Saturday, June 2, 2012

Last Bell

When 12th graders graduate early in the states, they graduate and are left to their own devices while they rub it in the faces of the underclassmen. At least, that is how I remember it. Here, as always, things work a little differently. There doesn't seem to be a graduation with pomp and circumstance played nonstop as 300 graduates get their certificates. How could there be when the graduating class is is about 60 kids at my school, and much less in other schools across the country. What they have instead is a Last Bell ceremony, which is so unbelievably not a ceremony, but that is how it was explained to me before hand.
There are two 12th grade classes at the 1st school and they spent the Friday of last bell signing each other's white shirts. Some had designed and drawn bells on their shirts, and for some reason Micky Mouse was a big theme on the shirts as well. I was able to get a seat near the front with Nana, one of my co-teachers, which was very useful. She was able to explain to be that this was less a ceremony and more a presentation. Again, not quite the word I would have used, but closer. When it finally began, I saw the 12th graders in the wings, and all the girls had various long tutus of many colors. Then the music started and a whole dance number, the story being “students arriving at school” began. Apparently, Last Bell is the 12th graders giving a performance, singing (lip syncing), and dancing, and poetry. It was great! When it was over, each student said something as a slide show of kiddie pictures were projected behind them.
The second class outdid themselves. Somewhere, they had gotten access to a green screen, and created a whole News Show. The introductions and time between numbers were cuts to the anchors and reporters, which was all projected onto the back wall. The first two numbers were Georgian Folk Dances, and were very neat. Then they traveled to Bollywood and performed some sort of Arabian/Indian/who knows what else dance that was funny. Next they went to Spain (the reporter was reporting from a Bull Fight) but they did the Argentine Tango (it was the music, not words of the Tango Roxanne from Moulin Rouge). Well, I have no room to talk, because the next place they went was obviously America. There were some skyscrapers and Ocean and I spent a good couple seconds trying to figure out where in the New York skyline this was, because for most places outside the US, New York is the capital. I was still trying to figure it out when the scene behind the reporter changed and she was standing in front of a VERY familiar building that said “Quincy Market”! I started flipping out telling my co-teacher “That's Boston! That's Boston!” They then showed Ducks and Boston Common. I still don't know if they were setting me up to see some scenes of home, or if that was just the footage they could find, but either way, it felt good! Following the reporter, they did a rap in Georgian, and then did a very cute motorcycle (in the form of a bicycle) across the stage to begin a jive number. Ahh, America.
The whole time, I was wondering what would have happened at my high school, if, instead of the teachers doing the holiday performance that honors the seniors (with the 5 golden rings), the seniors did the performance. For one thing, it would have taken a whole lot longer than an hour and a half like the two classes were, and for another, no class would do it! Every single kid in both classes sang or danced or recited and every kid had their turn at the mic, and not a single one was too shy or embarrassed to do it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Evil lives in Cows

Cows are evil and bloodthirsty. At least one bull in the mountains of the north is out to eat people, not grass. He made a good show of pretending otherwise so that no one else would believe us, but we know... Evil...
It all started with a trip to Svaneti, specifically to the biggest touristy town up there, Mestia. From Mestia there are 6 or 7 hiking trails to choose from as well as marshutkas to the other villages with equally amazing hikes and views. The hike we chose was one of the shorter ones, just up to a cross that overlooks the town and back down. 

Of course, you can't just climb up and what was supposed to be two hours of walking back and forth and slowly making your way up the mountain turned into 3 and a half hours of climbing, walking, and enjoying the views. The first third of the journey was TOUGH. It was almost straight up and didn't seem to end! It went around the mountain and across a little series of waterfalls from the melting snow higher up. 

Finally we heard some cows (really mooing and being noisy) and we knew that the really tough part was almost over. Oh how wrong we were.
Remember that mooing? It was coming from one animal; a big black bull. It was in one of the pastures, walking toward the fence that separated the pasture from the hiking road. Well every so often there is an opening in the fence, by, what I have now learned is probably from the stampede of the evil cows. We had walked, maybe, 30 feet throught the path between pastures, we crossed a stretch of water running through the path, and then saw something we couldn't cross. In front of us is this bull, with horns lowered and it is looking at us with SUCH angry eyes. I wanted to take out the video camera, but I was worried about making sudden movements. We stood watching eachother for a bit, then it swung its head to eat some grass. At least that was what it wanted us to think, because then it started pawing the ground. It was evil. It started walking toward us, and we thought it was going to the water, so we crossed the stream to let it get its water, and to let us go along our way. BUT it crossed the water too and kept coming after us. Finally we backed off enough that it went through another hole in the fence and went back into the pasture, and we were able to get by. I then got out my video camera, and you wont see how evil was in the video because it knew I was video taping it and it played the harmless cow again... But I know better.

Anyway, we kept climbing up and eventually clawed our way to the top. Almost literally because we decided not to follow the winding path, but to climb the mountain up to top. And once again, it was STEEP. 

But the view was breathtaking and truly special. In the video I made at the top, I mention that I was going to sing, and I did, all the way down. They say it takes 2 hours to go up the mountain, and 2 hours to come down, and it might, but for us, it was 3 ½ hours up and 1 hour down. We had two very good reasons for the faster journey down. 1st we had another run in with the BULL. We had just come down the little hill the Cross at the top of the mountain was on when who should walk onto the path but the big evil bull followed by the rest of the cows. This time, the bull was farther away and we wanted to get off the mountain, so we went by, but I had enough time to get my camera out so that you could see the evil of this cow too.
Later after we had put a major distance between the herd and ourselves, we came upon the pasture that we had been threatened at before. And when I say we came upon mean we realized that we were just above it. We looked at each other and decided it was grassy pastures and the forecast had been for rain (the day was amazing) but why push our luck. We made it to to the bottom where the pastures had begun without breaking our necks. Then we made it to the bottom of the mountain in time to see the world turn different colors. That rain was coming and it was coming with a vengeance. Which, in the couple minutes before it came, turned the sky AMAZING colors... A VERY good weekend.

I have videos of the mountain climb (it was a HIKE) but it won't load so for now, have some pictures to tide you over:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Beauty Pageant

