Tag Archives: Tbilisi

Chillaxing.

real quick: actually Googled and debated how to spell the non-existent word that is my title. I’m nothing if not thorough.

Living abroad is hard. At least, it is for me. I’m sure there are people who can hop on a plane and revel in new customs with nary a thought of the familiarity they left behind. Those people are saints, or more likely they’re liars.

Living abroad is exhausting. I am tired, some days, from doing nothing more than navigating the city I’m in. This weekend, a friend and I were in Tbilisi and had this conversation:

Me: Please talk to this taxi driver. I don’t want to figure it out.

Her: Oh, but you know more words. I’ll take the next one.

Me: *immense sigh* Ugh. Fiiiine.

Because sometimes it really is that intimidating. There are days when all I want is to hide. There are days when even Skyping friends is so much effort that when I hear the call ringing through my laptop speakers, I cringe.

Some days I hide in my room and feel guilty for not socializing with my family, or walking in the city, or at least going to sit in one of the parks I’m lucky enough to have near my house. And then I think of how little Kartuli I know, and how little English my family knows, and how little I want to play charades, or be stared at, or be accosted with ‘hello!’ and I stay in my room. I want to relax, I reason. I want to watch some NCIS, or paint my nails, or sneak my Pringles chips without interruption. **this never happens without interruption. case in point: my host mother just came in my room to tell me I am a pretty, good girl, and hug me.** But I feel like I cannot relax in my room–I feel guilt from not seizing every second of every day.

I am not alone in this. I’ve talked to other friends here who feel the same way. This weekend, sitting in our hotel in Tbilisi, Brittany and I kept defending our decision not to do any exploring, even though we were perfectly content with a very chill weekend. And we need to stop pushing ourselves so hard to experience everything so quickly. Living abroad is different from vacationing abroad. We have time! Not a lot of it, but enough that it’s okay to take a weekend off from heavy traveling. Kick your feet up! Soak in a nice view! Go shopping, and not for souvenirs. Have a spa day. Carve out a life here–and the locals aren’t going to every spot on the map at the first chance they get. So take a page from that book and don’t feel guilty when you want a break. To quote one of my co-teachers, who is extremely worried that I am pushing myself too hard (I am sick a lot in this country) “Mari, we are not robots. We are humans, Mari.”

So when we are pushing ourselves to see everything, or work on lesson plans, or job search for after our time here–stop. Sometimes it is good and productive to push yourself. And sometimes you need to step back and breathe. And if I ever learn to take my own advice, that would be great.

Tbilisi at night from Hotel Bany. Gorgeous views! But what else would you expect when you hike up half a mountain to get to reception?
Tbilisi at night from Hotel Bany. Gorgeous views! But what else would you expect when you hike up half a mountain to get to reception?

 

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Be ready for adventure.

I have yet to spend a weekend at home with my host family. Instead, I find myself jetting off to Tbilisi, or Bakuriani, or, most recently, Batumi. These trips are always fun and filled with surprises, and the Georgian twist is that things never go as planned. With the Bakuriani trip, we couldn’t find the train station so ended up crammed on a marshrutka. (I was sitting on a stool in the aisle of the bus. I mean crammed.) I thought I had learned to expect the unexpected–that was until we decided to visit Batumi.

Batumi is a port city on the coast of the Black Sea, about 20 minutes from the Turkish border. It’s gorgeous and I’ve fallen in love and I will be going back very soon. But hopefully my journey this time will be a bit smoother.

It started out innocently enough. Brittany, Hannah and I decided to meet in Tbilisi and grab the sleeper train to Batumi. It’s about a 7 hour ride, and we could arrive well-rested and ready to conquer the city! Then, we could grab the sleeper train back and still have Sunday to explore Tbilisi and be home early and ready for the week. Naturally, as Americans we decide to meet at Wendy’s. (American food and wifi? It has become our Mecca.) All is going well–Brittany and Hannah arrive with no problems, and one of my Georgian friends shows up as well. We have a good time talking and laughing and then he offers to drive us to the train station. Not ones to decline free transport, we graciously accept–although the fact that we almost had a head-on collision may have made us regret that just a small bit.

Now we’re at the train station and we’ve bought our tickets and we have two hours to kill. I cannot lie–we are feeling pretty accomplished. Oh, how the mighty do fall. Hot Ryan (a fellow TLG-er who is, you may have guessed, pretty attractive) texts to say he is at the train station, and we meet up to chat before the train leaves. It’s quickly decided that he should join us on our trip! Now we have an hour to grab some snacks and run to his hostel so he can grab his bag. Two metro stops isn’t that far, we reason. We have plenty of time.

…We do not have plenty of time. Somehow, the time moves at warp speed. Where it was 10:15 five minutes ago, now it’s 10:38 and the train leaves at 10:45. As we hustle back onto the metro, we joke about Georgian time versus real time and how the train won’t leave until 11:00, at the earliest. (hint: We are lying to ourselves.) As you might assume, we dash back up the escalators in time to SEE THE TRAIN LEAVE. We were exactly one minute late.

Ever persistent, we brainstormed alternatives. Taxi to the next station and grab the train there? No, we don’t know where that is and it’s a long shot anyway. Marshrutka to Batumi? No, the last one left hours ago. Train to Kutaisi and then taxi? Nope–that was the last train of the night. Finally we admit defeat and decide to grab a taxi. To Batumi. Six hours away. At midnight. Sanity had clearly left us. So after paying more than twice what our train tickets cost, we are jammed in a taxi ready for the night. We’ve got makeshift pillows and snacks and we are trying hard to make this an adventure! I think we all manage to grab a little sleep, but it was most definitely worth it the next day!

