No Big Deal

I like my school a lot. The teachers are a mix of old and young. The facilities are in pretty good condition and we have heat in the winter, which cannot be overlooked or underrated. They all know me pretty well, even though we can’t really ‘speak’ to each other.

All last month it seemed that I was helping one particular co English teacher prepare an open lesson. An open lesson is where other teachers from other schools come to observe what you are doing. She has been a part of a training organization for teachers and they require it of her. A perk of the training is they had the opportunity to go to the States over summer. I think 30 teachers from across Georgia traveled.

My school is really good and shines when it comes to hosting visitors. After her lesson, we treated the visiting teachers to a full blown supra. The table was spread with lunch and desserts. AND we had wine and honey vodka (which I had not had before, but was really tasty). Toasts were given by everyone it seemed.  But in the end, No Big Deal- that’s how my school rolls!


Co English teacher of honor- Elene.

Co English teacher of honor- Elene.

But in retrospect, it WAS a big deal…

So other teachers in the Region also had to do open lessons, and I took it as an opportunity to go see other schools and meet other teachers. I had known a Georgian friend was doing a lesson, so I told her I would come see her. Well, her school is having renovation difficulties; so she decided to team-teach with another teacher in Oz school #1, Mezia.

School #1 is up on a hilltop in the town beside the hospital. I had never been there, so I was excited to see it. Walking up the hill, I noticed a group of students from MY school hanging out. I gave them a hard time, and they gave me a hard time saying I was going to see my girlfriend. Silly boys.

I got up the hill to a very large paved open area. It looked more like a compound than a school. My school is rectangular and three stories. This place had three or four buildings either three or four stories. I had to call my friend Natia to figure out where to go. I wouldn’t say the school is ‘as’ nice as mine, but it’s in pretty good condition.

They did a lesson with an 8th grade class about famous landmarks. They used a projected Jeopardy game as the vehicle. It was a pretty good lesson. (A side note: I really like these open lessons, because it not only gives the other teachers ideas, but also an actual visualization that they too, can teach with these methods.

Afterwards they treated us to a lunch. You could tell they were attempting to replicate what we did at the previous open lesson, but it was a sad, sad sight. That’s when I realized, I really love and appreciate my school!


Tag Team back again check it top
Wreck it – let’s begin
Party people let me hear some noise
DC’s in the house jump jump and rejoice
There’s a party over here
a party over there
Wave your hands in the air
Shake the deriere
These three words mean you’re gettin’ busy
Whoomp there it is
Whoomp there it is

Whoomp, There It Is, Tag Team


Until The Cows Come Home

My host family has cows; three to be exact. The other night the host mom told me over dinner that we won’t have car anymore. She was really sad. I can understand her sadness as it takes us 20 mins to walk to work. I said it would be okay.

I came back downstairs a little later, and she amended her previous statement. She said the COW was lost. She is quite the extremist. But her mom did give her the cow when she was young.

It came back the next day. All is well.
I have been either walking to or from home at dusk a lot recently. And what I notice is that the at that time a lot of cows are not simply roaming around, but instead they are standing (in the road) in front of their perspective houses, waiting for their owners to let them in. It reminds me of kids who have been out playing all day, but forgot their house key. Now they have to wait for someone to let them in.
And when the day draws in
You put on a record
Put on something gentle
And wait for the cows to come home
When the Cows Come Home, Blur

Meanwhile In Georgia…

This article was taken from (

This skull may have just rewritten the book on human evolution


It’s a discovery that could change our understanding of early humans. An incredibly well-preserved, 1.8-million-year-old skull from Dmanisi, Georgia suggests the evolutionary tree of the genus Homo may have fewer branches than previously believed.

This skull may have just rewritten the book on human evolution2

A detailed analysis of the skull (above, in situ, and at left, fully excavated), appears in the latest issue of Science. In their report, the researchers – led by Georgian anthropologist David Lordkipanidze – write that it is “the world’s first completely preserved hominid skull.” And what a skull it is. It suggests that the earliest known members of the Homogenus (H. habilisHrudolfensis and H. erectus) may not have been distinct, coexisting species, at all. Instead, they may have been part of a single, evolving lineage that eventually gave rise to modern humans.