Wednesday of the next week was a holiday celebrating the end of WWII. After spending my first sleep in morning in Poti in what felt like months, I went out and enjoyed the amazing weather. I had made plans with a friend to see her third graders in a “fashion show” at 6PM, so at 5:30 we met up at the park. She had been told where the show was, and we saw some of her students are were encouraged, but when we all got up to the door, it was locked. By now, it was 5:50, and we had no idea where it was. One of the girls decided it might be at the Poti Theater, so we all walked over, and sure enough, it was at the theater. There was no one or sign at the original building to tell you about the move, you just had to know that it had moved... Anyway, we got there at 6:00 exactly, but the show was obviously not starting on time. I found a seat next to some girls in the 10th and 11th grades who were from my school and looked around. That is when we noticed that we were actually watching tech. The teachers were having the kids come up on the stage and walk through what they were going to do. They were all wearing white shirts with black bottoms and I thought it was the basic costume and then the kids would have colored cloth or something on top. You see, when I think fashion show, I think of a fashion show at camp where the kids create costumes and show them off. That was not what this was... Fashion show might have been the literal translation of the words in Georgia, but what we were watching was the Junior and Teen Miss Poti Pageant. The show didn't start until 8, and the whole thing maybe lasted about 30 min. First the Junior Miss contestants walked out, posed at the top of the stage, and walked off, when the next one would come out. There was a woman Mcing the whole event who would have her favorites walk again show them off. Then a little girl came out who was chubbier than the rest, and the woman actually made some comment that included the work “tchame” which as you know means “eat”. Everyone laughed and the girl walked off, but my friend and I were horrified. That wasn't the end of the uncomfortableness for us through. The teenagers round began, and twice the woman had girls, one who was wearing a dress whose skirt ended mid-thigh and the other a long shirt that ended a little higher, lift the hem when they walked. They were both wearing leggings, but the whole thing sickened me. I know that we have the same problems in America with pageants and such, but I have done a very good job of avoiding that scene in America. In the end, several children from both groups were chosen to move on to the competition in Zugdidi for the title of Miss Samagrelo and Svaneti. Girls who weren't chosen were sobbing, but at least I only saw mothers consoling their children, not scolding them for not making it. It was such an insane experience, I came home and told Lela, my host mother, that in the future, the translation of the program was Beauty Pageant and not “fashion show” and that there is a BIG difference.


Well, I have done the crazy and hitch-hiked across Turkey. Well, not across the whole county, just the couple hours from Sarpi (the border) to Trabzon. But I should start at the beginning.

Donna and I, who have been in Poti since October, have been talking about going to Turkey since October. It is very close and it we decided to be very Georgian about it. Go to Trabzon and go shopping. We needed summer clothing desperately.
Donna had a Polish friend who had studied in Turkey and had hitch-hiked his way around the whole country of Turkey. He called it a hitch-hikers paradise. And it was that, when you put two girls with a guy who knows what he is doing and who speaks a common language with everyone we came across (no one spoke English). As in, this is not something I would readily do again, but turned out to be a good experience. The border on the other hand, was a crazy experience.

We took a marshutka from Batumi to Sarpi and walked into the station for passport control. We “left” Georgia and found ourselves in the no-mans land of space between Turkey and Georgia. Donna and I needed to buy Visas, but there was no obvious place to do that. We had to pass Turkish border control and go into the tunnel through the building to find where to get the visas, then go back and get the stuff stamped. Through it all, we had to dodge the trucks and cars going through the border. There were many people who were walking through border control and I felt very strongly that a separate path for pedestrians would be a smart thing, but alas.
We got out and walked a bit down the road. Michal, the Polish TLGer, told us that trucks are the best because there was a 50% chance they were going through Trabzon. We stuck out our thumbs, and a car actually stopped first. The man worked for a rental car system or something, but he wasn't going to Trabzon, so he let us out on the highway and went on his exit. A truck stopped for us and took us through to Trabzon and we went and stayed with a friend of Michal's, who is studying at the University.

 He took us around the campus, and ended the tour on these series of balconies that overlook the Trabzon Aristrip. It was really cool watching the planes take-off and land. The next day, we hit the Bazar and had a great time. I got the ankle socks I had been dying for (all I had were knee high black warm wonderful for winter socks) and in honor of the big soccer match that was coming up, got some in the colors of Trabzon. When we got back, we were introduced to a HUGE pastime in Turkey, at least among university students, gambling. Turkey is a Muslim country and gambling games such as cards or dice have been banned, but gambling on sporting events is still legal and very much engaged in. The intricacies of this type of gambling (or any serious gambling for that matter) were a little too much for me, so I settled on betting on the final score of the Chelsea/Liverpool match. I lost, but it was a lot of fun to watch the game with everyone. Almost every moment, something would happen to change how much money they would win or lose.
We all had school on monday, so Sunday morning, we got up to hitch-hike back to Sarpi. The first truck that picked us up had to load the truck somewhere else, so he let us off and another truck picked us up. He was also headed to Georgia (Final destination: Azerbaijan), but for some reason, had to stop somewhere else. We got to a town and he parked the truck and came out with us. Apparently, he did not like the thought of us hitchhiking, and was trying to find a bus for us to take. He was going to pay the fees. We finally convinced him that we were hitchhiking to meet people, not because we didn't have the money. We walked back along the way and this time a van picked us up with a turkish family headed to Batumi for the day. They took us to Sarpi and had to get in the line for the cars, while we got out to find the pedestrian passport control.
It was a very fun, but exhausting weekend.

And Back!

I am sorry about the very long break in blog posts. There are only four weeks left and the weather has been amazing, on this side of the country anyway, so I have been out and about more often than not. Which gives me ample things to write about, but not so much time to do it.

The weekend that I posted the last post about the frogs, I was in Kutaisi, at the McDonald's, of course. I was meeting a friend there who is here in Georgia because I told her about the program. I needed to see her and make sure she didn't want to dissolve our friendship for getting her over here (she has ended up in a village with no internet of any kind and the nearest town is downwind of a magnesium factory which is doing wonders for her lungs) Luckily, she is loving it here, with the exception of the things I have just mentioned, and we had a great time reveling in the fast internet of Mc Ds. She had come in with a friend of hers from training who was really cool, and we all had a great time sharing music and movies and talking about the problems and perks of being TLG volunteers. I uploaded the Frog video, and that is when I got the shock of my life. My friend's friend had my blog bookmarked! This blog has made it onto the TLG blogs list, and she said it was one of the better ones (not incredibly depressing and not designed to make her think she made a mistake about coming to Georgia). It was crazy, and I am really happy that this blog that was designed to let me tell my family and friends how I am without telling them all in individual emails has been helping other people out.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Computer Troubles

My gift to my mother was going to be 3 brand new posts. And they are written with pictures for them all picked out. And then the internet for my computer died again. So I am going over the options and will have them up. SOON.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Plagues (not really though...)

Do frogs chirp? Well, they do in Georgia! When I returned from Berlin, I started hearing a new sound that seemed to come from the house across the street. I thought it was some sort of a new bird or Georgian animal. It was a Georgian animal, but it was not only found in my neighbors house. As I was walking past the school, I heard the noise again, and looked in the gutter and noticed that there were frogs. LOTS of frogs. They have taken over Georgia, and, if people who were here last summer can be trusted, they are here to stay. Fortunately for me, they all hang out way down the street on my street, so I hear them as I walk home, but never from my home. I took some video from the corner of the school, which is where I hear them the loudest.
(again having some issues with the uploading of the video, so it will be put in at a later date... Fixed thanks to Mc Ds)

Speaking of frogs, and plagues, and passover... What does pascal mean? Pascal lamb and pesakh, these are all words I have grown up on, but have no idea what they mean. I bring it up because as I type, I have no internet and can't look it up, and because of a great Easter cake they make here called “pasqa”, which has to come from the word pascal, right? My host grandmother, Margo, made a whole batch that we finally finished off a couple days ago, but yesterday she made a whole new batch. It is great!

Berlin Cont.

