Georgianisms: Top 10

Not to be confused with the popular Bushisms published a few years ago during the former president's hay day, Georgianisms is simply my assessment of the weird and sometimes outlandish things I hear and find in this country.

1. Wine And Body
At first I thought it was just a jab thrown out to try and persuade me to drink with a total stranger at the gym. I later find out a vast majority of people believe wine makes your body "strong." I will say it's probably kept my illnesses to a minimum—at least the "strong" village variety, that is.

2. Allergy Allegories
What's an allergy? Whatever it is, it certainly isn't caused by any vegetation blossoming in the spring or the factory plume down the road. If it ain't a cold or the flu you've probably just not been eating enough bread and cheese.

3. Water-you-talking-about?
There's nothing better than a nice glass of cold water on a hot, sunny day. There's also no better way to enhance sickness. Cold water in this country not only weakens your immune system, it also removes the tissue in your throat (hence the sore throat).

4. Vitamin F
Since I've been here I've been taking a multi-vitamin every day to try and keep my health above par. But I was not aware until a couple months ago that vitamins make you fat. I guess the kinkhali wasn't the real kicker for my fat ass.

5. Wet Feet
I'm really surprised people even get in the bathtub here without proper leg protection. Dampness is the worst enemy to feet (and hair as well) and will cause all kinds of medical ailments if meshed together. You'd better run and hide if you come home with wet feet and your grandmother notices.

6. Living the High Life
Despite the typical walks through mud-lined roads and unbalanced sidewalks, women should always wear high heels when going out. And make sure they are clean, Madam.

7. Take Out The Trash
River banks make perfect spots for cows and goats to roam and eat...town leftovers. It's OK to throw your plethora of garbage anywhere you like, just as long as it isn't near a church or historic religious site. Picnic anyone?

8. Frogger
I believe the game was invented by a Georgian man sometime around the dawn of Russian automobiles, as drivers here have no other objective than to run you (the pedestrian) the F off the road. Horns are an afterthought used to let you know you were almost hit by a vehicle traveling much faster than your guardian angel.

9. Boys and Girls
In Georgia you're either a bad boy, a good boy, a good girl, a bad girl or just flat-out crazy. My family says I'm a kargi (good) beechi, but I still contend that I'm just a young man with patchy facial hair and a 3-lari haircut.

10. A Shared Tradition
If the salt and the carbohydrates don't wear your down, make sure to hitch a ride for all short distances. Why walk 300 meters when there are motor vehicles that can keep your legs fresh and your blood pressure high?


Workin' 'Till' the End

One drip. Two drip. Three.

Saltwater began to fill my face, trickling from my head like a leaky faucet. I gripped the shovel with my grimy, blister-laced hands and took one last stab into the mud.

It was the first time my entire body had felt physically tired since I had been here—and I kind of liked it.

I grazed across the hills and valleys of the village known as Switli and took in the beauty of four hours of manual labor tilling my host father's vineyard.

People in this part of the world work hard for their land because, for all practical purposes, need it to survive. If the land is fertile this summer, the grapes and the beans will supply rewards for Mamuka's family in the fall.

In many ways I'm a village man at heart. I am forced to spend more time there then I do in the city and would probably be pacing the broken back roads even if I wasn't.

But it wasn't until I worked in the field did I appreciate the life of those who live there.

Half of me is quite sad that I won't be able to see the benefits of the hard work this fall. The other part is tangled in the mystery and imagination of it all and would be disappointed I wouldn't be able to create my own "field of dreams."

Switching topics. Today was a bit of a shitshow at school.

I had just entered the teachers' lounge when a mysterious man made his way to the nearby couch.

Dressed in slacks, a button-down shirt and a bright green jacket, he didn't fit the profile of a village parent, nor a friend of any of the staff.

I gazed across the room to see if I could find approval, but all I found were blank stares. Several teachers looked at me in bewilderment and some looked away, hoping to avoid any unwanted discussions.

Eka entered the room and soon things became much more clear. As the banter became more vivid, Tomriko, who was sitting not far from me in a corner, explained that he was the ex school director and was claiming that "the school was mine."

