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.