Lights, Camera, Action

I love going to the movies. I’m pretty sure I watch too many. But going to the cinema is a cathartic experience for me. In last two years when I visited Tbilisi, I always pasted the cinema on one of the most trafficked avenues, Rustaveli. But all of the advertisements for the movies are in Georgian or Russian.

Now that I live here, I have since found a theater that plays movies in English!

So yesterday, I went to Amirani theaters to see Hunger Games- Mockingjay Pt. I. I was giddy with anticipation. To make it a total experience, I also got snacks, expensive snacks. Just like America!

The theater was a decent size. But it was a new theatre, so the seats were big and plush. Something different was the assigned seating. I don’t know how I feel about that.

The audience was mostly Georgian with a smattering of ex-Pats. And towards the end, a bunch of Peace Corps came in.

The movie was subtitled in Russian, but after a while the script melted into the background of my mind.

It was a great movie and a great experience. Gave me a comfort of home.

***

Non-Georgian Food

Occasionally I get hungry for non-Georgian food. There are some very deceptive advertisements here. Walking past a restaurant, I am always fooled by the pictures of  hamburgers or a hotdogs in the window. I stop and think for a long second, “This is not real. They don’t REALLY make hamburgers in there…. do they? Maybe they do. I’ll go see.” Or, “They don’t REALLY have milk shakes in there….. do they? They can’t. I’ll go see.” And I am ALWAYS disappointed.

There are benefits to living in the capital of Tbilisi. One of which, there are the non-Georgian restaurants here. They don’t have THAT many restaurants, but they have enough to be diverse. There are Thai, Indian, Chinese, Sushi and Italian restaurants.

I did some research with the ex-Pat community and decided to go to what is considered one of the best Italian restaurants- Pomodorissimo Cafe. I am fortunate to live in the part of the city where most of the non-Georgian restaurants are located.

Walking in, you get feel of an authentic Italian place. And I was also lured to thinking that since this is not a Georgian restaurant, the service will also be non typical of Georgian service. More on that later.

There were a few families seated already, but it had an upstairs, too. Upstairs was fairly packed. Looking at the menu, it was clear that this was an Italian Steak house. Walking up the stairs, I saw they had a brick oven for the pizzas and an open kitchen full of fresh ingredients.

On the menu to my delight, were several pages of tasty sounding dishes. We started with the bruschetta and it was indeed delicious! I ordered a pesto penne dish (which they ran out of pesto), but had to settle for a meat penne dish. The penne was cooked a little too long, but not bad. My friend ordered a cream sauce linguine dish. It needed salt, but was still tasty without. All in all it was indeed a good restaurant.

But the service was typical Georgian. Servers nowhere to be found. Not anticipating the needs of the customers. For example, when I asked for water, they brought exactly one glass of water. They didn’t ask if my friend wanted one or didn’t just bring them one anyway. I wanted another glass of Coke, but she never came back around. I tried to not let those things bother me as I usually let it slide with patience, but being in a non-Georgian themed place, it only amplified the problem.

All in all though it was a great experience.

Now I want Indian…

***

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That’s amore
When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine
That’s amore

That’s Amore, Dean Martin

 

Sameba Cathedral

Sameba Cathedral

Sameba Cathedral

Some Georgian friends took me on a walk in a section of Tbilisi called Avlabari. Avlabari is where Sameba Cathedral is located. I had gone to the cathedral before, but I didn’t know it contained other hidden gems. This time I was shown the side chapels and also we went down under the main church. The church descended down two more levels. And on each level there was a big church. Not as big as the main cathedral of course, but still bigger than other stand alone churches.

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I got to thinking while walking through the cathedral, not only how big it was but also how new it was…brand spanking new. It was new, but it also was built the same as churches of old. Which means the look was exactly the same as hundreds of years ago when they, too, were new. Polished granite and marble, walls and grout smooth to the touch. Imagining such a grand structure in the Middle Ages changes my perspective.

Church of the Transfiguration

Church of the Transfiguration

Along with that thought, we next went to a nunnery, Church of the Transfiguration, located nearby. The nunnery was built in the middle ages, but the frescos were bleached out. They are now restoring the paintings to their full luster. Seeing these paintings as they were, must have been a truly spiritual experience.

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At the same nunnery was a restored part of an old castle where the Queen’s quarter’s used to be. Satchino Palace was a summer residence of Queen Darejan, the wife of the Georgian King Erekle II (1720-1798).

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***

“Here is the church, and here is the steeple;
Open the door and here are the people.”

 

Skool Daze

I was asked a while ago by a cousin of one of my students from Oz, if I could come and speak to her University class. Yes Please!!!

We finally got the timing right and I went in to speak this past Friday. The school was Ilia State University and the class was a tourism class.

Initially she had asked me to prepare some visuals. But the night before she said it was fine to just speak.

I had been curious about the facilities of universities in Georgia. They don’t usually have a campus, as one would see in a U.S. university. The building are somewhat grouped together in the same vicinity. There are no dorms or housing facilities for the students. They have to provide their own housing which for most people, is a huge problem do to cost involved. Unless you know a relative who lives in Tbilisi that you can stay with, you probably couldn’t afford to attend school.

I also think that there is a cultural aspect to the housing situation, too. I think the idea of having females living alone in close proximity to boys is too scandalous a proposition for Georgian society.

There was another speaker from India who went before me. He spoke for a LONG time and i thought there wasn’t going to be time for me, but it was a 2 hour class.

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I spoke on my take of tourism as an American in Georgia. I think I did pretty well!

