The Sea

As I type now, I am amazed at the cleanliness of the computer and screen. Before I left for camp, I had cleaned the IPad and my laptop for the first time in a while. New beginnings.

Before I left, I drew a map to the campsite as described to me by the camp director. (And you saw in the last post.) I then had Lado translate the key words into Georgian script. I finished packing and went downstairs for my last meal.

The parting was awkward. The only people there were the grandparents and Nika. My new host family had offered to take me to Shekvetili. Lado offered 30 minutes before they were to pick me up. It was a nice gesture, but late. I think the family didn’t make more of a big deal of my leaving, because would still be living in town. I wish I had seen Nino before I left though.

My new host family came promptly at 1 o’clock. We packed my things in the back of the truck. The mom came along too, so I sat in the back with Giorgi. I showed them the map, and they said they understood. We stopped at their home to pick up a couple of things before we left town.

When we arrived at the house, I noticed that that had left all of the doors and windows open. What I further noticed was this house didn’t have bars on the windows. The last host home not only had bars on the windows, but they also locked all of the doors to the exterior of the house and both doors upstairs on the ends of the main corridor. It was like Fort Knox. As we left, they still didn’t shut the doors and windows. When I tried to remind the mom, she laughed me off and implied that the neighbor would watch over the house.

They changed their clothes for the beach, and I grabbed some last minute items for the summer. And off we went.

We rode for about 25 minutes. On the main road where we were supposed to look for the turnout, we passed one marker and promptly left the town where the camp was. We stopped to ask for directions at a gas station, but as the email said, the building was so new, that no one knew where it was. I called the property owner on the phone and she gave more accurate directions. Good thing too, because the email directions were wrong. When we turned off the main road, there were tons of beach homes/ cottages. It reminded me of North Myrtle Beach. But that meant we were in a maze of houses and immediately got lost. I called one more time, and we finally were directed to the correct spot.

Facility is a three story cottage with bunks in all the rooms. It’s in close quarters to all the other cottages. The beach is maybe 2 football fields away through a grove of pine trees. As said before, its brand spanking new. Only the house keepers were there to let me into my room. After my host family explained a couple of things to me, we parted ways.

On the second story balcony, a lady yelled out ‘Hello! How are you?’ in broken English. She asked if I needed help and summoned a little girl over. She introduced herself to me and I now introduce you to Devina.

Devina

Devina

Devina is a girl of 9. She has a British father and Georgian mother. I get the impression that she splits her time between England and Tbilisi. For some reason, it took a while for her to get her English going again. But once she did, she was super inquisitive. This is her first time in summer camp. She is here with her grandmother and her mother and brother will come within the week. She reminds me of Thumper from the Bambi movie. I am assuming (hoping) that the other students will be of the same caliber of English proficiency.

***

I know that you’re smiling, baby,
I don’t even need to see your face
Sunset at the shoreline, we are laughing, breaking up,
Just like the waves
Are you feeling, feeling, feeling like I’m, feeling
Like I’m floating, floating, up above that big blue ocean
Sand beneath our feet, big blue sky above our heads,
No need to keep stressing from our everyday life on our minds
We have got to leave all that behind

At The Beach, The Avett Brothers

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Farewell Again

When I was in Tbilisi, I had the opportunity to meet the lady who hired me. Although the organization is British funded, she was Georgian with a pretty decent command of the language.  She told me some more vague details about the camp. She tried to draw a map of how to get to the destination, but it was a rough sketch. She said she would email me later with more details.

Here is a transcript of that email correspondence:

Me: I need to know where I’m going on Monday by tomorrow, latest so that I

can instruct the person who is driving me. I will not have wi-fi on Monday.

I need to know:

1. The exact name of the facility.

2. What group name do I tell them I am with when I arrive to the facility to assure I have arrived to the right place? (Assuming I will not just sit by the road waiting for the rest of the campers to

arrive).

3. Will I be able to get to my room when I arrive, or will I need to sit and wait in the lobby or foyer?

Thank You,

Her: OK, when you reach Shekvetili look for turn Shekvetili Beach, turn right, cross the tiny bridge you will see the road that has three ways, take the left road and follow for a while, then you will need to turn right and you are there. Call Manana, she will then give you the room.

