Friday, December 9, 2011

Good times

Last week, Lela introduced me to one of our neighbors, a woman named Khatuna, who works for the National Park's Service here in Georgia. She and Lela grew up together, and Margo and her mother are good friends, as are Leqso and her son. So, a close family all around. I am still not clear on why it took so long to meet them, but I am very happy I did. When we went to her house, I met her niece and nephew who were adorable, and of course, there was more food than anyone could possibly dream of eating. Then came the tea. Norwegian tea that was a present to her from her friends in America. Wait, friends in America? Yes, she spent nine weeks in California working at Kolkheti National Park's sister park near San Francisco! She is the first Georgian I have met in Poti who has been to America. And I am very glad to have met her.
In my last post, I was complaining about the rain. Well, a couple hours after writing that post it cleared up and the weather this week has been phenomenal. I man 20°C phenomenal! I went outside every day and basked in the wonderful sun. On Wednesday, I accidentally got locked out (for those of you who think I forgot my key, you are wrong), but I knew where the hidden key to get in from the other side was, so I found it and got in, but could not get in past the front part of the house, because they lock the inside doors too. (I have since been told where the other hidden keys are) But, I could get into the kitchen and I decided to try solo cooking. I was successful, in that I did not burn the house down, but I did find out why Margo switched the pans I was cooking from last time I tried to cook on my own. My eggs had the very distinctive taste of fish. It was the pan she fries the fish in. (not my favorite kind of eggs)
Anyway, the week had been wonderful, and, as I get out of school earlier on Thursdays, I decided to hop on my recently acquired bike (thank you, thank you, Mary!) and visit Khatuna at the Park, as she kept asking me to do. I left the house around 1:30 PM and headed down in the direction they told me to go. “down Akaki street until you see the hospital and the park is on the other side of the street”. Those of you who know me know already that these simple instructions would be too much for me. Well I headed off down the street, and saw a sign for a hospital outside of a huge fenced in building complex. But like many buildings in Poti it looked completely abandoned. (turns out it used to be the military hospital)The buildings across the street did not look like like they fit the bill either, the bill being a national park... The problem though,was that I was at a fork in the road and Poti and Boston have a couple things in common, the biggest being a distinct lack of street signs. I called Khatuna, but my description of where I was did not help her all that much. She told me to find someone and have them tell her where I was. A woman was walking toward me, so I said “bodishi, bodishi” which means “I am sorry” or “excuse me”, as I waved my phone around. She gave me the funniest stare and kept walking. After she passed me, she turned around to give me another look. I found two men painting a store and this time they just laughed and took the phone. Khatuna spoke to them and then told me to keep going down the street for two kilometers. Two kilometers?! Based on the way people talked about this place as being “just down the street”, I thought I would be there already. The other problem, “down the street” worked itself out when the painters stopped me from going down the wrong street by gesturing wildly. I wish the first woman had been there to see it all. Who knows what she would have thought.
So I continued down the way and decided to play around with the gears just for fun. I had gone another five-ten minutes when, after switching gears too quickly, the chain slipped. I pulled the bike onto the sidewalk and saw two boys walking home from school (yes, at this point, school had ended) and decided it was time to call Khatuna again to make sure of where I was going. This time, when I asked the boys to speak to her, I actually put the phone up to the kid's ear so that he would speak to her. It turns out, once he figured out where I was going, he told Khatuna he would walk me all the way there. She assured him it wasn't necessary, just point me in the right direction. He did, but since he and I were walking in the same direction, we walked along in relative silence after “hello, how are you” had been exhausted. Then another boy came out on his bike and called to the boys. I turned around and he saw me and said “hello”. It was one of my 5th graders. He gestured to my bike, which I hadn't fixed yet, and asked, I assume, why I was not on it. I pointed to the chain, and he immediately got off his bike to come and fix it. Even after we put the chain back on, he could not understand why I would walk if I had my bike, so I said goodbye to the boys and went on my way. A minute later, I saw Khatuna who was walking down the street to look for me. I love Georgians.
The park itself is very cool; it is all marsh, and birds. Apparently, it is a stop on a major migration route, and she promised to let me know when the birds descend in the spring. We had a great time, and when I come back in January, I am definitely going to spend a lot of time there. When we left, Khatuna told me how to get there by Marshutka. It was all pretty funny.
Today in my fifth grade class, I thanked the kid who had helped me and he got to tell the whole class about helping me with my bike. It had been a great week, so nice and dry. Right before my last class, Nana looked outside and predicted rain later. Of course, halfway into class, I looked at her and pointed to the window. The whole class looked and groaned, because sure enough, it was raining. I ran home because I had not brought my umbrella (I dropped the habit of carrying it with me everywhere) and went right into the living room to warm up by the fire. There was Margo sitting at the stove and cracking open hazelnuts. The last time I had hazelnuts, I think I cracked my jaw instead of the nut by trying to crack them with my teeth, the way the family did. This time though, Margo was sitting at the wood stove and placing a couple nuts on the top. Then she took a piece of firewood and brought it down on the nut. It looked like so much fun that I joined her for a bit. I think the rain was bringing me down or something, because I had a great time cracking those nuts. Then the power went out and I got out some hot chocolate and my computer and wrote this post. I have no plans for my last weekend before I go home, but I do plan to have fun, whatever it is.
Margo has been in the kitchen mashing things and cutting parsley (smells amazing in there) and just came to show me what she had made. “Chuba” which looks like a layer cake, but on closer examination is made of mashed potatoes, carrots, and beats topped off with the parsley and what looked like frosting on the top was actually mayonnaise (mayo is a part of every salad here. Pizza is also assaulted with mayonnaise...) I think it might be a part of the New Year's fun that has taken over everywhere. Christmas here is celebrated on January 7th, and is a different kind of holiday than the Christmas of the west, so Georgians seem to have taken a lot of the more secular things about Christmas, for example the tree, and changed it for New Years, so they decorate “New Year's Trees” with ornaments and such. I can't wait to come home and accidentally call the tree a new year's tree to help fight in Jon Stewart's War on Christmas. Ok, so saying that I am going to do it might not make it so accidental...

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