For nearly an hour the man paced around the school grounds. The teachers were on high guard for the increasingly obvious bi-polar, skitzo; until the po po showed to settle the dispute.

I was removed from my 3rd period class to sit in on the questioning. I'm not exactly sure why (maybe because the guy talked to me?) since my Georgian is about as broken as the lighting system in the school, but I was there—taking pictures of the "show."

The man of the hour getting an earful.

The roses are in full bloom in Imereti. This one is from the family's village home.

A recent supra feast. The word supra actually translates in English to "table cover," but it is used in Georgia to describe a gathering of family and friends for an event. This one so happened to be for the death of a relative. On the 40th day after someone passes, the family holds a supra in their remembrance and visits the grave.

The first graders had a performance last week. Not sure why they had balloons, but it added to the "Aww."

A parent on the field trip last weekend was more than happy to take shots of wine and whisky at every stop. Crystal didn't turn this toast down.

My new cat friend from the village. He kind of looks like a hoot owl, but rest assured, he's the real deal.


It's a Celebration

First off, I'd like to apologize for any weird symbols or grammatical
wacks. I'm currently typing this on my phone while sitting in the
teachers' lounge at school.

The building is a chaotic today as the seniors are rounding up their
final day as students and the elementary tots have been parading the
halls, awaiting their spring production.

This morning I attended a small ceremony in which the outgoing class
was presented champagne, cake and farewell wishes from the teachers. I
was asked to present them some words in English and all I could really
think to say---besides congrats, of course---was that "it will only
get better from here."

I thought back to my graduation ceremony and remembered how excited
and scared I was about the unknown and how I never wanted to get old.
I wondered what was going through their heads and if they thought I
was just being nice when I said what I did.

But I was quickly presented with a shirt to sign. In Georgia it is a
custom to have your classmates (and possibly teachers) sign your shirt
with marker. It is in a lot of ways like our yearbook tradition, only
a lot more personal.

Soon all 8 wanted me to sign and take a group picture, even though I
had never taught or spoken with any of them before.

It was a bit flattering, but more so humbling. Kids here appreciate
tradition, customs,family and guests a bit more than at home---at
least at an earlier age.

And I may not necessarily miss trying to teach them English, I will in
fact miss the interaction.

Sent from my mobile device


Ain't No Village High Enough

Just outside of the furthest reaches of Tskhratskaro and Kvaliti is a place in which few know...and likely, few go.

It's farming community that I'm not entirely sure has a name (although I'm sure I'd butcher it anyway), filled with lush vegetation, scenic hillside drops, spring-fed creeks and forest cover.
Yesterday, I joined Crystal and one of my students on a hike through the area. Here are a few snaps.


Day Trippin' (w/ the Blackberry)

Just outside Zestafoni. Walked a good 10k the other day to celebrate the sunshine and warm weather.

A few shots from a recent trip to Tbilisi. We walked around the riverfront market and found some pretty interesting things, including an old Soviet Army hat that I purchased for 8 lari.

One of the largest Orthodox churches in the world.

Ridin' Dirty

There's no mistaking the atmosphere—although each carries a slightly different feel than the next.

Nestled between villagers, cramped seating, pounds of bread, animals and fuel is the heart of the transportation marvel...the marshultka.

Although I hope to never ride another once I leave this country, I must say that I would not know where I'd be without the "beast."

In the morning I typically ride a marshultka—or conversion van/mini-bus—with my host mother, brother and other teachers to school. The 20-minute village ride is bumpy, noisy and in most circumstances, annoying as all hell. But it's an experience.

On days I am lazy or just don't feel like riding with teachers, I will catch a later ride at a stop not far from my flat. The later bus is filled with primarily villagers, hauling goods and farm supplies from Zestafoni (Zest'aponi) to either their houses or those who are not able to do it themselves.

I learned recently that much of the mail that is transported across the country is done so by marshultka. So, basically a person gives a package to a driver, who is then trusted to deliver the package at a reasonable date to the specified location. Talk about trust (and a busted mail system).