Me: Does the group/ camp we are with have a name? And does the destination have a name of building I can look for?

Her: This is a new hotel, nobody would know the name (I don’t know), better to ask for Manana (everybody knows her there) and tell her you are in Manana’s (me) group.

Her (continued):  The hotel name is Ponto, but as I said nobody would know as it’s a new one.

***

I packed all of my things… again. It’s humbling to stand back and look at all you own condensed to three bags.

I took them downstairs this morning, and ran into my host mom who was mopping the living room area. Our eyes met and a look of sadness passed between us. We don’t usually show emotion towards each other, so to me this implied that she is affected by my leaving. Which is a good sign, as I never really know whether she liked me being here or not.

Lado (with Nino in tow) helped drive my stuff to the new house.  They insisted that I stay for an early lunch. I didn’t want to impose, but they were really insistent. They served these dumplings similar to Polish pirogues.  One with cheese and the other potato.  Since Lado had left, Giorgi walked me home.

I was unfamiliar with that area of town as I had not been over there before. But I quickly realized it was an extension of the main business street of town.  That makes things so much easier!

Now I just have one big bag and a backpack for summer camp.

Part I of my Georgian Chronicle is almost over….

***

“For once, for once, for once I get the feeling that I’m right where I belong
Why am I the one always packing up my stuff?”

Why Am I The One, FUN.

My Special Visitor

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And best of all, I got to see these sites with my Kim! It was great having her here and witness what I get to see and live on a daily basis and report back to the States that I’m not making all this up and in reality am bumming on the beach somewhere in Key West.  I think I gave her an appropriate cultural tour of Georgia complete with traditional foods, random cows in the road, etc. Miss you already girl, and see you back in the States!

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***

“With you I can be myself
With you I don’t have to be somebody else
It’s like puttin on my favorite pair of shoes
I’d like to be with me, when I’m with you”

I Like To Be Me When I’m With You, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

Vardzia: No Problem

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Vardzia is a place I have wanted to visit since coming to Georgia. Monastic caves in the side of a mountain. And I had seen my friends take awesome pictures when they had visited. But getting there had always been a problem. It seems all the people I wanted to go with were leaving from Tbilisi, which was on the opposite side of the country from me. So had to bide my time.

The fortunate thing is Vardzia is such a visited place, that although several modes of transportation is needed to get to the destination, little Georgian is required to get there. We had to get a marshrutka to the city of Al. From there we had to rent a taxi. (Another issue that needed to be negotiated was determining when the last marshrutka back to Tbilisi was. You don’t want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere. Our awesome Hostel clerk wrote the question down for us in Georgian.)

I was told that the taxi rates for a round trip go for 50- 70 Lari. That includes a private direct route and the driver waits while we take our leisure touring the caves. We found one for 60 Lari. Our driver proudly proclaimed that he was from Armenia. And he was a happy-go-lucky fella. He even paid for our breakfast/snack of Khachapuri before we set off to Vardzia. I think he made his real money on ‘upgrades’ though. To go see a fortress 10 km away he wanted to charge 30 more Lari. Even to drive to the castle up the hill from the marshrutka station was a baffling 20 Lari. But he respectfully accepted each decline with, ‘no problem’.

Vardzia is in the middle of nowhere. We traveled for an hour through what looked like Arizona. Beautiful canyons and views, absent of people or homes. After an hour of dodging cows and potholes (No problem!), we finally reached our destination.

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The caves were simply amazing and awe inspiring.

***

“Babe lets get packed..tank tops and flip flops if you got them
No shoes, no shirt, no problems
No problems.”

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem, Kenny Chesney

The Tortoise And The Hare

The original plan was to take a tour with the Hostel to Kazbegi. But not enough people signed up. But I was determined to see a particular church that is famous for being an iconic scene of Georgia. One picture of the church is simply awe inspiring, and I wanted to take the picture with my own camera.

So instead of taking a private tour bus, we ended up getting a marshrutka. The marshrutka ended up being a mini international tour bus of sorts. We had a Polish father and son, a French student and a sightseeing Austrialian lady. All of which spoke English.