A sentence uttered by the tour guide today in Berlin. “so people pay 5 euros to a pair of strippers to invalidate their passport.”

I realized that I posted the pictures of Berlin without telling you what happened in Berlin after dropping in on the grand-parental units.
On the Thursday of my quick trip to Berlin, I took an eight hour walking tour that was awesome! Yes, everyone who has known me since I was little, I voluntarily went on a tour in which I had to WALK. As the shock wears off, it was actually a great tour and we had a lot of fun. It was four of us, two girls from China who were studying in Singapore and visiting Berlin for a break, and a guy from the states who was studying in London who was visiting Berlin on break, and me, teaching in Georgia and visiting Berlin on break (by this point, Easter vacation had begun). Out tour guide was great and showed us all over. I showed the picture of Takheles, the building that artists are currently in, and the bank is trying to kick them out. We went inside and I helped on the the artists set up his studio. It was fun and really interesting. I have tried to find out more about it online, but not a whole lotta-luck. Maybe you can find stuff and send it to me.
We walked all over Berlin and saw many really famous and important places, but the craziest part of the tour came when we went to Check Point Charlie. Now, as you know, I had been there on the first day, but this is what makes walking around and walking around with a tour guide so different. Our tour guide said this was her least favorite place in Berlin because it is so fake. She pointed out that the Americans did not have a huge issue with border crossing, it was the Soviets who would have had the major checkpoint. Then she pointed to the pictures that were up as a billboard to show you which side you were going toward. On one side was an American soldier and on the other, a Russian. Now, if they wanted to be accurate, they might have wanted to the soldier from America to not wear his pin that showed he fought in the gulf war. And the Russian would have had the Soviet flag, not the Russian Federation flag on his uniform... Maybe... But the worse/best part were the two people in American Uniforms. I mentioned them in the previous post, that one of my friends was thinking about getting the stamp because she hadn't gotten any stamps on her passport yet (silly European union). But when we saw how much it cost to get the stamp, we laughed and left. It was a good thing too, because, even though there were no signs warning you about it, letting the “soldiers” stamp your passport would actually INVALIDATE your passport. That's right, pay five Euros and then some hundred more in your own country to get another passport... Not a good deal at all. The stamp just said “east Berlin”... But the last part she told us about was the best! The people who stand there all day have another job. She asked us to tell her what we thought it was, and through we all guessed different professions, only one came close with the guess of models. They are “adult entertainers”. she pointed out the van that they are taken to work in and they are all strippers for this one company that obviously has a deal with the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. Who wouldn't want to pay a stripper to invalidate their passport? Well, uh, I wouldn't...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Berlin Pictures

Berlin Pictures:

Well, the pictures came in backwards this time, and I have tried to fix it twice, but we are just going to go with it.

I have amazing grandparents!

The memorial to the Jewish Victims of the Holocaust

Bubbe-Zeyde. This memorial was really special.

 Kolwitz is the name of the A&C shack at Camp Kinderland. Here was some of her work in a very special memorial. Below was the tomb of the unknown soldier and freedom fighter. Above was a hole in the ceiling so that when it snowed it snows on the grieving mother, if it rained, it rains on her, etc.

A length of the Berlin Wall is still there. You can see where people chipped away at it .

From my first time at the Jewish Memorial

These translate as stumbling stones. They are the names of people murdered in the death camps outside the last known "chosen" place of residence. They are found all over Berlin and are slightly higher than the rest of the street forcing you to notice them.  I thought of the chalk markers in New York that honor the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. 

This building has a really neat history. It is the center of a huge fight between artists and a bank. We went in and heard from the artists. It was really interesting.
Staking out the point of attack... I mean, uh, the reunion with my grandparents.

So I just noticed that I messed up standing over the line. The brick my left foot is standing on is what the wall was...

I hate the Kiev airport (not as much as I hate the one in Tbilisi), but these were funny. Birds everywhere. It took me too long to get my camera out of my bag to catch the whole flock of them hanging around inside the terminal.

Israel Pictures

A post based on pictures that I think you should see and that I didn't leave room for in previous posts.

Some from Israel:



Western Wall. I didn't go in, because I would have had no idea from what to do next.

Old City Jerusalem is not just a tourist site. It is a neighborhood! Next to the basketball hoop was a Tree House.

Well, even if they hate of the Yiddish Language, they recognize the literature.

I was told that Peretz had a street too, but I couldn't find it. These two were right next to each other.

So this is the President's compound. I was walking back to Dor's and passed this and saw all the security and went HUH? Dor's apartment was right around the corner...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


One of the neatest things about traveling is that you come across so many different languages. As you all know, when I got to Israel, the whole blog got shifted because I decided I did not need the whole page to be translated into English like I did in Georgia, because my now, I know which buttons to click. In Israel, this made for a very Yiddish/Hebrew style writing, that was so funny, I had to keep it. Well, as I write today, there is yet another language on the page Google is offering to translate for me. German. Yes, I sat in Poti preparing to sleep the vacation away, and thought, hey, my grandparents from NY are traveling across Europe... Wouldn't it be fun if I surprised them in Berlin! Ok, so with slightly more planning than that story suggests (but not that much) I am now in a hostel in Berlin down the street from Bubbe-Zeyde's gorgeous hotel.
Last night, I went to the hotel before they checked in and walked up to them with video camera in hand (tonight I will see about getting the video into the blog-DONE!)
and did not kill them, as many in the hostel predicted I would do. We had a very fun evening and today, we are going to spend the afternoon doing something. 
The best part of this is that I have people here at the hostel to hang out with a explore with when they are busy with their tours, but who I can leave when they become free. Yesterday, I hung out with a few people from Australia and we visited Checkpoint Charlie, one of the checkpoints between East and West Berlin.

We also went shopping and created a great pasta using cottage cheese which we bought thinking is was cream cheese, which the Australians had discovered was very good as a cream for your sauce at a previous hostel. We discovered that cottage cheese is really good in pasta and veggies too.
I LOVE seeing new places and meeting new people, but I am starting to get really sick of the act of traveling. I love getting on a plane and take off and landing, but the whole getting to go on the tarmac isn't really novel or cool anymore, and flying through the night and getting no rest is not my favorite way to travel. I got to Berlin thinking I would take a nap and being scared I would sleep through the night. Luckily this hostel, Helter Skelter, is a really cool place with people to meet and hang out with everywhere.
Let's review. In the last week, I have been sunburned in Tel Aviv, food poisoned in Tbilisi, taken care of in Poti, stood up by a train in Poti (a story I might tell in a post about transportation in Georgia), Marshutka-ed to Tbilisi, spent a four hour layover in the Kiev Airport (an airport that is INSANE), taken the Bahn in Berlin (also an insane experience with no map!), and surprised grandparents in Berlin. Not a bad week at all...

