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.