Shortly after I wrote the post about training, a cleaning woman came in (our door was usually wide open when we are inside, inviting our friends to come in) and said what we think was the word for “go” in Georgian. Well, it was half an hour before we thought we were supposed to check out, but who knows. We gathered our stuff and went out into the lobby where we found georgians EVERYWHERE! A couple of them were checking in, but most were just milling around in the lobby. When I saw a little girl I realized that these were our host families, come to take us away from the land of terrible hotel food. We were split up into two sides of the lobby, volunteers on one side and families and representatives on the other. Then, region by region, names were called and one family and one volunteer met in the middle. We quickly learned something very important that was not explained in culture class. We were taught that Georgians kiss one time in greeting, but we were not told which side. Many of us were leaning to the left instead of the right creating VERY awkward looking greetings. Those of is who were called later made sure to lean right. I knew that three of us were going to Poti, so I was ready when they called out that the representative from Poti was here for Arkhram and Donna. Then I waited, aren’t they here for me too? As Donna waved goodbye to me, I thought, “what if I didn’t hear my name (very possible), what if they leave without me, and I have to go tomorrow, where will I stay?” I had about a minute of these panic-like thoughts until, yes, they call my name. I walk forward and meet someone who looks to me about my age (and is) and she tells me to wait with this other woman, who seemed like she was my school’s representative because she carried posters that belonged in a children’s school and she speaks English very well. Together we waited for the first woman to get a taxi. Here came the next round of over thinking: “a taxi? All the way to Poti? I thought that Poti was at least five hours away.” We put my stuff in and of course, there are no seat-belts and my heart sinks. Drivers here are CRAZY. So are pedestrians. Anyway we are suddenly on a back road in Tbilisi, not far from the hotel, and my companions are taking out money to pay the driver. We stop in front of a building with a child playing outside and start taking my stuff out of the taxi. All I am thinking now is, “great, I got Tbilisi after all, after being so excited to go to Poti”. We head upstairs and I am ushered into a kitchen where another woman is waiting. Finally, introductions and an explanation of what is going on.
The first woman I met was Kristina, and she is studying dentistry in Tbilisi. The house we are in is her flat. The woman I thought was the school representative is her aunt and my host mother, Lela. The other woman, Kat, is also at university studying pharmacology. And no, we will not be staying in Tbilisi. We well head out to Poti tonight. My host mother is taking the opportunity to get her niece a nice fall jacket so they are out shopping right now.
Before they went though, they HAD to feed me. I am going to describe the food in terms of what is seemed like to me, not the real words… I am not that advanced in Georgian yet. In fact, the two girls my age giggle every time I use Georgian… The first thing they put our was a salad of some kind with shredded cabbage, carrots, onions and some kind of meat, not sure what kind, but it was good. Then came the bread both brown and white (both delicious). When the cheese was placed in front of me, of course, I went for it, as I love cheeses of all kinds. This was very salty and very good. I told Lela I loved the cheese and found out that the cheese is made by her mother from Lela’s cow’s milk! They own a cow. All my Yiddish Book Center, and York friends will LOVE to learn that I am looking forward to learning to milk a cow. Lela is very excited to teach me. On with the meal though. Another salad came out, this one just tomatos and peeled cucumber. We saw this a lot in the hotel, so it must be a kind of Georgian salad. Then came a mustard that no one seemed to want. I used the mustard on the hot-dog like sausage that same out next. Everyone laughed as I cried and went for the strawberry banana juice. That stuff was HOT but really good. After I seemed to be slowing down to Lela, she said something that I think I will get used to. “You want more, of course you want more” and she proceeded to the desert course. Let me just say, I am VERY lucky I grew up with a grandmother who feeds us all more than any human can take. I know the tricks, take one of each, and spread your food around so that what looks like a lot on your plate is in actuallity not all that much. Well, that trick came out of being picky, not Bubbe’s family dinners, but I digress (when do I not digress?) Desert consisted of MANY fruits, some that I know like grapes and oranges, but more than I don’t. When I asked about a very unfamiliar looking one, the three woman looked at each other and spoke rapidly in Georgian. Finally Lela and Kristina looked at me and shrugged their shoulder. In Georgian, it is “karalioki”… But that is not enough. We need to look it up and find the word for me in English. After an EXTENSIVE search, it seems that I have just had a persimmon. I have always wondered what they were. There were also cookies and cakes, and chocolate and pretzels. When Lela and Kristina went out, they invited me to join, but between my need to write this post and the knowledge that I will need to buy things for this weather (I didn’t bring rain boots, I brought snow boots…) but I don’t have room in my bags, I declined. I have been sitting across the table from Kat, who does not speak a very good english (and of course my Georgian is terrible) so I went to the Google translate page and typed the English into one side and she read the Georgian on the other. While Google translate was terrible for a Yiddish article, it seemed to work pretty well with Georgian, for our purposes. At least, it did on my side. And from her reaction, I did not insult her family, so I count this as a win.
I am very excited about this whole trip. Lela lives with her parents, who don’t speak English, her husband and her son. She is an English teacher at a different school in Poti than the one I will be teaching in. I asked her about Poti, and she told me that it is a nice small city. Sorry Zeyde, that is what I want. I know I said in my first post I wanted a village, but now that I think about it, small city is the right thing for me. I wouldn’t want to live in Tbilisi (though it is GEORGOUS) and Batumi, the other big city on the black sea is very touristy and full of resorts. Like I said in my last post, I think I am going to like Poti.