Monday, April 9, 2012

The rest of Israel

I am back in Poti after a whirlwind tour of Israel.
After the family filled weekend (the weekend in Israel is Friday and Saturday), I went to Jerusalem and stayed with one of Adi's friends. I wandered through the Old City of Jerusalem and had an amazing time. I got lost so many times, it was kinda amazing. I was trying to get from the Jaffa Gate to the Western Wall and kept on finding myself looped back to the Christian and Armenian Quarters... I finally found the Wall and saw the Temple Mount. I had done a project in a Tech Theater class involving designing and building a set for a play of our choosing. I chose Lysistrata, a Greek play about the woman going on strike until the wars end. In my version of the play, the war the women want ended is the conflict between Israel and Palestine and the temple they lock themselves in to keep the men away was the Temple Mount. I poured over pictures and then built a miniature Temple out of Balsa wood. After so much pain to paint the mosaic on my mini, it was something else entirely to see it in person and think about the work it took to create such an amazing building.

After all the adventures of the Old City, I decided the next day to see some dead land. And by that I mean the desert next to the craziest body of water in the world. When they say you can float in the dead sea, that is not the weirdest part! Or maybe that was the part I was expecting so it wasn't so unusual. What got me was the water itself. It has this slick oily feeling that was just insane! Also nuts, if you reached down to grab some sand while in the water (in the shallow end, since you do NOT put your head in this water... your eyes would burn for days!) you bring up these huge things of salt. Then rub it in all over and exfoliate. Not too hard, or you will irritate your skin and then you need to get OUT of the water.
That night, I headed back to Tel Aviv to prepare for an Interview for my job last year with the Wexler Oral History Project of the Yiddish Book Center. I did the whole thing in Yiddish with a wonderful Yiddish Poet, and except for the minor glitches, it was a great interview. I spent the afternoon with my second cousin once removed Irit (Gilli's mother) and we went for a walk on the Harbor.

And I have a bit of advice for anyone who is going to go to the beach in Tel Aviv... That sun is STRONG. One coat of sunscreen will not last you the day, especially if you fall asleep lying on the beach...

Luckily for me (at the time), I did not have an idea of how sunburned I was and managed to have a great day shopping in the Shuk and at the crafts fair. I did get myself a nice sun hat to protect myself from the sun here in Georgia, because I have not yet seen any sign of sunscreen in the stores.
Now that I am back in Poti, it is actually Easter vacation. Eastern Orthodox's Easter is this coming Sunday. I realized that, being in the old city last Sunday and seeing all the people with palm leaves, and being in Georgia yesterday for their Palm Sunday, I have seen the celebrations twice. Anyway, I need to find something to do with this vacation after my last vacation. Probably rest... a whole lot...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Large Family

Happy April Fools Day! You know, when I was, maybe 10 or 11, my wonderful father whom I love so well almost convinced me that he would let me skip school and would take me to an amusment park. I KNEW it was April 1st and still the only reason he did not get the chance to say April Fools was that I remembered that the parks would not be open this early in spring.
Today's 1st of April was a lot less eventful or trick-some, though sleeping in a room with blinds that actually keep out the sun meant I overslept by a lot (only a lot when you consider I have many places to visit and see and limited time to do and see them) I plan to write this post and then head out into the Old City of Jerusalem. But first, a little about my doings after Tel Aviv.
Kobi and Noemi, Adi's parents and my Dad's second cousins, picked me up from Adi's and took me to their GORGEOUS house in Raanana. Friday was a pretty chill day with a trip to the mall to get a video recorder as the highlight. It was certainly an educational trip though, because every car that parked in the mall's garage had to go through security that involved them checking the trunk. It felt like we were crossing the border, and Kobi makes this trip every week to get groceries. We talked a little about what life was like at some of the heights of the tension and what it is like for Kobi to go to another country and walk into a shop without going through metal detectors and having your bags scanned.
That night, I went to meet family I have almost definitely never met before. My grandmother's cousin Gerry and his wife Elaine, I may have met when I was a baby (same as almost all the family from my Dad's side) but I had never met their kids or grandchildren. It happened to be the date set to celebrate Gerry and Ellie's 60th Wedding Anniversary, so the whole family was gathered. I heard all sorts of things about my Bubbe and her mother, known in our family as Bubbe Pauli. Gerry told me that he was so happy his "tanta" (aunt) Pauli had such a wonderful namesake, and I blushed for the rest of the evening. I also got some dirt on my own bubbe!
I have always known my Bubbe Helen was an amazing lady. She knows a little something (and sometimes a whole lot more) about everything and always wants to learn more. She also loves to travel and I grew up with my mother and her taking trips all over the world (this fall they were in Spain and France looking at ancient cave art!). I had already known that when she visited my Mom in Ireland the two of them had hitch-hiked (I was quite horrified when I found that out). But Friday night, I learned that my Bubbe is even more of a daredevil.
I have not been able to confirm any of this with her, but the story I heard last night went as follows. The first time that she went abroad on her own was to Egypt. And she was taking a boat along the Nile when the boatman invited her to come to a Nigerian wedding. Ok, know what, that sounds really cool, and if I had ONE OTHER FRIEND to go with me, I would be there in a heartbeat. But wait, the wedding is on an island somewhere and the boatman will come and pick her up. Let me be clear here. My Bubbe, my grandmother, let a strange man take her to a wedding on an Island where she knew no one. Bubbe, are you nuts?! I mean, I know that a lot of my travel bug comes from BOTH sets of grandparents, but you would be horrified if I did something like that! I would be horrified if I did that! But since it all turned out fine (my bubbe is still going all over the world), when I get home, I want to hear all about this Nigerian Wedding.
It was a full family weekend, because Saturday we celebrated Itamar's birthday. Now I got to see all the family from my Dad's side. I went from my Mom's Mom's first cousin to my Dad's Dad's first cousin. Chava was amazing, though why I should expect any different from a Katz woman, I can't say. We sat next to each other and spent the whole meal going back and forth in English and Yiddish. She told me about why her family ended up in Israel when my branch came to the States. It seems her mother a nurse for the king of Egypt's family.
I am very lucky in family. We all live so far away, but the first cousins on both sides of my family have all been so close and made sure that they progeny felt the same way. In other families, 3rd cousins means nothing, but not in mine. First of all, I want to know more about my great-great grandparents who must have taught something of this to their children that they all stayed so close across the world at a time when there was no internet and cell phones, but telegrams and snail mail. And thank you to their families who all managed to continue the tradition of strong family values. We might not agree on anything politically or (more importantly sometimes) in sports, but we are family.

An Edit: I have been informed that it was a Nubian Wedding, not a Nigerian one. Honestly much cooler. And she did go with friends she had met on the trip. So, the moral of story is, I am following in my amazing Grandmother's footsteps. And she isn't as insane as originally thought.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Last night I arrived in Israel and was met at the airport by Itamar, a cousin who I met years and years ago, but   could not have picked out of a line up if you had begged me to. We had become Facebook friends so that we would at least have each other's pictures but finding each other at the airport was still a fun adventure. He drove me to his sister Adi's place which is about 20 min by bus from the center of Tel Aviv. Adi, at least, I have met as an adult, so I recognized her immediately and, as is wonderful with family, she took me in as well. As I went to sleep, I realized that  Since that morning, I had heard Georgian, German (there was a German couple at the hostel) Farsi, English, Yiddish, Russian, and Hebrew. Not a bad day at all!