Longer journeys equate to better buses and better seating for passengers. If I want to travel to Tbilisi, Batumi or even a shorter hop to Kutaisi, I pay a higher fair but generally have a more luxurious ride, equipped with better seating and fewer animal companions.

But despite better suspension and seating for a motor ride, you will never feel at ease due to the poorly kept roadways.

I'm not exactly sure why the country doesn't invest much money into it's infrastructure (instead of ridiculously nice glass government and police buildings). Maybe government officials like a rustic feel, similar to block wheels on a rocky hillside being powered at ridiculously fast speeds.

The reason I brought up the marshultka is because I've been asked numerous times about it as of late. It's not a new mode of transportation—relatively unknown to the west—and is in fact also used by nearby countries as the primary means of getting around cheaply.

Here is the Wiki link describing how it works: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshrutka

I can't imagine the States having this sort of system as there are too many impatient and thuggish people that would not be able to sit together for great distances. What do you think?

In other news, I'm nearly done with my contract and I look forward to what's ahead. I've enjoyed my time in a new and wonderful place, but the teaching aspect of things has been a bit rocky (as I've described before) and has undoubtedly swayed my decision to not want to re-sign.

This week Zestafoni FC won the country championship and celebrated with a party in the town square. Fireworks, singing, chanting, drinking and dancing created an atmosphere that I had never witnessed before here. It was like the city had just been founded or some type of extravagant importance had just been dug up in the dirt—besides football cleats of course.

The weather is still rainy and periodically cold, so it's been hard to plan trips on the weekend to places where I'd like to hike or lay beachside.

Last Thursday, I went to the coastal community of Poti, which is about a 2.5-hour marshultka trip to the west. The town is quite industrial and far from a beach resort, but the architecture of the houses and the well-kept lighthouse were definitely high points for me.

In my head, June looks to be the best month yet. With only half-months schooling and warmer, drier weather, trips to Mestia and Kazbegi to hike are in the works—as well as a few day trips to the south and west to hopefully see some dinosaur bones and a bikini or two.

Stay tuned.




Like the sound of a deranged man gasping for his final breath, the crackly minaret echoed an alarming blast throughout the Cappedocian valley—for 5 minutes—at 5 a.m.

It was the first prayer of the day, but not the first time I had been caught off guard by the Muslim call to worship.

The Kayseri bus station was undoubtedly speaker linked to a nearby Mosque and gave Crystal, Bradley and me our first taste of the outside-Christian world at…you guessed it…5 a.m.

We arrived at the station around 9 p.m. after a nearly 12-hour trek from Trabzon, a city we decided to skip over due to its unpromising weather and relatively boring layout.

Because the next bus to Goreme—our next travel stop—was not until 7 a.m., we decided to bite the bullet and crash in a small cafe on the opposite end of the station.

When the prayer started, I was in mid stride to the lavatory, (as I had suffered a bit of food poisoning from some Turkish doner sandwich that had probably been sitting on a shelf for the better part of the day) and literally almost had the shit scared out of me—for real.

The second 5 a.m.-er hit me (with less bowl-erly force) while I was sound asleep inside a cave hostel, yet it woke me with a smile on my face.

I was in a cave. I was in Turkey. I was in culture bliss.

Despite the touristy aspects of Goreme, the small Cappedocian town carries a lot of charm, as well as a lot of historical marks that can only be described fully by pictures. The plateaus, rock formations and BC-dated caves that outline numerous valleys of lush vegetation are in fact like many locales in Star Wars—only without vicious Tuscian raiders or jawas.

For three days we roamed the landscape and explored Pigeon and Love Valleys, as well as nearby towns and rocky cliffs that hid ancient churches and religious relics. We also ran into numerous TLG friends and also had an awkward animal experience.

Now, I can’t say Turkish people are anymore overbearing salesmen/women than Georgians, but they certainly are a lot better at swindling camel rides.

After Crystal showed interest in taking a picture of a couple humpbacks we discovered parked behind a shop just outside of the city, we were quickly (forcefully) thrown onto the beasts and dragged around a small perimeter for about…hmm..I dunno…five minutes.

Five unwanted camel minutes= 30 lira (or 18 bucks).

