In Which Sanchezi Goes To Armenia. #1

**Same as last time, I haven’t been posting lately because I’ve been out of town. So here follows a flurry of posts. Oh, and trouble with some of the pictures. Look for them eventually in the photo tab bar to the right ***

To Tbilisi.

We planned another excursion to Armenia to make the best of our ‘vacation’ before school started.  There is a night train from Tbilisi to Yerevan that seemed optimal for us, because we already had to take a 6-7 hour Marshut’ka ride from Ozurgeti.

So leaving from Ozurgeti were Brooke, Caroline and myself. The ride was pretty uneventful. But one story of note:

As we are new to the long marshut’ka rides across country, we didn’t think about food or bathroom breaks. The driver had stopped once already for a cigarette break, so common sense led us to believe that bathroom breaks and food stops would follow, too.  Well by the time he stopped again, we were primed for the restroom. we tried looking to see if anybody else was going (to follow them), but most people just stayed in the bus. hmm…

So we asked a couple of street vendors for a bathroom. No bathrooms. Slight panic started to set in, as we were nowhere, near our final destination. So we just did what we Americans always do in seemingly emergency situations… we simply ‘looked’ helpless. It wasn’t really that hard to do.

Finally a guy came to our aid, and told us to follow him. Across the highway we went and looked down to an access road. There sat two teenagers. Now imagine, you are sitting in YOUR neighborhood, minding your own business and up walks three foreigners (insert nationality) who don’t speak your language. And you gather that they got off a greyhound bus and need to use your bathroom.  (I know what my answer would have been). They wave us down the hill and to their home. And one by one, they let us use their bathroom. And eat grapes from their tree.

Off again.

We did stop one more time. This time was at a legit rest stop where we could buy food, go to bathroom, stretch, etc.  It was beside a pond with a mountain chain in the near background. This country is beautiful.

We finally get to Tbilisi, were Caroline goes to stay with another TLG member for the evening and Brooke and I go to meet Chris for a hostel stay. We meet him at one hostel, but since they are full, they direct us to another, Hostel Romantik.

I’m already suspicious of taxi drivers (the ones without meters).  In my book, they are a close cousin to the mafia, maybe even one in the same. Shady.

So this taxi is pre-paid by the original hostel to take us to the one with vacancies. We slow down to turn into an underground parking garage. I, nor my friends, notice a shingle or any kind of indication that we have arrived. In the parking garage, the first thing we notice is there are no lights- none. The taxi driver then stops the car, turns his lights off, beeps the horn once, and points for us to get out. Ooooh shit!!

My spidy senses started to tingle and I immediately prepared for battle. I swear this was the start to a scary movie I had seen before, and I was NOT going down like this! My friends had equally concerned looks on their faces. In the distance, a door opened and a backlit girl came out. She pleasantly smiled and said, “Welcome to The Romantik Hostel!” Little did she know she narrowly averted a can of whoop-ass.

Now I am new to the international hostel experience. Batumi was cool and this one was… interesting. It won my heart over rapidly enough though with the free Georgian wine.

Return to the Ex-Pat bar.

So we had a night to hang out in Tbilisi as our train did not leave until the next afternoon. So we decided to go to the only good bar we knew of; the Ex-pat bar (as it was explained to us).

It’s funny how rapidly one can ‘know’ a city. Or at least I grasp the layout and can confidently get around within a few days of being there. This was true also of Tbilisi.

We got to the bar and were immediately recognized. (From my last experience there, I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing.) Brooke made buddies with the bartender and Chris and I got to know another table of Germans, Canadians and Brits. Some were in town for a wedding and others camping through the region. It was gratifying and stimulating to meet other foreigners and travelers in a great atmosphere.

We also found out that the owner of the bar was Russian. A great guy who saw TLGers and Peace Corps folks come through like waves. The name of the bar is Canudos Ethnic Bar.

Also at the bar, we met members of TLG group #36. Old timers! This was the first time I met anyone else in previous groups.

We stayed there until it shut down, then back to the hostel. At the hostel, there were a hodge-podge of people sitting about. I didn’t really pay attention to them at first, then one under his breath says something like, “Don’t want to drink with us, I guess,” or “Going to bed already?”  Either way, I spun around.

Challenge accepted.

They were already drinking the Georgian wine, and although tipsy, I had some catching up to do.

My new friends at the table were from Japan, two from Iran (but not traveling together), a Brit, and a guy from Azerbaijan. We talked and talked. The eventually got around to trying to make me understand how their side of the world works, but also they wanted me to explain why America was doing/ not doing what it was in the rest of the world. I really wanted to lay this out for them. Maybe it’s the educator in me (history and government to be specific) or maybe it was the wine, but I know I could make them understand. It was not to be. They collectively and individually shouted me down before I could explain the different political party ideologies. Oh well.

Some things they thought were disconcerting to me and impossible to even try to explain. For example, that President Obama was not a Muslim. Or that President Obama and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran are not buddy-buddy. At the end of the night, 7:30 in morning, we were all unofficial delegates of United Nations and the best of friends.

“On the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again,
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

On the Road Again, Willie Nelson

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2 responses to “In Which Sanchezi Goes To Armenia. #1

  1. Two comments:
    Your angst over the taxi ride in Tbilisi reminded me of when I went for a ride in an unlicensed taxi in Rangoon, Burma, to exchange U.S. dollars for Burmese kyat on the black market. As we navigated dark roads / alleys, I realized that I had probably made a big mistake. Fortunately, it had a happy ending.
    Toilet paper. Whenever I travelled in South Asia, I always took some MRE toilet paper with me. Do you have little packets of toilet paper? Would you like for me to mail you some?

    • It seems taxi drivers need to get together on a world level and have a training day or something.
      And I’m all set in the toilet paper department. Thanks Colonel!

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