This morning, Gilli, another cousin, came down from her community in the North to get her cousin's help. I met Adi because she came to the states to be a part of "Seeds of Peace" a camp dedicated to dialog and understanding. They have a new program for artists and educators that Gilli wants to apply for, so we are sitting in Adi's living room putting our three heads together to help her make a resume and application that will make sense to an American.

This is a trend that I first noticed in Georgia and now am wondering about and interested in because of this process. In both High School and College, I had entire classes dedicated to creating a resume and packaging yourself for the job market. This is not something that seems to be taught in other parts of the world. In Georgia, there is a program for Georgian students, grades 11 and 12, to study for a year in America. The program is American, but Georgians, students and teachers alike, have no idea what they are looking for in a Resume, in a Letter of Recommendation, in anything. There was a period of time in the fall that almost every TLGer i knew had proofread several of the applications and came back cringing. A letter of recommendation I saw had a total of three sentences "(student) is strong English. She is good student. She is leader in class." That was it. I am very curious know what the hiring process is like in Georgia.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Yiddish, in Georgia!!!

YIDDISH!!!! I spoke Yiddish with a Georgian today, and unlike the other times I have done this, I was not met with a blank stare!!!
Back to the beginning. Last night, I came into Tbilisi because today (Tuesday) I am going to hop on a plane to meet and re-meet all the cousins I have heard about for years. Yes, I am going to Israel. Last night, I got off the train from Poti and asked the Taxi driver to take me to Friends Hostel. Of course, it was not that simple, and about a half hour and wrong ways down streets later, I found the friend's hostel. As it was a Monday night, I was not surprised to find it almost empty. In fact, I was really excited that there were some other people here. After speaking hanging out a little with them and the Georgians who work at the hostel, I told them I was in Tbilisi to go to Israel. Everyone said how exciting, etc, and I said I wanted to know more about them. Well, one of the people who works at Friend's said “they are here from Israel”. I was a bit confused when he said that because they had not said a word when I said I was going to Israel, but they were also looking at him confused. They were not from Israel, they are from Iran. Slightly different place. We all laughed and said we wished that a mix up like that was not so charged. This morning, they were going shopping nearby so I joined them. As we wondered around, one of the first buildings we saw was a synagogue. It felt so out of the blue even though I had been thinking about finding the synagogues in Tbilisi. We passed it on the first go, but later on we decided to go in. I was explaining the little I know about religious Judaism (it turns out it was a Sephardi synagogue), when a man came up to us and said “shalom”. I said “a gut morgn” without thinking and HE RESPONDED! His parents came to Tbilisi in the war from Ukraine. He was very much hoping we would “become a member of the Jewish community” (ps, took me forever to figure out that meant donate money), so he didn't really respond to my questions about who he was and what this Jewish community was. But he told me there are 3,000 Jews in Georgia, half of them in Tbilisi and there are 3, including himself, who speak Yiddish, that he knows of. When I get back I am going back there and getting some answers!

Leqso's Supra

This was written the night of the Supra:

Leqso, my host brother's, birthday! His 17th to be exact. That makes it his Golden Birthday, being born on the 17th of March. Apparently in Georgia that means his parents need to get him a present of gold. After racking my brain about what to give him, I ended up with nothing original to me, but very unusual for Georgia. I decided to give him money, but in the Jewish tradition, in increments of 18, for life. Unfortunately, I don't think he saw anything past “hey she gave me money and wrote my name in Yiddish, English, and Georgian” (I thought about adding Russian, but decided to stick to the three scripts I have a chance with). So, for the last two days there have been ALL SORTS of preparation for this supra. He is the youngest grandchild for Soso and Margo and he is the only boy (sound familiar Bubbe?), so this was big. He had invited his whole class, which since he goes to a private school was only 10 kids, but on top of that he invited other friends from rugby, horseback riding, and from the neighborhood. This meant there was one room for the teenagers and another room for the adults. The adults included everyone I have mentioned before, Soso and Margo, the happy grandparents, Lela and Margo, the beaming parents, Maiko and Razo, aunt and uncle through Lela's family, and Qristina their daughter. Then there was Goneri's brother's wife and daughter, Leqso's God-father and his pregnant wife, his God-mother and her two kids, and good family friends consisting of a father, pregnant mother, and 5 year old son.
This was in the Teenager's Room
CRAZY PARTY! Crazy some because of the horrifying amounts of alcohol and food, but also because it is now almost 12:30 AM and the party started at 5 PM... And most of the players have been here the whole time. The girl Leqso has a crush on showed up 3 hours ago, and there has been a noticeable increase in his participation of the dancing. He made a play list in preparation of this dance party segment of the evening and I have to say, the first time I heard the Macarena, I thought “wow, been a long time since I heard this.” However, this late in the evening, I am close to taking the speakers and throwing them across the room. I need to find a way to explain that if you are planning on dancing all night, your playlist should be longer than 20 min or so. This is a broader Georgian problem though.
So I have been in and out typing this blog since midnight and it is now 1 AM and the family with the 5 year old just left. He has been asleep in a chair for the last hour or more and has been cute all evening, but I just witnessed the miracle of a sleeping child. That is I watched his mother put his sweatshirt, jacket, hat, scarf and gloved on him without waking him up. It is amazingly impressive, mostly because I was not aware that someone's arm could bend like that unless they were in the circus. And the kid never stirred.
cutest kid ever!
That was what I wrote the night of the Supra. It really was a great night for dancing and generally being merry in Leqso's honor. He had wanted the Supra to be at a restaurant that was set up for dancing and such, but honestly, this was the best possible place for the supra, his own home. There was a lot of cleaning to be done after, and the amount of food that needed to be eaten after was just terrifying, but it was good to be with family and friends with no curfew or worry about how we were getting home. The kids had that worry, but somehow, they all left. I am not quite sure how. I do know that the pregnant women were designated drivers that night because their husbands were beyond wasted. There is a tradition in Georgia that when you make a toast that you truly believe in or want to come true, you drain the glass. And that might be alright if it was a shot or a glass of wine. But when you are doing one of these very important toasts, you have a special mug or glass or horn, and trust me, whichever you are toasting from is going to be larger than expected. At Leqso's Supra, it was a one liter mug for the men and a special glass for the women. At some point in the night, I was asked to make a toast, and in Georgian no less. I toasted to Leqso with no problem, had some help toasting his parents (the word family is used, but then another word, that I still have no idea what it means, and I THINK it is to toast the parents, “ojakhi supleba”?... Maybe...) and then surprised everyone by including the grandparents. Which is a little silly I think because in the traditional way of raising a family, the grandparents are a second set of parents. For that matter, I should have included Maiko and Razo, since they were a third set of parents to him as he grew up. No matter, I said my toast and I drank the whole glass, finishing to applause from the whole adult room. I have video of it too.
Videoer and photographer was my unofficial job of the night. When the kids first came in and Leqso wanted to look cool with a couple of girls on his arm, I took that picture.