A lemon-filled croissant on the sea wall, lunch in Turkey, and the sunset over the Black Sea most certainly tops my list of best days while traveling. And that night, we slept soundly on the sleeper train back to Tbilisi. Lessons learned: Roll with the punches, don’t ever leave the station with only an hour before departure, and always be ready for an adventure.

 

Gamarjoba!

Gamarjoba! Alo!

I don’t know how to start this post. There are so many thoughts and realizations rolling around in my head, but none of them are cohesive or interesting enough to write an entire post about. So, here are my ramblings. Enjoy!

To start: the language. It sounds beautiful when it’s spoken. Not as rough as Russian, and not as smooth as Italian or French–it is gorgeous to me. But spending three hours a day studying it does not a fluent speaker make. “Me var mohkalise mastavelebeli” I stumble through, or “Dila mshvidobisa!”. Georgian is a language where five consonants in a row is common, and my American tongue doesn’t work that way. While I continue to try, I at least provide comedic relief for my peers in the mean time.

It has finally dawned on me just how poor (for complete lack of a better word) Georgia is. Right now we’re in a hotel in the capitol, Tbilisi, and we have already lost water twice in two days. When we were briefed on our villages, some of the showers are outdoors. (I am praying I am blessed with a host family who has indoor plumbing.) I could very well be washing my clothes by hand!

The culture is so extremely different. The girls are advised not to smile at men unless you already know them. All of the volunteers are advised to not make eye contact on the street–that just isn’t done here! Georgian girls often have bastrumi, which are men who are pledged to protect them. It sounds a bit romantic, but it’s an indication of the reality. I am in the most patriarchal society I have ever encountered.

The food! Potatoes; bread; potatoes inside of bread; noodle and potato soup; I think you get the drift. We have all requested veggies because that is a starch overload, even for me. But the famous Georgia dish, katchapuri, lives up to the reputation! It is essentially dough stuffed with cheese, but the softness of the dough and the tartness of the cheese mix well. I think it is a favorite for many of the volunteers.

My co-teachers! I hit the jackpot with an awesome group of people. Everyone has traveled previously and has the stories you only get from living in Malta, or serving in the Peace Corps. I love them all, and my roommate, Hannah, is a fantastic (read: crazy) person with great stories and a sense of humor. **Remember my last roommate? This one doesn’t do drugs or complain 24/7!

Check out Hannah’s blog for better written commentary! And when we leave for our villages, she will be in a different part of the country with completely different stories.

kargi ghame, and talk again soon!

Flights! (Finally)

I adore plans. Plans and checklists and itineraries are my love language. So when I was accepted to teach English in the Republic of Georgia, of course the first question I asked is ‘When will I arrive?’. And I was told January 12th. That didn’t happen. And then I was told January 31st. So when January 28th rolled around and I hadn’t received a ticket, I was getting nervous. There was talk of whether these delays were meant to be a practice in faith, or a sign that this wasn’t for me. But after much praying, and talking, I decided to wait a little bit longer. I FINALLY HAVE MY FLIGHTS! I will leave on February 5th and two days later I will find myself in a country at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East!

I know I was a bit annoyed (peeved) at being delayed so much, but I am so glad I had this month to focus on schoolwork and spend with family and friends!

I was able to spend time with my Pops as he was admitted to the hospital first with a blood-clot and a week later as he suffered a stroke. I visited the panda bears at the zoo with Miss Tamara. I drove to Fort Rucker to see another my friend before she begins flight school!! (SO, SO excited for her!). I was snowed in on my birthday!! And spent one last day sledding and eating pizza with my favorite cousin.

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#pandaswag

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Pandas are fascinating. And one of my favorites.

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One of us (ME) was obviously prepared for the snow. The other threw snowballs at my face.
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Birthday Selfie! an excuse to use my scarf. snow!
A trifecta.
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Cramming in one last picture before I leave. Future pilot and future teacher.

This delay, while NOT in my plans, was certainly in my best interest. And where a month ago I was not ready to leave, and actually dreading it, now I am so unbelievably excited and anxious to visit new places and spaces. 

Georgia on My Mind…No, the other Georgia.

In case you’re a bit daft, or don’t know me (or both), I like to travel. But the last time I packed my life into a suitcase, I had some issues with moving constantly and living in hotels rooms and I came home defeated because maybe I didn’t like to travel as much as I thought?

But then I was looking at some other international opportunities, and what really appealed to me was moving abroad, not simply travelling. So I applied to teach English in the Republic of Georgia, as part of an initiative by the Georgian government. And then I gathered letters o’ recommendation, and copies of my passport, and proof that I am who I say I am with the degree that I say I have, and sent it all off. Got an interview. Was tentatively accepted–sent off my soul and the accompanying paperwork so the FBI can say I’m not a criminal. (Anxiously awaiting those results, let me tell ya!) Put in my notice for both of my jobs, and mustered up the courage to tell the family that I am leaving, again, exactly 5 months after I got back. 

All of this happened in the span of 10 days. So, pending the good work of the FBI, peace out Georgia friends; I’m moving to Eastern Europe! If, like my grandparents and certain other loved ones, you have negative things to say, your input is not welcome. I can’t wait to see what’s in store, but please join me in praying and positive thoughts that my CRC arrives in time–the deadline is December 30th!