Discovered alongside the remains of four other early human ancestors, all of which date to roughly 1.8-million years ago, “Skull 5,” as the specimen is called, has a relatively tiny brain case and a protruding lower jaw – anatomical features reminiscent ofAustralopithecus, a more primitive human ancestor. And yet, its upper jaw resembles that of a 2.3-million-year-old specimen from Ethiopia, thought to have belonged to H. habilis; its bulky browline bears a strong resemblance to that of H. erectus; and its long, vertically oriented upper face and the overall shape of its braincase are unmistakably Homo. An anatomical chimera, Skull 5 possesses a surprising combination of features that have never before been observed together in an early Homo fossil.

This skull may have just rewritten the book on human evolution

Dmanisi Skulls 1–5 (left to right)

So what species of Homo does it belong to? That’s the million dollar question! Ann Gibbons provides a tidy summary, in a perspective piece also published in the latest issue of Science[emphasis added]:

Some fossils previously discovered at Dmanisi seemed to have links to H. erectus. But when the big lower jaw [of Skull 5] was found in 2000, some researchers suggested it belonged to a new species they called Homo georgicus.

With the discovery of the new, fifth skull the researchers had to confront head-on the variation among all five. Age and sex probably account for much of it: The skulls are thought to have belonged to an elderly toothless male, two mature males, a young female, and an adolescent of unknown sex. This broad sample from one place and a short span of time is what makes Dmanisi an “exceptional site,” [says Tim White, a paleoanthropologist at UC Berkeley]. By analyzing the skull shapes with 3D computer-based methods, the researchers found that the range of variation in the group at Dmanisi was no greater than within living humans or chimps. The team concluded that all five skulls belong to a single, variable species.

In the end, the team settled on the cumbersome moniker of Homo erectus ergaster georgicus, which recognizes the skull as an earlier Georgian form of H. erectus.

But then, the remains of these five Dmanisi individuals are so very different. The skulls are so varied, in fact, that had they been found scattered throughout Africa, they could easily have been called separate species. This is the opinion of study co-author Marcia Ponce de Leon, who, together with University of Zurich neurobiologist Christoph Zollikofer, analyzed the shape and traits of the five Dmanisi skulls. The pair ultimately concluded that the Dmanisi specimens were every bit as diverse as African fossils traditionally pigeonholed into one of three different species, viz. H. erectus, H. habilis, and H. rudolfensis.

This skull may have just rewritten the book on human evolution3

“It is [therefore] sensible to assume,” Zollikofer said in a statement, “that there was a single Homo species at that time in Africa.” He continues: “And since the Dmanisi hominids are so similar to the African ones, we further assume that they both represent the same species.”

The claim stands to rewrite the evolutionary history of the human genus Homo by pruning three distinct offshoots of its evolutionary tree down to a single branch:Homo erectus. But this hypothesis has not been received lightly. Study co-author Philip Rightmire of Harvard University says the team’s conclusion has set off a “bomb” in the field; and responses from experts around the world support this observation.

University College London’s Fred Spoor criticized the team’s methods of analysis in an interview with BBC News, noting that “they do a very general shape analysis of the cranium which describes the shape of the face and braincase in broad sweeping terms.” Dean Falk, an anthropologist at Florida State University, supports the paper’s conclusions. “I see no reason not to accept the authors’ claim that the specimens all belong to one highly variable and highly sexually dimorphic species,” she told Discovery News.

Still others insist that to argue over a single- vs. multiple-species hypothesis is to miss the study’s most important takeaway entirely: that these Dmanisi hominins, with their relatively meager brain casings, are in fact the earliest evidence of Homo outside of Africa. “What’s often missed in an announcement like this, when the focus becomes the skull or the names applied to the skull, it’s the larger context,” said White in an interview with the LA Times. “This is the very first evidence of the hominid expansion out of Africa.”

“This is significant,” he added. “I think that years, even decades from now, this will be seen as a classic turning point.

The researchers’ findings are published in the latest issue of Science.

Somebody Call The Police!!!

The first inkling that something might be going wrong was in the first marshrutka. The assistant driver had gotten out and proposed to look for another passenger’s bag. But it happened that the passenger had his bag under the seat with him.