When the dancing began, I videoed it. When the major toasts began, I videoed it and gave a typical Pauline kind of commentary to it. And then when the Adult party crashed the dancing party and stayed there for the rest of the night, I videoed it. There is a lot of video of very happy and drunk men grabbing the nearest women around and bringing them over to dance. It happened to Lela, Margo, even me. There is a very funny 8 second clip of me filming the dancing, Goneri coming over, me saying “ara, video” and suddenly the camera is going wild. Needless to say, I danced that dance.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Georgian Look

Well, either my family has been lying to be for years about where we come from, or Eastern European Jews and Georgians have some common ancestry or something, because every single Georgian I meet in this country thinks I am Georgian. This has been going on since I got here, and I have mentioned it before, but today was the funniest.
Georgians and especially Georgian women are very particular about their appearance. At all times, they should be impeccably dressed and somehow, they tend to pull it off. Me, I set foot outside the house and my pants are covered in mud from the dirt streets within seconds. Especially on the weekend, I do not dress for success, because I just want to be comfortable. This is where I am very lucky in my host family. Though we have talked about how I dress (hiking shoes, sweatshirts) vs how they tend to dress (heeled boots, tights, skirts) we have agreed that my ability to walk around Poti without dying from falling into the gutter or catching my death by cold is more important than how I look. It helps that they can see on a regular basis how just walking in slippers can be a challenge for me.
As many of my friends from high school or camp can remember, I do not tend to wear colorless clothing all that often. I do not wear tye-dye here, but I only have one or two pieces of black clothing. I have green and brown and gray pants, and not a single pair of black. And since winter began, I have not worn either of my two skirts. This is also very very unusual for a Georgian girl. I once asked Lela if she could see a Georgian wearing a pair of my pants (they are faded green corduroys). She looked at them, looked me, and said "no".
So, I look like a Georgian, but dress like an American (I did not bring a single pair of sweatpants, and though I sometimes wished for a pair this winter I felt like that was going way too far on the "dressing like an American").
Now imagine you are a Taxi driver who is a little turned around. A girl is walking down the street in a purple bandana, green zip-up sweatshirt, gray hiking pants that can be unzipped into shorts, and white sneakers with blue stripes. You are a GEORGIAN taxi driver. Instead of thinking,"that girl looks weird", you roll down your window and start to ask for some street, but she interrupts you and says "ar vitsi kartulad," and continues down the street. Now, maybe you didn't hear her say that she doesn't know Georgian, so you ask again, louder. This time, she gestures no by waving her arms like like an ump saying the runner is safe (ok maybe a Georgian would not get that) and says things like "Inglisuri" and gestures to herself saying "Amerikeli." But you know this girl is lying to you and just doesn't want to help, so with a huff, you drive down the street.

This is the first time me saying I am American didn't turn the pissed off look that this rude Georgian girl is ignoring you into a huge smile and a toast to America. It is very funny though.

Also fun, a couple days ago, I was craving chocolate croissants. Well, today, on my way home, I stopped in a corner store (magazini) and they had what looked like croissants, and they seemed to be chocolate filled. The whole thing was incredably imitation (the chocolate is a weird icing they have here) but MAN was it good.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Georgian Guilt

I have not posted about it yet but Leqso's 17th birthday party was last week, on St. Patrick's Day, and we had a HUGE supra to celebrate. I am working on the post about that and want to include the pictures, so that is not up yet.
There were lots of leftovers that we have been eating since the supra. And while the food is still yummy, I did not want to eat the same thing again. So, I went into town and ate at a restaurant and wandered around Poti (a post to come about that, too). When I got home, I sat in the living room and hung out with my family for a little while. When Razo, my host uncle, came in he was immediately shown a blood pressure gauge held by his daughter who took his blood pressure twice, and then had Lela take his blood pressure, twice. I asked what was wrong and Qristina told me he was old. As far as I can tell, they were taking his blood pressure to figure out which of the leftovers to force him to eat (he complied happily to all of this.)
Around this time, I realized that it had been a while since I had eaten and I was hungry. But what they decided Razo should eat was the exact stuff had eaten for 2 meals for 3 days in a row (chicken covered in a walnut, onion, garlic and water sauce). I got out the bread, butter, and jam to make my usual (before the supra) late night dinner. Margo came in and proceeded to grill me about my day, as Lela and Qristina LAUGHED in the next room. 
Note, this was all in a combination of Georgian and English, but for clarity's sake I will write it in English.

M: Where did you go today?
P: Into town, I met some TLGers at Rotonda (our usual hangout).
M: Did you eat?
P: Yes, we ate and hung out and talked.
M: Did you eat meat?
P: Yes, I had a Kebabi, like I always do. (once I didn't, but I went straight back to it. The thing is more like a burrito and man is it good and cheap! And not water-based)
M: But did you have ghomi? (as she points to the ghomi)
P: (laughing) No, I didn't have ghomi.
M: And did you have my chicken? (burst of laughter from the living room as she points to the chicken and beats her heart)

At this point, we were all, including Margo, laughing too hard to keep going, and I got to have my fill of the jam (M: Tchame kargad, "eat well") but it was such a great incident that I had to share.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Quick non-Georgia related blog post

So a whole lot of people outside of my family have started reading this (I am looking at you, Georgia friends) and I recently found out that some of you think that I misspelled the name of my blog. While I completely understand why you would think this (copy and paste one of my posts into something that has spell check and see the angry red lines appear), I did not skip an “i” in Perl. Perl is the English transliteration of my Yiddish name. And it is a reference to the old silent film series “The Perils of Pauline” though the series is about a damsel always in distress and always being saved by her man and my blog is hopefully about a damsel sometimes in distress who saves herself, sometimes by accepting help from others. Just in case there are more of you out there who I had not made that clear to, I wanted to let you know that while I sometimes let the spelling and grammar mistakes stand because they are either funny (mcdonland's) or because I have not yet noticed them, the title of the blog is correct as is. But please, if you see a non-funny typo, well, if it bugging you, let me know.  

