Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tbilisi Times

Tbilisi is a whole lot of craziness and fun. And to be very clear, Tbilisi is in no way indicative of the rest of Georgia. While I was home, I was reveling in the fact that my wait staff in restaurants spoke English. Now, before your say “duh”, let me remind you, I had spent three months in a foreign country with a foreign language and it is just plain exhausting to have to rely on a couple words of Georgian I have picked up day in and day out. Though, quick fun side note, the airplane from Amsterdam to Tbilisi was really cold and I said to the woman next to me “tsivia” (cold). She looked at me in surprise and asked me, in Georgian, if I spoke Georgian. I laughed and said absolutely not, and she spoke a great English, so English was the language we used to speak, but hey, my accent is good enough that she thought I spoke the whole language! Amazing. Well, anyway, in Tbilisi, the waiters DO speak English. In fact, most people you might need to speak with do. It is totally nuts. And if you are wondering I might have been happier in Tbilisi, the answer is “no way, no how!” This place is BIG. And scary. And has too many ways to be killed by cars. But it has English and it has hot springs. And today I enjoyed the wonders of the sulfur baths. I have never been to anything like this before, but I went with a friend from TLG who had, and man it was fun. I am still totally jet-lagged so I was in a fog and then there was steam everywhere, so it was normal to be in a fog (insert laugh here).
We went out to eat and I had the wonderful experience of having the menu in English and the waiters speaking English. Then I headed back to Qiso's apartment. I had already figured out that her apartment is about a block away from the hotel I stayed in when I first got to Georgia so I knew generally where I was headed. I followed the river and then got to a bridge I had never seen before. About a second later, I realized I had never seen it before because neither the apartment nor the hotel is on the river... I was supposed to make a turn somewhere. It was still quite sunny so I decided not to call anyone to find out where I was. I wandered in what I thought was the right direction and followed what I thought were familiar buildings. And the craziest part of it was, I was right! I found my way back, all by myself. I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I wound my way through the maze of tiny streets that get to the apartment. And that is when I saw this tiny dog. As I have said before in this blog, I hate dogs, and I have developed a love for all dog catchers. They are not the villeins Disney movies made them out to be. Not at all. Anyway, I had just given a talk about dogs and other things to expect in Georgia with a couple of other TLGers so I thought it was funny that I had not yet adopted the practice someone else had suggested: always carry a rock in your pocket. But all the other dogs I had passed ignored me and I thought this one would too, as I walked past. Not so. First of all, it starts to follow me and then starts growling. I made the gesture of throwing something at it (sometimes that works very well) but this time it ran in a gate and came out again snarling. This time I used the stern voiced “No” that has worked on many of the pet dogs owned by friends of mine, and it worked?! I couldn't believe it! The thing just stopped and sat there as I walked quickly up the steps into the apartment. I think it was just trying to figure out what “no” meant since it is not Georgian... Anyway, any good feeling I may have built up for dogs after seeing the pet dogs this last month is GONE. Absolutely gone. But it is better that way in this country. They are everywhere and they are dangerous. But soon I will be back in Poti where the dogs just keep me awake all night but don't try to eat me...

Note: I wrote this blog piece and forgot to post it. I have been in Poti for 3 days and have been attacked by no dogs.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It takes a Village

I am still in Tbilisi, but seriously having fun. This morning, when I came into the kitchen, I was told that there was no water. I thought that was odd for Tbilisi, the capital, but whatever, not an unheard of thing to happen here in Georgia. Qiso fried some eggs, I realized how much I rely on something to drink in the morning, but I figured the water would come back soon. While we were hanging out in the kitchen, one of the neighbors, who has come over a couple times to say hi and smile at me, came over once again to say hi and smile. Now when she hears that we have no water, all sorts of things start to happen. It seems that her apartment does have water, so it is not that the water has been turned off by the city. Leqso starts opening the windows and messing with something outside. Our neighbor brings in her husband and how the two of them are half hanging out the window fiddling with something. All of a sudden, the neighbor comes over with her two little ones and a pot of hot water that they pour on something out the window. I am assuming it was frozen or something (there was SNOW in Poti yesterday!) but the whole operation is still in progress. The water is running, but an aluminum pipe that was outside is currently hanging out in the kitchen, so who knows... It was very funny to see everybody thinking they knew the right way to do it and then VERY funny to see Leqso climb out the window with the neighbor's husband hanging on to his belt. They did this when Qiso and the wife were not in the kitchen, but they came back at the tail end of that attempt. But since it was the attempt that worked, there was not as big a fuss as I think there normally would have been... having a very nice relaxing day.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Meanwhile, in the States...