I should have been more proactive with the second situation. When I looked into the back of the first marshrutka when it had stopped at the mid point of our journey, my bag was not there. But being the eternal optimist, I assumed that it had already been packed into the second marshrutka.

When we reached our final destination… my bag was indeed NOT THERE!

Let me back up in the story a little bit.

We, my friends Jessica and Audrey and myself, were traveling from Batumi to Mestia. We got to the marsh station, found the correct van and stuffed our stuff in the back. This form of transportation is as common as, say a taxi, in the States.  I, and my friends, have used marshes a hundred times for short trips and long. We knew we were going o have to transfer marshes in the city of Zugdidi. Things were looking to be more convenient for us because four Polish tourists were headed the same way, which meant a guaranteed marsh to Mestia.

On the Marshrutka

On the Marshrutka

But I didn’t pay attention to the danger signs. We arrived in Mestia in the early evening as the sun was setting. It was biting cold. And I now had zero extra clothes with me. To say the least I was stunned.

We called the first marsh driver, but he had his phone off. The hostel proprietor, my friends and other passengers were supportive saying it would turn up in the morning.

Fortunately there was a heater in our room. So I was toasty during the night. But all I could think about as i lay there was hiking one of the highest mountain chains in Georgia the next day without my thermals….

The next day, I went downstairs to ask the hostel proprietor if she had heard from the other driver. She had not. We waited for a little while. Then he responded that he did not see a bag on his marsh the previous day. Ugh.

So we went to the police station to have them talk to the Zugdidi police and maybe keep an eye out. After that, what more could I do, right? So I put it out of my mind and enjoyed the beauty all around me.

That evening, we went back to the police station to ask if they heard anything. They hadn’t, but told us to wait.


A little later, an older lady came in and said, “Hello”, in English. We all went upstairs together. She was brought in to translate and help take down my statement. This whole process was entertaining, frustrating, and comforting all at the same time. It was comforting that they were taking me and my bag seriously. I felt I had a personal detective assigned to me. It was entertaining to see the other police officers come in and out to look at us. Entertaining to also to see this part of Georgia. Glad I wasn’t on the ‘business’ end of the table though.  But frustrating to go through the process. They have computers, but I don’t think they have keyboarding skills. The process was like this: The detective would ask a very detailed specific question and the translator would translate. I would answer him,  and the translator would translate. Then the detective would dictate to another officer what to write down by hand in pen. Occasionally, they would have to walk upstairs with their work. I asked why, and the translator said they had to go brief the supervisor (who was a woman… awesome!) This process went on for 2 hours.

Finally we were done. The supervisor came down to talk to us, which I thought was awesome. She said that they would send the information to the Zugdidi police. But I should go to the station on the way back through.

Afterward we had dinner with one of the police officers. Nice guy.

I didn’t have time to go to the station in Zugdidi. I had my TLG representative call them for me the next day, and they said I would have to come to the station to give a report.  Ugh. I told them that Mestia has the official report and they were sending it to them. They said they would look into it.

Haven’t heard anything since.

This post is the last time I will spend mental energy on the lost bag. It pains me too much. I will simply chalk it up as a loss. Nothing of irreplaceable value was in the bag.  Although all of the thermals I owned were in that bag, they too are replaceable. I’m just over attached to my clothes. Northface ski jacket, ski gloves, all the thermals I owned, two sweaters, jeans, undies, socks and a favorite hat. And I’m sure a couple of things I simply can’t remember. I know a few days or weeks from now, I’ll be asking myself, “Now where did I put that…?   … Oh, yeah.”

Maybe this is a healthy thing.  It still hurts.


Bad boys, bad boys
Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do
When they come for you?
Bad boys, bad boys
Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do
When they come for you!

Bad Boys, Inner Circle

My Home Is My Castle

We woke up super early to pack for the next part of our trip to Mestia as the rest of the hostel was still sleeping off the previous nights activities. Some people were already up for no good reason at all. I don’t understand those people… those who get up early when they could be still sleeping.

We got to the marshrutka station only to find out that our van wasn’t leaving or another hour and a half.  Great. So we just got some snacks and people watched until then. Oh, this van went to a mid point city called Zugdidi, then we had to switch vans to another to Mestia.