The road to Kazbegi was built as a trans-Causcaus transportation system between Georgia and Russia. Kazbegi is actually only 20 Km from the Russian border. But the road between the ski resort of Gudauri and Kazbegi is in severe disrepair. During that long stretch we bumped along a gravel road. Fortunately they are currently repairing and paving it.

Once we got to the town of Kazbegi, I promised a friend we would look for her scarf that she left at a hostel the night before. The scarf was nowhere to be found, but I mentally noted that the guesthouse was a comfortable place to stay, and the proprietor spoke English.

Arriving to a new town by marsh is disorienting. When the doors open the first crowd of faces are people asking if you want a taxi or a place to stay. Once you push past them, you need to get your bearings, assess the environment and lay of the town.  An unexpected face that was added to the mix was a girl who asked if we spoke English. (English speakers are automatically part of the club) She asked if we wanted to split a car to the church. I thought about it for a second, but decided it would be more adventurous to hike to the church. My next thought was, ‘I haven’t even actually SEEN the church yet.

So my next task was to look for the church in the heights of the mountains. I saw it. And it was far! High and far. We rethought hiking it for a second. But others were doing it, and so could we!

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We meandered through the streets of Kazbegi only taking a detour to look for my friend’s scarf. The road/ path up to the church was not exactly well marked. We errantly walked through a cow field or two before we saw a guy going our direction. He was leisurely moseying up the path to the mountain. He indicated that this indeed was the path to the church.

The footpath took the most direct route straight up the mountain; a rough, tough and rugged route. After about a km, and totally out of breath, we stopped for a break. The leisurely Georgian took out a cigarette. We noticed a gravel road ascending the mountain to our left. “Does this go up the mountain to the church?”, we asked. He said it does, but the footpath was more ‘direct’. Screw that. As we left the Georgian, I think he was baffled as to why we would chose to take a longer (although less inclined) route. On we went.

Ascending the mountain, we saw a lot of foreigners. A higher concentration than I had seen anywhere else in Georgia this past year. But due to my emotional state of so many friends leaving and wanting to maximize my quality time with Kim, I didn’t feel like being very social.

It started to drizzle rain. Which we were not dressed for. Actually we were not prepared for this hike at all. Although we were going 20 km from the Russian border to a town high in the mountains, to a church even higher, I remember debating with Kim that morning before leaving the Hostel, ‘Should I wear jeans?  Naaa!”  Thank goodness I decided to bring a sweatshirt. The higher we walked, the colder it became.

We finally got to the top. Ahead of the all those that took the direct route. So although it was further in distance, it was definitely ‘shorter’ in the end.

The church was beautifully perched in the distance. Truly beautiful. But… It was not quite the scene I anticipated. The cloud cover altered the picture.

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This scene is supposed to be backdropped by a HUGE mountain…

But it was still an amazing view. From the church we could look down on the town in the valley. The longer we stayed up there though, the temperature dropped by degrees. I couldn’t feel my hands by the time we left.

At the top, we ran into the French guy. It would have been rude to not invite him to hang out with us, so we did. We descended the mountain together and ate at a café together before getting the last marsh.

I was proud of myself for being able to order Georgian food at the café. But I was quickly humbled when she announced the bill in Georgian. Georgian numbers, although simple in concept, are tricky. I totally failed that test. But we had a delicious feast of khinkali, mtsvadi, fries and wine.

Although I didn’t get the picture that I wanted, I plan on coming back to try again. And I will either stay at the guesthouse or campout at the top of the mountain.

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***

Excerpt from The Tortoise and the Hare, Aesop’s Fables

“…The sun started to sink, below the horizon, and the tortoise, who had been plodding towards the winning post since morning, was scarcely a yard from the finish. At that very point, the hare woke with a jolt. He could see the tortoise a speck in the distance and away he dashed. He leapt and bounded at a great rate, his tongue lolling, and gasping for breath. Just a little more and he’d be first at the finish. But the hare’s last leap was just too late, for the tortoise had beaten him to the winning post. Poor hare! Tired and in disgrace, he slumped down beside the tortoise who was silently smiling at him.

“Slowly does it every time!” he said.”

***

What picture is supposed to look like. Next time.

What picture is supposed to look like. …Next time.