Intermission

So I’m home now. Back in the States. It’s good to be back. To relax, take a shower whenever I want to and be clean (and warm) afterward. And seeing my peeps. Anyway, I’m going to sign off posting while I’m here I think….unless something strikes my fancy.

Cheers to you all and Happy Holidays. See you soon, Georgia!

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“All the sweetest winds they blow across the south 
Oh my sweet Carolina 
What compels me to go 
Oh my sweet disposition 
May you one day carry me home”

Oh My Sweet Carolina, Ryan Adams

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Cha-Cha Guy

We arrive to the airport first and shortly after comes Leah. We see a good number of other TLGers from other groups who are apparently on the same flight.  They open our gate for boarding and we stand in the longest line. In line we see a friend we met two previous nights at The Hanger Bar. Great guy. He comes up to greet us as his bags were already checked (or so we thought). He then proceeds to tell us that his host family ‘made’ him pack way too many bottles of various alcohol for his flight to the States and the check-in agents were not going to let him bring a bottle of Cha-Cha. So, he tells us, he is going to drink it before the flight.

Now, hopefully most of you have been reading this blog long enough to have learned the insanity of that statement. And HE must have known the insanity of that statement. It was such a gross gesture of insaneness, for multiple reasons, that I felt an obligation to verbally tell him HOW crazy it was. He brushed it off and walked off to talk to various other TLG members.

No more than ten minutes later, he stumbles back mumbling about something. As he is standing there incoherently talking, he is also teetering back and forth. At one point he stops talking mid-sentence, his eyes roll back in his head and motions like he is just going to pass out backwards with a deadman’s fall. But he catches himself. Leah and I both look at each other and simultaneously say, ‘OH SHIT!’  He is by this time black out drunk but still trying to get on the plane. I don’t step in to babysit until he starts hugging random ladies and irritating Georgian men.  The attendant says there is no way in Hell he is getting on a plane. Okay.

So we try to sit with him for a little bit, get him some water, etc.  Everybody in the airport is looking at us thinking, ‘Stupid Americans’. I was most afraid that security was going to come and whisk him away. We even try to call TLG, but they had a tough love stance of “It’s his own fault; leave him.”

Damn.

But they are ultimately right. Who drinks a bottle of Cha-Cha before a flight back home? Cha-cha guy*, that’s who.

I had to ultimately leave him with the attendant. who asked was he a friend of mine….   How does one answer THAT question? “Kinda.”

As I ascended the stairs to the departure checkpoint, I saw Cha-Cha guy still stumbling amongst the other people at the gate. Poor bastard.

“Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be sedated
Nothin’ to do and no where to go-o-oh I wanna be sedated
Just get me to the airport put me on a plane
Hurry hurry hurry before I go insane
I can’t control my fingers I can’t control my brain
Oh no no no no no”

I Wanna Be Sedated, The Ramones

 

 

*Cha-Cha Guy- name affectionately given to the TLGer by the rest of the airplane passengers.

Have Your Guy Call My Guy

In these recent years, I get insomnia before any major event. I think its due to the fact that I just get crazy excited. The night before going back to the States was no different. But I only had to power through a short rest period, because we had to be up to get a taxi to the airport at 3 am. The plan was to get a cab at my hostel, then pick up Leah (another TLG #43 member) on the way to the airport. Easy, right? Not so fast.

The taxi was waiting for us when we came out of the hostel. So far so good. He helped us with the luggage then I told him we were picking up a friend on the way to the airport. I even told him the address. This is obviously when things went South. He thought we had another friend in the hostel, then he thought we wanted him to take us to the airport and THEN he go get our friend, afterwards. We were getting him (and us) more and more confused. Fortunately the clerk, who spoke English, came back out of the hostel and explained to him what we wanted. And she told him the address. He nodded in ascent, and off we went to pick up our friend.

I had been to the area we were going to pick up Leah. But the further we drove, the less familiar everything looked. But of course you want to give the person who’s job it is the benefit of the doubt to know and do their job. Plus he was the chattiest man. He worked every bit of English he knew. We found out his brother lives in New Jersey, he knows and loves the Chicago Bulls, and all sorts of fun facts. And it was actually him who brought up the issue that he might not know exactly where we where going with an innocent enough question, “Right or left?” I didn’t know, so called Leah. But the problem was she might have known her surroundings and where she was, but we couldn’t communicate it to him. She was at a major intersection; we were in the dark underside of Tbilisi.

He got frustrated and wanted to talk to her. Okay.

Obviously that didn’t help, so he had the idea (which I must admit was a pretty good one) to stop at the police station and ask them, also hoping that they spoke English. In the mean time Leah was to stop a taxi and ask him to talk to our taxi guy to tell him how to get to her. The police said there was no such address. Okay. Leah’s first taxi that she waved down was full of scary Georgian men. No thank you…keep on moving.