My friend Jessica is light years ahead of me with the language. She can hold full conservations in Georgian. She puts me to shame. As I mentioned before, I know enough to get where and what I want, but that’s about all. I think I rely more on my intuition and social cues more than the language. So since Jessica was great, we relied on her from this point on with all language issues.

On the same van as us going to Mestia was a group of Polish tourist. Their goal was to discover and taste all of the foods that Georgia had to offer. That’s a fun vacation! They spoke English as well, so that helped.

11:00 came, the van was full and off we went. The trip to Zugdidi was uneventful. I had never been to that city, but heard there was an America owned bar that a lot of exPats go to. I will have to travel back specifically for that.

(A major event did actually occur while in Zugdidi, but I’ll get into that in the next post.)

We got to Zugdidi and transferred our bags onto the waiting Marshrutka. It was pretty much us and the Polish group (and an old lady). So basically a private van.  Because of that, we were able to make tourist stops along the way, which drivers usually NEVER do. But the Polish guy was very persuasive with his Russian and the driver was really nice.  Once outside of Zugdidi, the road launches upward into the most intense of mountain ranges. We stopped at two great views of a hydro dam and got some magnificent photos.

We were a really chatty and friendly group of people. At one point we were telling crude jokes that had to be translated four times in various order depending on who started the joke; Polish, Russian Georgian and English. That was wild.

And another first occurred on the marshrutka. The driver and his ‘assistants’ wanted to show us an authentic time, so they stopped for some cups and started drinking some homemade wine he just ‘happened’ to have. Georgians carry and have wine accessible like priests have crucifixes. But we didn’t stop to drink, oh no. We were poppin’ bottles on the zigzag mountain roads in the Marshrutka!

Georgian wine on the Marshrutka

Georgian wine on the Marshrutka

Another experience on this marshrutka that I had anticipated was the rockslides. Because the roads are not THAT great and the weather and terrain is brutal, there are consistent rockslides and eroding roads on the mountainside. We had to stop for 15 minutes on the way to wait for a backhoe to clear the rocks. And on the way back to Zugdidi we had to sped through a mudslide that had washed out the road.

Clearing the rockslide.

Clearing the rockslide.

The region on Georgia we were going to is called Svaneti. Svaneti is famous for several things that I will mention throughout this post, but the first I want to mention is a food specialty.  Georgia’s national dish is called Katchapuri. It’s a (usually) cheese filled bread, similar to pizza. But each region of Georgia has it’s own twist on it.

Sneak peak at making of Kubdari Katchapuri

Sneak peak at making of Kubdari Katchapuri

We stopped at a roadside restaurant for dinner. We brought in the wine and ordered the Katchapuri that Svaneti is famous for called Kubdari Katchapuri. Instead of being filled with cheese, it has beef, garlic and spices. It was DE-LI-CIOUS. I wasn’t even hungry, but when I tasted it….

More twists and turns and many hours later, we finally reached the town of Mestia. It was COLD.  Jessica and I were pretty spent so we took a ‘nap’ while Audrey explored the town. Thankfully they had a heater in the room. The proprietor spoke pretty good English and the hostel was fairly modern. We were pleased. Good Night.

We woke up about noon the next day. By the time we got out of the house is was nearly 1’o’clock.   …oh well.

The town of Mestia blew me away. I was expecting some hard-pressed mountain village. This town was super cute! It approached Metsketa in quaintness. The streets were wide and paved and the shops were well kept. Mestia was a destination in Georgia that I really wanted to see; especially the towers.



Mestia is the administrative town of the Svaneti Region. Preserved by its long isolation, the Upper Svaneti region of the Caucasus is an exceptional example of mountain scenery with medieval-type villages and tower-houses, which were used both as dwellings and as defense posts against the invaders who plagued the region. The characteristic landscape of Upper Svaneti is formed by small villages, dominated by their church towers and situated on the mountain slopes, with a natural environment of gorges and alpine valleys and a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. The most notable feature of the settlements is the abundance of towers, especially in Mestia and the frontier villages, such as Ushguli and Latali. These towers usually have from three to five storeys and the thickness of the walls decreases, giving the towers a slender, tapering profile. Many of the tower-houses have disappeared or are collapsing into ruins. –

I have since learned that that is where the saying comes from, “My home is my castle. The Georgian word for the Svaneti tower is ‘castle’. Every house had one, and during invasions, they would seek safety in them.