Friday, March 2, 2012


Fire is a thing to be revered and feared. As many of my friends from camp can attest to, I can build a great camp fire and from the fire produce great food and perfectly golden roasted marshmallows. My grandfather devoted a weekend to teach me the secret behind the perfect marshmallow. I also have some pretty specific ideas about fire etiquette. These are things I may have been taught or might just come from the golden rule, ie, things that others do that drive me crazy, and I would never do to another person. The biggest of these rules is that the fire is one person's responsibility. When that person leaves, they check in with some one else so that at all times, one person is responsible for the fire. Safety wise, this means that the fire is never left unattended and that the last one makes sure to put the fire out all the way. The other thing this means is that the fire is built by one person. Just as too many cooks spoil the soup, too many pyromaniacs can't create a sustainable fire. When I build a fire, I can't stand other people coming in and messing with it without my go-ahead. It is my baby, mine until I let it go to someone I trust to help it grow, or it grows up enough to survive anyone messing with it. Anyway, the point of all this is that I do not have a debilitating fear of fire. In fact I have a healthy respect for fire and a bit of a pyromaniac in me. But it turns out, I do have a more than small fear of a contained fire. Camp fires are limited to the rock circle and the sand within, but everything else is free. Not so with a wood stove. It is a box about 2 feet by 1 foot with a hatch on one side. I have never seen them start a fire without the use of lighter fluid, but then, even scarier is opening that hatch after the fire has been going for a bit. Heat and smoke spill out which instills in me a panic to get another log in quickly. In the little box it is easy to smother the fire, since the hatch's holes are the only source of air. There is apparently a science to building the fire in the wood stove, one that I have not quite mastered but understand. You basically pile the logs in an X shape. Sounds simple enough, right? wrong. The first step is lifting the latch, and with the fire running continuously all day, the metal gets extremely hot. But I once I get the thing open, I have to check to see how much wood is in the fire and where any logs I throw in would go. This means putting my head in line of the heat and smoke. I made a choice and then get the pieces of wood that look like they would fit. I have seen Leqso and Goneri cutting the wood down with a chainsaw, and after years of practice, they know exactly how big the pieces need to be to fit in the stove, which is nice. Now comes the moment I hate: Putting my hand in the box itself. I have gotten many burns in my lifetime of wood-burning and ironing and generally being klutzy. Burns are a painful business, and one that I just don't want to deal with here. I have no aloe plants to break off a leaf to soothe my hurts with. Just cold water, which we do have in abundance. This healthy fear of fire has had my family laughing at (more with) me again. Most recently, I decided I would help everybody out by collecting the orange peels and throwing them in the fire, as someone else usually does for me. I collected all the peels and slipped the sleeve of my shirt down and to use it to open the hatch. I use the sleeve of my shirt for many tasks around the house, mostly removing pans and the tea kettle from the stove. I opened the hatch without incident, but when it came time to through the peels into the fire, I hit a snag, I let them go too soon and not a single piece landed in the fire. It was impressive. Most got caught on the guard, but mostly it was amazing skill and luck working together to keep those peels out of the fire. The big test will come this summer when I try to build another camp fire. Have I been scared off fire for the rest of my life or am I destined to never own a wood stove? I believe it is the latter.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Affection (It exists)

So I have been told that my posts are a little text full and picture lacking. And they are. I have a whole batch of pictures I want to share with you all, especially my on-going series of my host family sleeping on the couch. First my Margo, my host-grandmother, was laying on the couch and Soso, her husband, curled up with her as a pillow and the two of them fell asleep. Two days later Lela was laying on the couch and Goneri curled up and fell asleep on her, just like Soso. Both times, the scene was too awesome and I had to run into my room to grab the camera. From then on, I have been bringing my camera around with me in the house. The very next night Leqso was laying on the couch where his mother and grandmother had been laying. Qristina, his cousin sat down on the couch and put her head on the opposite side of the couch and fell asleep. I thought it was such a great brother-sister moment (it was the night before my own brother's 21st birthday and I might have been missing him a little).
The reason I started taking these pictures was because my TLG friends didn't believe me when I told them that it looks like every person in my host family actually loves each other and not only that, they SHOW it. I have said it before, and I will say it again, I have a great host family.

OH and pictures like this and of all the chickens and cows and my school, and my house, I have many pictures, WILL go up, the second I find a stronger internet connection. A lot of the previous posts were written with pictures in mind, but no way to upload them. Sorry about that, but in a couple of weeks,  I will have a better connection and I will insert them into the proper posts.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Watch out for Tcha-tcha

And finally, I catch myself up to this week. Really I am going to try to do a better job of posting at least once a week and not three times in one week to make up for the lack of posts the previous week. On Wednesday, there was a crazy storm in Poti. Crazy meaning there was actually some snow on the ground. But if Poti had it that bad, I did not want to KNOW what was happening further east. My fears were found to be true when Lela told me and an email from TLG confirmed that all of Georgia's schools would not have school for the rest of the week. I heard rumors of three days of storms and actual real snow in Poti, not just stuff that was gone by the end of the day. Personally, I thought we in Poti would have a bad Thursday, but great Friday, because we get the weather for the country first. I was wrong. Thursday was great and Friday was not bad at all. We in Poti took advantage of the weather to finally all meet each other. Well, actually it was more my chance to prove to everyone else that the others were not a figment of my imagination. We went to our usual place. Last semester that was a restaurant called Aragvi, but it is all the way at the port and seemed to be better located for the other volunteers, but now most of us live scattered across the river and our main place is what we call the kebabi place. It is not Kebab in either the kind that I think of in the states or in England. I think of it more as a burrito without the tomatos (I do get it “ara pomadori”) and it is GOOD. It is a whole 3 and a half Lari and we sit and chat for hours there. And the staff still smiles when we come in. This time there were four guys at the next table and one of them was wearing a boxing hat apparently (I didn't have a clue). It turns out he is a boxer and his manager speaks a better English, his is very bad, we should talk to his manager. Well, it turns out he is sitting across the table, so we start chatting with him. He tells us he runs a sport club, a gym, and we should come. They have all sorts of sports. Meanwhile Donna started looking up the boxer's name and it turns out he was the bronze medalist in the 2000 Olympics. Not too shabby. Still hate boxing, but still very cool. Then Tanya (the one who came in the same group as me) went for a walk toward the port and we walked into the restaurant that I was told served real salad with vegetables that were not chopped to bits and no mayonnaise. We went in and got a wine (Tanya is here to learn about Georgian wine) and I learned that the name of the wine I love every time is Saperavi. It is the grape used to make the wine, but it is always very good. And much more alcoholic than they seem. Anyway, we walked in and they gave us, what I have heard referred to as, Russian balloons. These are balloons that have been blown up (no helium) and put on a plastic stick instead of a string. Very fun.
Friday was not a day to go take a walk (very rainy) but school certainly would have been fine. Saturday was also kinda rainy and I slept in a little. Around 11, I figured I should move, so I went into the living room to curl up near the fire and read and get some breakfast while I was at it. But when I went in the living room, there were two women I had never seen before and Lela, who had not been feeling well the night before, was lying on the couch looking terrible. I figured it was either a family doctor or just plain family and it turned out to be the latter. Soso's sisters, who both live in Poti, had come over for a bit. Lela had shown be pictures of the family and I knew that Soso had two older sisters and one younger. And then had two daughters... Now I understand a little better what a big deal Leqso is for him. Anyway, we all sat down to lunch (breakfast) in the kitchen: the sisters, Soso, Margo, and me. We had some leftover mtsuadi and I was starting to eat when the tcha-tcha came out. It could not have been much past 12:30 at this point, but there we are drinking what I call Georgian moonshine. After the 3rd shot, I was feverishly spreading butter and jam on the bread and eating as much as possible. After the 5th shot, the sisters left, little brother looked mighty proud of his hospitality, and I sat down next to the fire and read. Then I remembered I had juice in my room and went and drank the whole thing. I started to read again, could not concentrate and watched about half of the first season of cheers. What a day!