***

The medieval university looked backwards; it professed to be a storehouse of old knowledge. The modern university looks forward, and is a factory of new knowledge. – Thomas H. Huxley

 

Uplistsikhe

Last weekend, I was able to take a day trip to Uplistsikhe, cave city near the city Gori. Uplistsikhe, is an ancient town which played a significant role in Georgian History for over 3,000 years.   Between the 6th century BC and 11th century AD, Uplistsikhe was one of the most important political, religious, and cultural centers of pre-Christian Kartli (name for that part of Georgia back then), It was ravaged by the Mongols in the 13th century. It was a major city situated on the silk from India and China to the Byzantine Empire.

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Gori is the city where Joseph Stalin grew up and it is said that in his youth, he and his friends would spend the day at the caves.

After a short marshrutka drive out of the city, we were dropped off at the edge of a village. After that, one had to walk the rest of the way (unless you had a private vehicle). It was a beautiful fall day and landscape was amazing. It reminded me of Arizona, or some of the topography from the western United States. The walk was pleasantly short.

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I really enjoyed this site. The city was perched up on a cliff over looking a river. One can only imagine how beautiful this city must have been in its day.

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Stupid Mongols.

Oh, when leaving the cave city, you have to go down rock tunnel. It’s dark and creepy and cool. But it also has bats! A real bat cave!!

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Bat Cave

 

***

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

Ozymandias, Percy Shelley

 

 

Teacher’s Pet

In Ozurgeti, I had the occasional private student. Mostly they were reserved for the Georgian English teachers. Most of the teacher took a full load of students afterschool to supplement their pay. It ironically made the students not care about their actual lessons in school. They put more time and effort into the time with tutors.

Even when I did have the occasional private student, the rate of income in western Georgia was soo low, that I practically did the lessons for free.

In Tbilisi, the demand is very, very high for Native English speakers. Tbilisi is like a bubble unto itself in Georgia. It is a very cosmopolitan city (as much as Georgians can be cosmopolitan). Citizens in professional jobs understand the importance of knowing how to speak English. The first thing my students in Tbilisi say for the reason they want lessons is that they want to be able to speak to English clients or something similar.

Even getting private students was a fluke. My host dad, Zura, is always thinking of business (money making) opportunities and one day offered to ask around if some of his contacts had need for a native English speaker. Within the week, two organizations wanted me to work for them. One would have been working with my friend, Pete. But because Anna doesn’t get home until late, the times were not working out for it to happen. Once TLG found out I was available for extra services, they put my name out, too. So now I get a constant inquiry of potential students.

Davit. Davit is an IT specialist that works with my host mom, Mari. He wants to learn English because he doesn’t like not being able to communicate effectively in English with clients. He can understand fine, usually. But he hates the way his delivery is jerky. He wants to be confident with a smooth, ‘conversational’ delivery.

Davit is a great guy. I have learned so much from him. He is very open and non-partial with Georgian history and politics. He also has a progressive outlook on life, which is refreshing in Georgian men. Davit is obviously shaped by the ‘dark days’ of the break with Soviet Union and the Revolution. He wants to protect his kid from that as best he can. One interesting thing he told me in a tangent conversation was about a culture nicety that gets lost in translation. Georgians don’t usually say, ‘thank you’ or ‘please’. Or at least that’s how its perceived by those that speak English. But that’s what gets lost in translation. Georgians, he said, don’t say it literally in their language in conversation but they use intonation to imply it. So since they don’t use it in their conversation, usually when they translate in their heads, it doesn’t happen.

Tamuna. Tamuna is a single mom that works for the Ministry of Interior. She is one of the students that I have to travel to. She is about 30 and works like a maniac. She, too, wants to brush up on her English to speak better to clients.

Tamuna is also a progressive minded Georgian woman. Which isn’t as hard to find as men. Actually, I can see my seniors from last year in Tamuna. Although she got married early, she didn’t let that hold her back. She doesn’t care about what others think, even her parents. That frame of mind allowed her to pursue a divorce. Both of those topics came up during a conversation about gender roles.

Nani and Layla. These two girls work together. Nani was referred to me by a TLG friend. They work together at a bank. Both want English for business reasons. (All of my students’ English is understandable, but they want it to approach fluency.)

Layla speaks slightly better English than Nani, but I think Nani’s vocabulary stronger. They wanted to have joint lessons. Which is fine by me. They are so fun together! And its obvious that they are the best of friends. They have a travel group that they are a part of that travels in the summer throughout Georgia. So whereas most Georgians haven’t even seen their own country, these girls have been everywhere.

Layla and Nani

Layla and Nani

The best part of having these private students is I learn so much from them about their thoughts, dreams, fears and ideas about the world and their country.

***

“I don’t know what he wants, I don’t understand what he’s trying to say. Don’t you get it? You walk to school every day with all these children who are normal. I can’t talk to my son! I don’t know what he wants or what he thinks or what he feels. I can’t tell him that I love him, I can’t tell him who I am. I want to talk to my son! I don’t care what it costs, I don’t care what the stupid doctor says it’s right or wrong. I want to talk to my son!”

Iris Holland, Mr. Holland’s Opus

Tbilisoba

Tbilisoba is an annual celebration of the city of Tbilisi. Every major city has a celebration for itself it seems. I was not able to go last year, I don’t remember why.

The festival is similar to all festivals, except with a Georgian spin. Here are the few things I wanted to comment on:

There is a new law against public drinking. So that definitely gave the festival a different spin. And it made things uncustomarily difficult to find alcohol. Hard to find alcohol in Georgia… go figure. Fortunately they had wine sampling tents and a never-ending sea of vendors grilling Mtsvadi.

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I was able to finally meet with some of the newest TLG peeps. They were rolling deep together and I didn’t have time to chat with them all. But we have a conference in November, so ill be patient until then.

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***

“But it’s just the price I pay
Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
‘Cause I’m Mr Brightside”

Mr. Brightside, The Killers