Kubdari Katchapuri

Kubdari Katchapuri

We stopped into a restaurant to get some lunch and of course ordered more Kubdari katchapuri and other Georgian dishes. Then we were FINALLY ready to see what Mestia was all about.


First off, this place is breathtakingly beautiful. We came just at peak leaf turning season where the leaves seem as they are on fire with color. The weather was brisk but sunny. Perfect for hiking. I had heard that there was a common trail to hike up above the town to a cross. But once I spotted it and showed it to the girls, it didn’t look so fun. Plus, the proprietor of the hostel told us about a cable car to a café with a great view so we decided to do that instead.

We walked up the road in the direction we thought the cable car was on. And we walked…and walked… and walked.  I was just about to start considering having a conversation about turning back, when finally and thankfully a car stopped and asked if we wanted a ride. They were Israeli! (See Post: In Which Sanchezi Goes Horseback Riding or Erin’s Birthday Weekend Part III)  We hoped in and were whisked to the cable car.

After paying 3 Lari, we ascended to what seemed the top of the world. I was unaware that Mestia had a ski park! At the top, we noticed people were on the deck having a good time.  …I’m in!


Music was playing people were drinking and having a great time. I couldn’t figure out the social dynamic at first, but then realized there were two groups of people. The first left soon after we arrived. But the second were members of a conference in Mestia sponsored by the European Union. They were there for ten days to discuss cultural differences. They were from all over Europe; Albania, Lithuania, Armenia, Italy, Poland, etc. They were super fun!



As the sun descended, we all decided to leave and meet later on in town.

(This part is omitted and will be revealed in the next post.)

We were super tired again. We had dinner at the same restaurant as earlier with a new policeman friend. He had an interesting story. He was in training for boxing. He was a criminal detective (if I heard him right) and was trained in North Carolina, what I assume was Fort Bragg. But he was not allowed to leave the base for security reasons. When he did leave to LA and NYC, they were flown out and back. Nice guy.

We went to bed only to get up again at 5 to catch the marshrutka back to Zugdidi, then home to Oz.


Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.
West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home, country roads.
Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.
West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home, country roads

Take Me Home, Country Roads, John Denver

Batumi, Batumi, Batumi

This weekend was an extended one. And a doozy at that.

Jessica, a Peace Corp friend in Oz, had a visitor come from London- Audrey (originally from France). The first leg of their excursion was Batumi and Mestia.

The fabulous Audrey

The fabulous Audrey

I had never been to Mestia, and really wanted to go. And I needed to expand my circle of exPat friends. This was a perfect opportunity to get to know some more Peace Corp people.

Friday afterschool, I headed down to Batumi. Jessica and her friend Audrey where already there, so I met them at a pretty well know café in Batumi, Press Café. Press Café was started by a former Peace Corp member. The premise was to hire Georgians and assist them in their English skills and service hospitality skills so they can move up in their careers.

There I not only met Audrey, but another Peace Corp volunteer, Kirk, as well. We hung out for a while, and then eventually started walking around Batumi looking for a cool hookah bar. We went down to the pier first, then ended up in the Turkish district. Because Turkey is so close, they have a great thriving district of cafés, restaurants, and hotels. We walked past a hotel with a hookah sign on the front. So we were escorted in and up to the fifth floor. Here there was a restaurant with a beautiful view of the sea on one side the city on the other. And the hookah was delicious!

On a side note, on the way to find the hookah bar, we came across a carnival bungee thing. I always wanted to do back and front flips like the gymnasts. so here was my chance!  …It’s harder than it looks.


Then we went home and started drinking some more. The beautiful thing about hostels are the random people you meet. That night we met some Ukrainians there on holiday from University. After they went to bed, had a minor dance party, then bed.

The next day, we found out that our hostel was inundated with new TLG members. So many that they didn’t even know they were all coming!  It was exciting to see all of the newbies. But part of me was thinking, “Were we like that?” I was sitting in the kitchen the next morning and one of them passed by and asked, “Are you Georgian Chronicles?”  I said I was a member of it, but couldn’t claim credit for it (because I heard GEORGIAN WANDERS- which is a Facebook group here in Georgia that the exPats are a part of).  After her looking confused and me rethinking what she REALLY said, I said, “Yes… YES! I AM!!!”  She said that she was reading my blog before she came to Georgia. I was (and am) so humbled and honored. People other than my friends who love me—because they have to—read me!