While I am not as rabid a fan as many from my city (Boston), state (Massachusetts) and region (New England) are, The Patriots are a team that I would cheer for any day. When I found out who we would be playing in the Superbowl, memories of York came flooding back and the feeling of defeat when my supposed friends were shouting eighteen and one on Jackson St almost overwhelmed me. I knew I needed to watch this game. Originally I was all for going into Tbilisi and watching the game there. But I am really not a fan of Tbilisi and I didn't know if or where they would be showing it, remember with the time difference, the game started at 3:30 AM on Monday morning. So a friend of mine who lives near Kutaisi and I came up with a plan to go to a home stay or hostel with Internet and watch on my computer. Together we got seven people together, four from Poti and three from Kutaisi, to agree to this. We were going to attempt to recreate some American snacks and were going to watch movies until the game.
Sunday morning, I woke up to get to the Marshutka station at 9:30 as was the plan for the Poti people. On my way there I got a message from one, that she would not make it, a call from another saying the same, and when the marshutka and I left without the third, I figured our numbers were down to four. I got into Kutaisi and texted my friend in Kutiaisi that I was in. He wrote backing telling me he would be a couple hours, he had spent the weekend in Zugdidi. But as I said before McDonald's has wireless and food, so I settled in and read about a million cracked articles while looking up every time the door opened to see if there were any ex-pats around. Finally, these two guys came in and I joined them. One was from the states and the other from Newcastle. He had been in Georgia for a while, and was teaching English, so he had tamed his accent, but sometimes, he was as near incomprehensible as the girls on the rugby team in England. Good times. We hung out until my friend got in with two pieces of bad news. First of all, we were it for our party. No one else was coming. The other bit of news was that there was a cafe called Amerikanidan (from America) and they would be showing the Superbowl live. Exciting, but it was back in Zugdidi. It was 5:30 by now, but we kinda looked at each other and ran to find a marshutka to Zugdidi. When we got it, we went to Amerikanidan to confirm the rumor and went to Zugdidi hostel, a hostel owned by a Lithuanian ex-TLGer. We had so much fun at this hostel, I showed them some facebook pictures of my time in Vilne, I took a shower, seriously, life could not have been better. At around 2 AM, the staff went to bed and we went back to Amerikanidan. There the owner, also an ex-TLGer had set up the couches to face a great big flat-screen TV. Right under the TV was the space heater, because it was COLD. I had brought my sleep-sheet with me to Zugdidi but left it in the hostel, my BIG mistake. Eventually, there were about ten of us, two from New England, but only two supporting the giants and them only because they hated the Patriots, not because they actually liked the Giants. You all know how that game went, don't need to get into that here, but it was a very unique and fun Superbowl. I will never forget that even though I had the urge to cheer more, the exhaustion and the cold meant a normal jump up and down cheer was a mere fist in the air and even that was done quickly. When the game ended around 7 AM, we all spilled out and even though it was cold, stood around talking for a long while. Then we headed back to our hostel and the greatest surprise of all. We had been given a space heater for the room, which we turned on before we left. When we got back, the room was actually warm! I went to sleep in a warm bed for the first time in what felt like ages (really it had been three weeks...) Oh was that a good day. We woke up around 11 and headed back to Amerikanidan to actually buy something. And there I found something else to warm the heart this time. Pizza that was made with mozzarella cheese and no mayonnaise! I was not as happy as I could have been (I mean, seriously had the last second of the game gone SLIGHTLY differently, how awesome would that have been) but I was walking on clouds. A very good weekend.

The Cow

What to write about? I guess I should start with the post that should have written last weekend. I have been having a great time being back in Poti. Two of the ex-pats from last semester had stayed in Poti and one woman from the most recent batch of volunteers came to Poti, too, bringing our number up to three. Disappointing, seeing as we were nine last semester, but the semester is young and they will send more people here as they get them. Case in point, Lela came home one day to tell me there is a new volunteer at her school. Since I found out about the other volunteers in Poti by a note written to me by the TLGer at Lela's school, I thought it would be fitting to send a note to this new volunteer. Lela passed it on, but I did not hear anything for a week. Then one day, on my way home from hanging out with the other volunteers, I got a phone call. It was the fourth in our number. It turns out she was actually in the same training as I was and has been bouncing around Georgia in search of Internet, non-depressing cities, and wine. Anyway, it was a nice day and I took a little while to get in the house, but while I was standing outside, Maiko, Lela's sister poked her head out to see who was standing and talking outside the house. When she saw me, she waved and closed the window. Eventually I realized that while the sun was shining, making me think that all was right with the world, it was still barely above freezing and I should get inside. But instead of going into my room, I came and sat down in the dining room, a room rarely (ok I have never seen it) used. While I sat there, Goneri poked his head in and then Margo. Finally, when I was just sitting there, not on the phone anymore, just comfortable, Margo looked in again and told me “Poli, Modi!” Now I am not really sure if “modi” is what she said, I am not very good at conjugating, but whatever she said, it meant “come, and come now”. Ok, I threw my jacket and bag in my room, and went into the living room, where Goneri and Maiko are telling me to “modi, modi” into the kitchen. When I get to the kitchen, I see a bowl full of some kind of chopped up meat, but that is not so unusual. Then Goneri picked up a piece. It was the head of a cow! I held up my hand in a gesture for them to wait and RAN into my room to get my camera. I am pretty sure they thought I was running the wrong way to the bathroom to throw up. When I came back in with the camera, I took a closer look at what was in the bowl. It was the organs: the liver, the heart, the head, and all kinds of other unknown to me things. Once they were satisfied that I had fully appreciated the contents of the bowl, I was “modi”ed outside, where the rest of the carcass was. It was hanging by a leg and I took some pictures before Goneri started butchering the meat. The whole evening was devoted to cutting up the meat and washing it. I have decided not to post the pictures, though I did take a little video of Maiko cleaning the meat. That I will upload to YouTube once I have a stronger internet connection. If you are interested in seeing the process, I you can click on the link (when there is one, I will post it when I have it), but out of the respect I have for my friends who choose not to eat meat, I am not going to post the pictures here.
One note though. The day before all this I saw a kind of “not my job” gimmick on a Georgian television show. The “Vanna White” of Georgia as a flight attendant, a fashion designer collecting eggs, that type of thing. Then I saw something that anyone who grew up around a health inspector would find absolutely horrifying. Some guy was working at a meat shop of some kind. This was not the Deli at the supermarket. This was an outdoor shop (as many are here) and the meat was displayed in wooden crates. There was no ice and no glass keeping people from the meat. In fact, people would reach a hand in and pick up the meat to inspect it closely before putting it back. The guy selling the meat did not have any gloves, well, no one had gloves, and did not wash his hands or anything between going for the meat and handling the money. I have said to myself many times while being here “humans have lived for centuries without being so cautious about food, but there is a REASON that we regulate it”. Needless to say, I was THRILLED to find out that for a little while at least, I know exactly where my meat is coming from. It does make me feel much better. And boy does it taste good. Last night, Goneri made “mtswadi”, a fried meat dish. SO good. Mostly though, we have had a lot of “satchmeli” which I was a little confused by. “Satchmeli” seemed to be what they called every kind of soup/stew that we have been having. To me they seemed like very different things, so I finally narrowed the possibilities to two: One, it is a kind of stone soup, made with whatever is on hand, and two, “satchmeli” means beef. Turns out it means meat, but I was close.