So we stood outside the police station in the cold winter morning of 3:30 trying to figure out how to get our friend.

Leah flagged down another taxi and this one told our guy that we weren’t even in the right area. Okay. So finally we concluded that it was best for our guy to take us to the airport and Leah’s taxi take her. (He ended up charging her 30 Lari to our 20, but whatever).

We were making pretty good time getting to the airport, until Mr. Chatty taxi driver leans over to me and asks me to let him open the glove box. In the glove box is a gauge. He looks at it and says, “Problem.” I must confess, that statement alarmed me at first. Then I realized he just needed to stop for gas. We then pass like 3 gas stations! He leans over again, looks at the gauge again, this time with a flashlight, and taps on it…. “No problem!”  Okay.

We do stop for gas shortly thereafter, though. I guess he figured better safe than sorry. And then on to the airport.

 

“Money hoes and clothes all a playa knows
A foolish pleasure, whatever
I had to find the buried treasure, so grams I had to measure
However living better now, Gucci sweater now
Drop top BM’s I’m the man girlfriend
(Honey check it, (check it)
Tell your friends, to get with my friends 
And we can be friends
Shit we can do this every weekend (that’s right)
Aight? Is that aight with you?”

Big Poppa, Notorious B.I.G

Mtskheta

History:

With the collapse of the empire of Alexander the Great the east Georgian kingdom of Kartli-Iberia came into being with its capital at Mtskheta, which at this time straddled both banks of the river and was divided into several quarters.

Christianity was brought to Mtskheta in the 4th century by St Nino, and became the official state religion in 334. The first wooden church was built in the palace garden, where the Svetitskhoveli church now stands. Although the capital of Kartli was transferred to Tbilisi by Prince Dachi in the 6th century, Mtskheta retained a prominent role as the religious center of the country and the seat of the Katolicos (later elevated to Patriarch).

The star attraction in Mtskheta is the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, an enormous church originally built in the 4th century and rebuilt in the 11th century. The throne of the patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church sits in the center of the church. Georgian kings are buried here, though the cathedral’s most incredible claim extends to Jesus Christ, whose robe, allegedly, brought to Mtskheta from Jerusalem following his crucifixion, is said to be buried underneath the cathedral.

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My visit:

It’s pretty easy to get to Mtskheta from Tbilisi. The town had really cool sites to see and you can witness them in the pics section on the right side tab.

But what impressed me most about the town was the planned development and renovation. This town is already picturesque but rapid steps were being taken to make it moreso. As we walked from the ruins of the Fortress, there was the usual architecture commonly found in Georgia. But once past a street block of no importance or distinction, we saw a patch of grass beside a townhouse. More accurately, a manicured lawn…. in Georgia!

Villa Mtskheta

Villa Mtskheta

Post modern Government buildings, townhouses, lawns, trash receptacles, newly paved streets. I have decided that I will live here after my time with TLG.

 

“Well we’re movin on up,
To the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up,
To the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.”

Movin’ On Up, Theme Song to The Jefferson’s

Davit Gareja Monastery

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History:

On the border with Azerbaijan, Davit (or David) Gareja is perhaps the most remarkable of all Georgia’s ancient sites. Comprising about 15 old monasteries spread over a large, remote area, its uniqueness is heightened by a, semi-desert landscape. Neglected during the Soviet era, Davit Gareja has since seen some restoration and is now again inhabited by monks.

Lavra, the first monastery here, was founded by Davit Gareja, one of the 13 ascetic ‘Syrian fathers’ who returned from the Middle East to spread Christianity in Georgia in the 6th century. The monasteries were destroyed by the Mongols in 1265, revived in the early 14th century by Giorgi V the Brilliant, sacked by Timur and then suffered their worst moment of all on Easter night 1615 when Persian Shah Abbas’ soldiers killed 6000 monks and destroyed most of their artistic treasures.

Davit Gareja Monastery

Davit Gareja Monastery

My visit:

We got off the night train to Tbilisi at 6ish in the morning. It was a cold walk to the Hostel. They didn’t have our rooms ready yet, but we were allowed leave our bags. We were signed up to go on a tour of  Davit Gareja Monastery at 7:45, so we had time to kill. We walked up and down the pre-dawn streets of Tblisi to stay warm.

Met up with Brooke, Andy as his sister at the designated rally point- McDonald’s. The organizer of the tour was a young entrepreneur named Gulchina. She is an accountant during the week and hopes to grow this tour company to a full time career. She used a well-known Facebook page, that most ex-Pats are members, to advertise tours to various parts of Georgia.