The second day in Batumi, we were met by a relative of Jessica’s host family, Etuna. Etuna was fabulous. She spoke English and French. She worked as a journalist in Batumi. And she offered to show us around the city. Our first stop was a great restaurant that we would have never found. Then to a swank hangout to people watch. Next to the Sea so Aubrey could take a dip.


Jessica, Etuna, me.

That night, we found a great little upscale coffee shop. Although they didn’t have anything I wanted, the things they did have were gourmet quality.

Next, we went searching for a Karaoke Bar. And on the very next block, as luck would have it, we found a sign for Karaoke! My friend, Vaughn, and I went to investigate. As with most Georgian entertainment establishments, this one was empty of patrons. It was on the 4th floor of a hotel, but it was indeed a karaoke bar. So we went to get the troops (Etuna peaced out),  and descended upon this bar. But….

They then tell us that the DJ didn’t get there until 10 (an hour later). And we had to buy at least $50 dollars in drinks. FIFTY DOLLARS!!??!!!  Surely they were misunderstood. But, no. 50 bucks. My friends didn’t even wait to listen to the rest of the story, they were gone. I didn’t understand, 50 dollars? Would we get it back? No.  …Okay.   Bye.

We made it back to the hostel intending to just relax and drink the night away, but the TLGers were primin to go out. So we, and some more Peace Corps, joined them to go to a dance club. We started off walking following a Georgian. And we walked… and walked… and walked.  We walked in a big circle and my crew couldn’t take it anymore. So we broke off and went to a German restaurant to drink and regroup.

After we relaxed a bit, we decided to go find our own dance club, which we easily did. The cover was… well, there was a cover charge for dudes, which I didn’t mind paying. I wanted to dance. I didn’t care if no one else followed. But the rest of the boys encountered the dilemma all American boys face when confronted with a cover charge to a club and they are unsure if they want to dance, “Is it worth it?”  They thought not. So in the end it was my original friends and the other Peace Corp volunteers. We had the best time!

The next morning we packed up early to catch the marshrutka to Mestia!



Shine bright like a diamond
Shine bright like a diamond

Find light in the beautiful sea
I choose to be happy
You and I, you and I
We’re like diamonds in the sky

Diamonds, Rihanna

Brave New World

When I was young, I LOVED watching television. Still do. Now because of technology, I prefer to binge on a show and watch all the episodes at once. Back when I was young I memorized when shows would come on and which channel. I would sing the theme songs along with the television. A habit that annoyed my mother to the point where she started limiting my television time. I HATED that. What was the harm?

Georgia is a very social culture. There have been countless times when I would see a pair up to five men sitting at the bus stop just talking; not intending to get on a marshrutka… just talking. so many times I have seen old ladies surrounding a table in the front yard gossiping away. This is a historically social culture. That might derive from it’s recent past of not having electricity for a stretch of years, forcing it to be so, but social non the less.

In my last host home, that trend was shattered by the purchase of a large flat screen television. It was on 24/7. At night, when I would come down for dinner (or tea, as they call it) I would be barely noticed by the family, and sometimes friends, who were glued to the television. There was little to no social interaction with other family members and/ or neighbors. It was kind of sad to witness the transition so dramatically.

At my new host home, they watch television but it’s not as ever present as the last home. But there is different alien in the home.

At the end of summer, they acquired Internet and wi-fi. Georgi, through academic prowess has been awarded a laptop. Or better to say, was ‘promised’ a laptop. In anticipation of that gift, and my asking if they had it, they went ahead and got it.

What that did was to allow Georgi to connect his smartphone to a much larger world via wi-fi. Hence, he is constantly on his phone. It really doesn’t faze me probably because I was in that environment with my friends and former students back in the States.  But the parents are CONSTANTLY on him to put his phone down. I think they are embarrassed by it because of the sideways glances they give to me. But I could care less. It’s a culture that I am used to and unfortunately one that the parental Georgians will have to get used to as well.


Video killed the radio star
Video killed the radio star
Pictures came and broke your heart,
we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far

Video Killed The Radio Star, The Presidents of the United States