Slept like a baby.

The next morning Troy and I went out, grabbed some delicious and cheap pastries, and did a bit of exploring. Mainly we were waiting till it was warm enough to head over to the beach. Batumi has a much different vibe than the other parts of Georgia I’ve seen so far. It is a prime vacation spot and a lot of improvements have been made over the last few years to make it an even more successful tourist spot. It’s not just the shiny new buildings, fancy stores, and casinos that make it different; I also saw dogs on leashes. In fact I saw more dogs on leashes than I saw running around wild. There were also restaurants serving more than just Georgian food. Little things like this show the outside influence on the city and also their desire to serve a large customer base. I could see this place becoming the Las Vegas of Georgia. It had that kind of kitschy, glossy feel to it. That and there are lots of casinos and strip clubs.

Church in Batumi

The Golden Fleece

That is one big grape vine.

The most sexual fountain I’ve ever seen

Up close and personal

Little kid wearing a Georgia flag as a cape.

Anyway, we made it to the beach a little later in the afternoon. You could tell they were getting ready for tourist season to begin (which is apparently mid-July to August). Beach chairs, umbrellas, and even large comfy pillows were all over the place. Yet, they were mostly empty. Families lounged around, trying to look like the rock beach was really comfortable. I had been forewarned about the rock beach, another first for me. Here I had gone my whole life believing that beaches had sand. Boy was I wrong. This beach was all stones, yet as we walked to the water we saw kids enjoying things just like at a sand beach. While you couldn’t build a sand castle you can apparently still bury your friend under rocks.

Rockin’ out at the beach.

A grandmother dressed in her beach attire.

We got into the water, which felt a bit chilly at first, but as you all know once I dunked my head I was acclimated. Upon plunging my head into the Black Sea I got some of the water in my mouth. It was salty. Now, I’m not really sure why, but I didn’t expect this at all. Suppose I just never really thought about it. So, now you know, the Black Sea is just as salty as everything else in Georgia. Troy and I floated in the water till we were shriveled and I was feeling a bit sea sick. Went back to our beach chairs to dry off. Here we noticed the locals taking the rocks and pressing them against their skin. Curious about this custom we tried it out. Wow, how nice! After you come out of the water it is a little cold, the rocks have been sitting out in the sun and feel warm on your skin. When in Rome…

Batumi is a port city.

While catching some rays I got a phone call from another volunteer who was in our training group, Sonja. She was in Batumi too and wanted to meet up with us. Troy directed her to our location on the beach and she headed on over. The three of us went to grab some shawarma in the Turkish district where we were joined by yet another volunteer from our training group. The four of us ate and then just kicked it around town for a bit, checking out some other bars. As the hour got later we decided it was time to smoke hookah and went over to an Iranian restaurant. Here I had my third non-Georgian meal and enjoyed a nice smoke. The food was tasty, though none of us actually got what we ordered. None of our Georgian was good enough and there wasn’t an Arabic speaker among us. After the waitress took our order we were all pretty sure it was going to be wrong, but also didn’t care all that much.

Beautiful statue near the beach

This woman decided to just use some foliage for shade.

Dinner came and went and Sonja suggested we go to the Dancing Fountain on the other side of town. We hailed a taxi driver who had no clue where the hell to go. We even showed him a map. It’s been my experience thus far that if a driver doesn’t know where to go he’ll pull over and ask another driver. This guy did no such thing. After driving around in a sort of confused jumble, we finally made it to a close enough point and gave him some money, which he proceeded to grumble about. Think it might be some time before that guy decides to give a ride to a group of foreigners again.

The Dancing Fountain was pretty cool. We walked up to this really smelly lake and proceeded to the area in front of this huge fountain. Basically think Bellagio in Vegas, a light+water+music show. We sat watching for a while, getting sprayed in the face more often than I’d like. Having had enough and thinking that we’d seen it all Sonja cried out, “Do you see the dancing woman?” I had no idea what the hell she was talking about and looked around for a woman dancing. My three companions were oohing and aahing, I look up to see an Indian woman projected in the middle of the fountain dancing. This was followed by a Native American man dancing, and then Shiva, it was incredible. Instead of heading home we grabbed a bench and watched for a while longer. Next to us men had little carts where they sold light-up rave toys, this was definitely a must see destination in the city.

Honestly, not a whole lot more to say about Batumi. After the fountain we went back into town and sat at the bar for a little while before Sonja and I went to the hostel. The next morning I woke up and grabbed a marshrutka back to Tskaltubo. Wish that I could have stayed longer, but I had to prepare for classes on Monday.

Believe this is an event hall.

Rickshaw!

Loved the architecture here.

Sonja and I taking a photo-op.

Another great building.

Now here are some random little tidbits from my time here:

– A man on the bus struck up a conversation with me one day. We talked on my way to school. Well, I did my best to talk with him as he only spoke Georgian. He insisted I put my money away and he paid for my bus fare.

– I had churchkela for the first time. It’s a string of nuts that have been dipped into a thickened grape juice. Wasn’t too fond of it, but might give another kind a try sometime.

– A commonly used phrase here seems to be “kai gogo” which means “good girl”. People tell me that I’m a good girl all the time. This feels quite strange.

– Sometimes the cheese squeaks on my teeth when I chew it. I’m not saying the cheese is bad or anything, just a little weird to have your food squeak.

– I’ve learned that life is fine without a microwave.

– One of the things I miss the most is my sewing machine and by extension crafting and costumes. Think when I come back I’m going to put some effort into actually learning how to make quality costumes.

-And finally, Battlestar Galactica provided me with a quote I’ve found myself returning to quite often the last few weeks, “It may feel like hell but sometimes lost is where you need to be. Just because you don’t know your direction doesn’t mean you don’t have one. ”

*Not his real name