We had about 22 people, all TLG, in a rented Marshrutka. It took close to two hours to get out there. And by out there, I mean out in the desert wasteland between Georgia and Azerbaijan. I am baffled that Davit hiked it all the way out here to build a structure in the desert, but I guess that’s what the monks did back in those days…. ol’ school.

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We got to the Monastery and looked around the place. The view was breathe taking and contrasted by the simplicity of the monastery itself. After milling around for a while, we thought the tour was over. But then we started walking up the mountain behind the monastery. And we walked… and walked. On the other side of the mountain was an amazing view of Azerbaijan. Further along the ridge were more monk cells. At the very top of the mountain were two tiny monastic structures. Posted at one were two Georgian soldiers.

*Aside: The historic site of Davit Gareja is contested by the country of Azerbaijan. Kind of weird, but a fact nonetheless.

As I was standing further up at the other tiny monastic structure looking off at the mountain vistas, two Azerbaijani soldiers approached me. I waved and said, ‘Hey’. One of them responded in English, ‘Hey’. He spoke great English. I asked if I could take a picture with him and they consented. That began a long line of paparazzi with the soldiers.

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Soon we began the long descent back down the mountain. We thought we were finished with the tour, but there was another monastery to visit.

This one was currently in use with a religious service that we were able to witness. In a spare centuries old monastery etched out of a mountain cliff in the middle of the desert, Georgia faithful convened to listen to holy scripture and chants given by ascetics of one of the oldest Orthodox religions in the world.

“I got soul, but I’m not a soldier.”

All These Things That I’ve Done, The Killers

Tbilisi Revisited

A friend from Istanbul decided to come visit Georgia and tour around with me for my last week. After a few days in Ozurgeti, we caught a night train to Tbilisi and see what that city had to offer. I have been to Tbilisi several times since orientation, but only to pass through or to met up with friends.

We meet up with various other TLGers headed home throughout the week.  Said goodbye to Abbey, Brooke, Erin, Lindsay, Juniper, ‘the boys’, Monita, and others from #43.

We found several American owned establishments. That was exciting! First was Ronny’s Pizzeria. The most obvious appreciation of Ronny’s was no mayonnaise on the Pizzas. And they were REALLY good! They also served bread sticks with real Ranch dressing. The second was a bar called The Hanger Bar. They had burgers, Chicken Strips and hot wings on the menu! But what endured me to this bar more than anything was that the bathroom LOOKED like an American bathroom. Since living here, I couldn’t quite cleary verbalize what was exactly wrong with the bathrooms in Georgia as they all are wrong for various reasons. But the word is ‘complicated’. Why is the plumbing snaking outside the walls and helter skelter? Why is the washing machine in the middle of the floor? Why does the sink ALWAYS look as you will become dirtier by using it? Why are they always also used as random junk rooms? Why is not having soap the norm? Why are they always dirty and grimy? Not at The Hanger Bar!  We also found the famed Prospero’s Book Store, which sells books in English.

Hot Wings and Beer at The Hanger Bar, Tbilisi

Hot Wings and Beer at The Hanger Bar, Tbilisi

During the week, I got a good handle on the layout of the city. Explored the different areas thoroughly enough to feel comfortable with them. And now can effectively use the subway. Tbilisi is a large diverse city that is rapidly growing to catch up with the rest of the great cities of the world. They have the unenviable job of meshing modern architecture and commerce with ancient or soviet era buildings and infrastructure. In one view of the city all you see are rows and rows of concrete slabs meant for housing. In the very next, you see posh yuppie streets that would rival any neighborhood of the famed European cities of the West.

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On the negative side, I spent WAY too many days at a previously favorite cheap hostel. By the end, it was just gross and filled with weird people. And it smelled funny. All of which should have been painfully evident in the several previous times I stayed there. Hostel Romantik (the story goes) used to be a brothel. And looking at the layout of the rooms, one doesn’t need an active imagination to see how that was definitely a possibility. Also the hostel is entirely underground. No natural light sources whatsoever. It’s perpetually twilight down there. And people drink 24/7. Some people who were there with us during the same duration seemed like they never went outside. They were there when we left for the day, and were there when we returned at various times of the day and night.  That was sorta creepy.

But for 10 Lari per night and all you can drink free wine, you can’t beat it.

I will post about the day trips we took in the next couple of posts. But I wanted to end this one by saying it was a great week. It was good getting to see and know my friend better. She is a great person with the biggest heart. And there are very few other people I would have had as near as great a time.

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“I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m happy again
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
I’m singing, singing in the rain
In the rain
In the rain”

Singing in the Rain, Gene Kelly