I told the guy “No way, no how.” And split like a camel jockey fleeing from a sandstorm.
After exploring a nearby ridge on our first day in Goreme that was roughly 3 km or so from the Panoramic hostel where we were staying at, we decided to pitch the tent we brought and give it a go for the second night.

We had a fire. We had a stray dog. We had food and drinks. But we had no clothing preparations for the elements.

I obviously can't speak for the others, but I had never been so miserable in my life. My feet at one point curled on their own and my butt felt like it was stuck to a piece of dry ice that was somehow hidden beneath the thin piece of nylon protecting me from the outside. The minaret preaching from nearby towns was actually the most welcomed thing my ears had heard in years, as it signified the break of dawn was near.

And if there was some consolation for the busted experience, daybreak exemplified one of the prettiest scapes in the world; with hot air balloons draped over a rising sun and Mt. Erciyes peaking above a layer of clouds.

It was cold…but perfect.

Despite the beauty and history lessons provided in the Gorematic experience, the ultimate goal of our trip to Turkey was to find some better weather than what we left with—preferably on the water.

Antalya, nestled upon the Mediterranean Sea, provided not only a climatic change from the cold and the rain of the north, but also a pretty nice beach and a more European-style town than any of us expected.

Not far from our town-stay in Old Town was a large bazaar, and a harbor that sat on water as clean as that of Nassau or St. Thomas. Near the waters' edge of the public beach, Crystal made friends with some Turk kids, who were quick to relocate to our towels and request pictures and our Facebook contacts.

Besides doners and the westernized fast food (that the country surprisingly has a lot of), Antalya's choice for nom included boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, sesame bread, spiced meats and lots and lots of yogurt.

The Turks as a whole drink mostly tea—lots of tea. If you are in a cafĂ© you drink tea. If you are walking on the street you drink tea. And much like the South, sugar is a big part of that drinking.

After a day on the coast, we headed further west to the ancient Greek town of Olympos to stay in what we thought would be a tree house hostel. It wasn’t exactly a tree house, but I believe the buildings were made out of some type of wood (at least they looked like it).

Our housemates included an Australian/Swiss (it’s a weird story) and a German named Mathias Burger, who we became hiking buddies with. Like us, Mathias is a teacher in a foreign country (Bulgaria) working for he government and came down on holiday to basically do exactly what we were doing—whatever he wanted.

Most of the guests in the town were westerners, with a large concentration of Brits and Aussies camping at our “tree house.”

It’s usually pretty easy for me to differentiate the two Queensland nationalities, but when you throw in a South African (Bradley) to the mix, I have to go back to the drawing board and listen more closely so I don’t step on any toes.

The trails around Olympos are quite exotic, littered with ancient Greek stadiums, bathhouses and ruins. The Med is also a five-minute walk from the main road.

Although the water was far colder than I would ever dare to venture into in Florida, I decided it was now or never for a swim in the Gobbler. Right off the beach is a sharp set of rocks that were perfect to scale—if you had shoes.

I made it about 15-feet up the side of one of the less straight edges before deciding to jump and save my feet for another day.

It was probably a good idea since the long walks from bus stations and hikes in one pair of damp Sauconys provided plenty of blisters without any help from me purposely being an idiot.

Our last night before departure (24-hr bus home) was expected to be another bus station crash, but we luckily stumbled upon a couch surfer who worked at a bar we were watching a Turkish cover band at.

So instead of no sleep, we were able to scrounge up four hours—a pure lifesaver for a group too tired to even argue. I don’t remember the guy’s name we stayed with but I do remember his hair, which was different than most of the younger males in the country.

I don’t know how to describe the hairstyle other than a mullet with Turkish flair. Some guys even had a bit of a rattail that fell just below the last bit of the horrifically awesome do (I totally wanted one but dreaded explaining to my host family what the hell I was thinking).

As the last minaret I would hear sounded in the distance from the Antalya bus station, I, like many others walking through the terminal, never flinched. The secular atmosphere and borderline Western hustle and bustle had already gotten to me. I had only been out of the Republic of Georgia for 9 days and realized that it’s hard to leave the industrial and organized world—despite early morning wakeup calls or crappy camels.