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In no certain order…

There are stray dogs all over Georgia. But after a while they, too recede into the background. I have never had a confrontation with one.  They tend to mind their business, and I mind mine.  But walking home from school earlier this week, I met a dog on the street. At first things were cool. He was walking a good pace ahead of me. But I guess he thought I was following him as I closed the distance pretty quick. He turned around several times to check. (Now that I type this, I’m pretty sure he thought I was stalking him.) When I was maybe 8 yards away, he turned around and starts barking (scolding me). As this hasn’t happened in Georgia to me ever, I was startled into immobility. After he set the fear of God into me, he nonchalantly turns and continues on his way. During the few seconds it took me from being scared to death to embarrassed, to very angry, the dog thought it best to put some distance between us again. I looked around for rocks to throw (not to retaliate, but to be prepared for another confrontation). When I had found a few good ones, he had already reached what I assumed was his yard, which also (as we both knew) was a safe zone- or as we called it in childhood “base”- and therefore free from any further skirmishes.  I walked the rest of the way home with a wary eye to all other dogs.

In the middle of the last intersection before my house sat Bingo, my host dog (which sounds funny to title him that way). Him being out of the yard was a rare thing, but he sat there with full confidence and not a care in the world. I said hello to him as I passed. When I reached the gate, I realized that he had followed me home. If you haven’t been reading this blog long term, let me just say that Bingo and I have not had the best relationship. He looked at me expectantly. I looked at him. Then I opened the gate to let him pass through. …not a thank you or nothing.

***

When I got back to school, the teachers and students were sincerely excited to see me and I them. I was smiling so hard, my jaws hurt.  My favorite activity of the day was to stick my head into a classroom and shout, Hello. Recognition would register on their faces and they would all scream like they had just won the lottery…. literally scream. And then come running to the door en masse. At that point (now that they were sufficiently riled up) I would shut the door and continue walking down the hall.  I know, I know. I’m a vain fella.

***

I not only am physically on the other side of the planet from everything I know, I am mentally on the other side of the planet as well. Everything feels like I am in an alternate universe. It’s good to go back to the States occasionally. I need to recharge my batteries, be comfortable for a while and to have things just be convenient. My mindset is totally different there. But there always comes a time when I am ready to get back to Georgia. Usually it is indicated to me when my thoughts are absorbed by thoughts of Georgia. But although I am mentally prepared to return, its always difficult to leave my friends. The reality of ‘leaving’ doesn’t really sink in to me until the airplane’s wheels actually touch down in Georgia. That moment is usually comprised of several sensory inputs. It’s usually 4 in the morning local time. I am groggy from endless hours of travel, nodding in and out of uncomfortable spurts of sleep. It is either misty or cold or both. The screech of the wheels impacting the runway immediately followed by the vacuum sound of the reverse jets always… always jars me awake. And therefore thrusts me into my alternate universe. And with a heavy sigh for transition, I am back in Georgia.

***

The evening of my first day at school, Giorgi calls me downstairs. I was napping from the afternoon lunch. Mildy passed out is a more appropriate description. At lunch my host father either in his excitement for having me back or he was proud of a batch of homemade wine decided to get me tipsy. Anyway, when I came downstairs, there was a gathering of neighbors and a table full of food and wine… again. At first I thought they had come because of me. But I was vainly wrong. The day was a religious day known as Epiphany. On this day the Georgians also visit their godparents. (This might be a common custom in all Orthodox/ non-Protestant Christian faiths, but a first observation for me). I thought it was the nicest thing. Conveniently, Gurami’s goddaughter, Salome lives down the street and the dinner was to honor her. Giorgi’s godparents live in Tbilisi.

***

Pete

Pete

I spent a day in Tbilisi before making the final leg of my journey back to Oz. That night, I met up with some old friends. Pete, from summer camp and Bekki and Sibusisiwe from my TLG orientation group. Bekki is no longer with TLG but works in Tbilisi and Sibusisiwe still works for TLG. Joining us was Jenny, a co worker of Pete and Bekki’s boyfriend. It was really good to catch up with them and access in hindsight how far we all have come and how much we all have learned.

Sibusisiwe and Bekki

Sibusisiwe and Bekki

***

Jet lag sucks. That is all.

***

When I got back, I noticed a bag with a blanket next to my bedside table. Before I left, it was C.O.L.D. And I think my whining got to my host family. Georgians do not make a lot of money comparatively speaking and therefore don’t buy ‘luxury’ items often. But whenever I pay them at the end of each month I notice little things that were purchased.  I guess this was their purchase for December. We all have electric blankets now. And not that I am not grateful because when its cold in Georgia as you try to sleep with no heat, every little bit helps. But what would keep the bone chilling cold at bay better for me would be a space heater. I need the room warmer, not just the bed. To me the difference is huge. But alas, the electric cost of using one is too great a burden. Even using the electric blanket, they instructed me to only turn it on an hour before I go to bed and turn it off once in bed. (I think the turn off thing is to also keep me from burning myself up in my sleep. But the gesture is not lost on me. I now have an electric blanket to warm my toes at night.

***

Holiday Season in Tbilisi

Holiday Season in Tbilisi

***

“It’s time to begin, isn’t it?
I get a little bit bigger but then I’ll admit
I’m just the same as I was
Now don’t you understand
That I’m never changing who I am”

It’s Time, Imagine Dragons

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