Well I am back in Georgia after a month of rest and relaxation at home. And by rest and relaxation, I mean the opposite, but I had a lot of fun.
I got back to the states at 1 PM EST... and I was so tired I had no idea where I was or what I was doing or who I was talking to. In fact, I remember thinking, “I should remember where I put this”, or “remember to say something” but I have no idea where or what it could have been... Jet-lag hit and hit hard. Most of the first couple days I was home remain a blur, not exactly sure what was going on at all.
We had some Hanike
But by Friday, I was mostly conscious for the flight to Las Vegas. We went from the airplane straight to the Red Rock Hotel. We had been here before and the only feature I remember from the time before and the feature I feel was a highlight again this time was the TV in the bath... I could have soaked there all day! But of course, I was in Las Vegas and there are things to be done in Las Vegas. Like eat WAY too much food in the restaurants and see shows like Cirque du Soleil's “O”. Personally, I liked “Ka” better, but “O” had some amazing acts. The sailing trapeze act was my personal favorite.
After a couple days at the hotel, we decided enough luxury, let's find a house with a million bedrooms and thirteen other people and let's hang out there for the week. And it was awesome. My dad's whole side of the family got together to celebrate by grandparents and have a fun week just being together.
It didn't matter that we were in Vegas, I spent the whole week relaxing and playing with my two and four year old cousins. And the slightly older cousins, too. There was a trampoline built into the ground in the yard, and we spent many a happy moment out there. There was also a hot tub, and again, it was nice to soak. We did Hanike together and cooked together and all in all, I think the week was a grad success. I have a great family and did I mention that my grandparents are awesome? Well, they are. At the ages of ninety and eighty-five, they hopped on a plane, came to Vegas, and survived a whole week with their progeny. Nicely done.
On the last day we were in Vegas I did what people expect of a person going to Vegas. I gambled. And I did not break the bank... at all... I was up at one point about fifteen dollars. You might have told be to stop then, but honestly, it was about five minutes into playing, and the whole point was I wanted something entertaining to do and I was not interested in the activity the rest of the family engaged in: walking along the strip for a couple hours. Yes, their activity was free, while mine cost be about fifty bucks, but it was totally worth it. I learned a whole lot about blackjack and I got to roll the dice in Craps. I had a great time in Vegas.
We came back to Boston in time for New Years, and while I had many potential plans, I ended up having a great evening inside with friends watching documentaries (terrible documentaries) about aliens, the end of the world, and Mayans. It was a lot of fun. Mostly we watched a bunch of intros and dissected them. For example, we all know that rock music and a thunder storm means the end of the world. I had such a great night. The first week of January, again, a bit of a blur, but this time it was travel blur. First I flew to Baltimore (my seventh plane in less than a month!) and spent a great couple days with the York crowd. Next time, I am getting some swing dancing in. But we did go out into the woods and discuss “The Hunger Games”. After discussing it with several people, I think I would die on the second day of the games were I in them. I would survive the first day by running AWAY from the cornucopia, but then with the lack of being able to find food or defend myself or hide, I would be killed pretty quickly in these games...
Moving on to much happier and more real things, I took the train to New York and had a great time with some people who were visiting from Peru. But even better than that was getting some bubbe time in. Oh ya, and her brisket isn't bad either. I came home and found that I only had one week left in the country and I spent it running around the city. I spent a couple great days at the High School seeing my old teachers and friends. I said some goodbyes.
And then I was on a plane headed back to Georgia. All in all a very hectic, but wonderful month in the states.