About the Blog

I recently accepted a position from Teach and Learn with Georgia, a Georgian Ministry of Education program designed to bring native speakers of English into classrooms around the country. I will be moving to Georgia in August of 2014 to begin my assignment.

Before this latest adventure, I studied at Bogazici University in Istanbul Turkey and at Azerbaijan University of Languages. I speak English German Spanish, Turkish Azerbaijani and Uzbek and am currently trying my hand at Georgian.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mary's Visit Part II

One of my mountain guide friends (I know most of them pretty well since they have to speak English for their job) had offered at the wedding to take Mary and I hiking the next day. I suspect the next morning when I texted him around 11am he regretted his generosity. I went with Mary to school and she got to meet the other teachers, a bunch of the students and come to part of my first grade class. We went home to eat and change and headed out around noon. I had told Mary that we would go for ‘a nice little hike’ forgetting that I have lived in Mestia for too long and hang out with people who climb Banguriani (probably minimum 10000 ft) for fun. My friend suggested the hike to Jvari but I know that this hike is almost entirely vertical, having done it twice before, so I suggested Chaladi Glacier instead. And off we went. My friend was pretty reticent on the trip, whether because when together Mary and I can break records for number of words in a conversation, or because he was a little embarrassed to speak English around her. In any case, we made up for his quiet. There are some gorgeous views of Ushba on the way to Chaladi so we took pictures and chatted and got a little sunburnt. We reached the short bridge and from there the road becomes a trail. After half an hour or so my sister asked how far to the Glacier. I thought 5 minutes, my friend said 20. But please feel free to trust my estimates at all times. We did break out of the forest cover eventually and sat to take a look at eat and drink a little. Then back. We made it back to the house without incident, though it was incredibly hot in the sun, I was regretting wearing pants and had stripped to my cami. We said goodbye, thanks very much see you again soon and broke off the party. It was 6pm. According to my friend it was a 14km hike. Mary was a trifle tired. So we broke out the oreos she had brought. That night we had an epic dress up session with Nini, Ani, Piso (the cat) and Mary’s sari. Indian soaps are inexplicably popular here so all the girls know what saris are, but have never gotten to try one on. Mary started explaining that it was a sari for holi and what kind of holiday that was, and Nini replied that she knew exactly what it was, she had seen it on TV. So I suppose the soap operas are sort of educational.
At access with my kids
Our final day in Mestia we went over to the ethnographic museum to view its treasures, including a fantastic collection of icons and other church paraphernalia, which was sent up to Svaneti during times of strife in lowland Georgia and which then got lost in the bureaucratic tangle in the aftermath. I’m sure their return is in the process now. Svaneti also produced some beautiful objects itself, and these items were protected from the various sackings of Georgia (I think Tbilisi had been invaded something like 25 times) because it’s so remote. Even in the most recent war, Russia didn’t bother trying to invade up here. The whole ‘1 road in’ does make defense a little easier. Anyway, we went to the museum roof to take some gorgeous photos and then I took her to a Svan tower for a panoramic view of the valley. The view would have been slightly more panoramic if she had actually gone on the roof but she kept complaining about ‘safety’ and all this other stuff. Whatever, guard rails are for the weak. Plus the roof hasn’t collapsed under me yet. Those split board are totally legit. And I probably would hit the stone floor rather than dropping through the opening to the second to top floor. And it wasn’t that slippery from the rain. I’m totally trustworthy, please let me babysit (or you know, teach) anytime. Mary was struck by the beauty of Mestia but also its intense isolation and cold (she wanted the heater in my room on at full blast. I was sweating intolerably) She remarked that I am a “rock star” in my community, but also that if she had been living here for 7 months already she would have gotten distracted since boredom runs rampant and the man flesh is something to look at. No worries friends, this blog and grad school apps have occupied my time quite well enough. And, you know, my job.
On pilgrimage
 The next morning we took the marsh to Zugdidi, or we were working on it for an hour and a half in the center, and I actually got out at one point and tried some of my ‘Chicago gangster’ posturing. This includes gesturing with my chin, eyebrows and shoulders. Trying to do it in Georgian did make it slightly more difficult. When I reentered the marsh, Mary was laughing so hard she was shaking. We finally got off and I was stuck with the task of translating for our party of tourists. A couple of Ukrainians on the bus spoke Russian but the driver still seemed to prefer to talk to me for unknown reasons. We transferred to a different bus to Batumi on the Black Sea and drove through lush coastal Samegrelo. The main road West is under construction so we had to take the back village route. We stopped once and listening to the conversation in the front seat was hilarious. “Why are we stopping here?” “I want to see if we can pick anyone up” “No one wants to go to Batumi from here, keep driving”. “5 minutes” “NO ONE is going to Batumi, keep going!!!!” Then the marsh hit something on the potholed, dirt road and we had to pull over and flag down another bus going to Batumi, which was then paid off and we were shoved onto it. I was the last one on as I had become the ‘tourist herder’ and as I got on our driver said to the new driver “She’s a good girl, she’s a teacher in Mestia and speaks Georgian, take care of her”. Mary had to sit in the fold down aisle seat next to a truly confused Georgian toddler whose mother kept feeding Mary and I from her collection of travel snacks.
And this is how you wedding. Imagine this but with about 775 more people. 
Once we finally made it to Batumi after our 3 marshrutka and approximately 7 or 8 hour trip we staggered off of the marsh, the Ukrainians asked for my number, and then we met up with my friend Chris who promptly took us to a lovely hotel and we explored the Batumi waterfront which is gorgeous and drank in the warmth of the sun. We sat at a cafĂ© and ate for a while, then headed back and ate more food from a local market that came to love us for our purchases and my Georgian speaking. I convinced Mary to come out to the bulvar on the waterfront for the sunset and then we sat and enjoyed the energy of the city in the dark, and laughing as we ran through the singing dancing fountain because life can be wonderfully unexpected sometimes. Batumi is an incredibly underrated city, other teachers call it “the City of broken promises” but it is achingly beautiful in the setting sun and its old town is too photogenic for words. The next day dawned rainy but we visited a couple churches, Mary’s second mosque (I tried out Turkish on the caretakers who replied in Georgian and then I listened to their entire conversation about where the heck I could possibly be from). We wandered through the misty town, ate and drank at any number of charming cafes, explored the beach, saw some dolphins swimming just off shore, and finally returned to the hostel where we were encouraged to have another cup of tea before we left since it was a cold rain. I caught us an inner city marsh to the train station (reading Georgian can be super useful sometimes) and we were again way too early but there was a grocery store across the street so I bought us some food and we sat and read and people watched until our evening train to Tbilisi pulled up, perfectly on time. It took a little over 5 hours but we arrived before midnight, caught a taxi who got very confused as he insisted on speaking English with me and eventually got to our hostel, where the guest before us had remained an extra night so the caretaker took us to a neighbors, who apparently runs the Georgian version of the Bates Motel. The German living there for the summer had an ‘overnight guest’. The next morning we met him at what I expected to be an epically awkward breakfast. He started with the perfectly normal ‘Hello, how are you?’ which he followed up with ‘You’re the teacher in Mestia, don’t you remember me?’. Low and behold, he was one of the guys who had given me a ride from Hatsvali to Mestia back in February. This country can be freakishly small sometimes.

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