Mac ‘n Cheese

We went to the supermarket called Goodwill. It usually has the most variety of things one needs to cook. I knew I wanted to cook macaroni and cheese. My other friends traditionally did not have mac ‘n cheese on Thanksgiving. Which is beyond my understanding and comprehension. No mac ‘n cheese on Thanksgiving? What!?! Well, I was going to fix that.

Fortunately for them, I had perfected my recipe before coming to Georgia. But unfortunately, Georgia does not have all the supplies I need.

And since Turkey is VERY expensive here, we decided to substitute with chicken. The only chickens they had was frozen or cooked. It would have taken forever to thaw, so I begrudgingly bought the cooked chicken. So, I also made chicken and dumplings. We had those dishes and green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, garlic bread, and pumpkin pie.

We spent almost an hour in Goodwill trying to decipher the Russian products looking for baking powder, chicken broth, etc.

A tradition of cooking for Turkey Day is to taste the products. When my friends nibbled on the chicken, it they said it tasted a lot like ham. And when I tasted it, sure enough… it tasted JUST like ham!  We were baffled and confused all through the meal. Why does it taste like ham? Maybe it’s not chicken…. what other fowl tastes like ham?

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Being away from home at such times is difficult for all of us. But being together, sharing a custom that we all know so profoundly was emotional and comforting.

I am thankful for all of my friends and family all over the world.

***

You better watch out 
You better not cry 
You better not pout 
I’m telling you why 
Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

 

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Petra Fortress

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On the way to Batumi from Ureki, the driver stopped off at an old fortress that I had always wanted to visit. It is right off the road going to Batumi, but I had always been in a public marsh and didn’t want to risk waiting for another one to pass by…. although marshes to Batumi go by probably every minute.

Petra Fortress was built on a hill overlooking the Black Sea, by the Greeks around 500 AD.

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***

Oh, should my people fall
Then surely I’ll do the same
Confined in mountain halls
We got too close to the flame

I See Fire, Ed Sheeran

 

 

Training Day

TLG usually tries to have a training workshop sometime during the year. This training is for all of the native English speakers and their Georgian counterparts to get help on co-teaching and better methodologies. I think it’s a great idea, because the Georgian teachers need a lot of help with new ways to teach English to their students. I think it’s a bit much for the Native English speakers because most of them (us) do not have a background in education and the information they receive will not be returned to the classroom for long, because most volunteers leave after a semester. I use the trainings to see my friends again, and this training to be able to meet the new volunteers.

In the past, we had trainings in the east, usually near Tbilisi. But this year, now that I’m living in Tbilisi, the training in the West. It was held at a hotel at Ureki beach, 20 minutes from Ozurgeti.

It was good to see the new people. There were a lot of cool people in the group with interesting stories and great personalities.

The training sessions, for me, were descent. The lead trainer was a lady named Eve. She was working for an organization called Education Fellows. They send trainers all over the world to do what she does. Every time I go to one of these things, I think to myself, “I could do that.” So I talked to her and got some information. She, too, had a cool story of all the places she’s been in the world.

 

Irma

Irma

I was joined at the training by Irma, from my school. She is the most sheltered and bland Georgian woman I know. Bland in that she is afraid to try anything new. She doesn’t leave the house during the week. She leaves on the weekends to simply go to Church and back home. She doesn’t eat fruits, chocolate, or salty foods. If it doesn’t look exactly as it should, she won’t eat it. So to say the least, this was an eye opening experience for her.

Although she still held to most of her dietary restrictions, I think she had a great time meeting new people and doing new things. From her Facebook page, she seems to be having the time of her life.

***

I don’t want no other distractions
There’s too much here to see
Faint hearts or jaded reactions
Contraptions of history

You say it can’t be done
You’d rather die of fun
Get out of the way
For me for you for everyone
Forever is tomorrow is today

Forever is Tomorrow is Today, David Gray

Lights, Camera, Action

I love going to the movies. I’m pretty sure I watch too many. But going to the cinema is a cathartic experience for me. In last two years when I visited Tbilisi, I always pasted the cinema on one of the most trafficked avenues, Rustaveli. But all of the advertisements for the movies are in Georgian or Russian.

Now that I live here, I have since found a theater that plays movies in English!

So yesterday, I went to Amirani theaters to see Hunger Games- Mockingjay Pt. I. I was giddy with anticipation. To make it a total experience, I also got snacks, expensive snacks. Just like America!

The theater was a decent size. But it was a new theatre, so the seats were big and plush. Something different was the assigned seating. I don’t know how I feel about that.

The audience was mostly Georgian with a smattering of ex-Pats. And towards the end, a bunch of Peace Corps came in.

The movie was subtitled in Russian, but after a while the script melted into the background of my mind.

It was a great movie and a great experience. Gave me a comfort of home.

***

Non-Georgian Food

Occasionally I get hungry for non-Georgian food. There are some very deceptive advertisements here. Walking past a restaurant, I am always fooled by the pictures of  hamburgers or a hotdogs in the window. I stop and think for a long second, “This is not real. They don’t REALLY make hamburgers in there…. do they? Maybe they do. I’ll go see.” Or, “They don’t REALLY have milk shakes in there….. do they? They can’t. I’ll go see.” And I am ALWAYS disappointed.

There are benefits to living in the capital of Tbilisi. One of which, there are the non-Georgian restaurants here. They don’t have THAT many restaurants, but they have enough to be diverse. There are Thai, Indian, Chinese, Sushi and Italian restaurants.

I did some research with the ex-Pat community and decided to go to what is considered one of the best Italian restaurants- Pomodorissimo Cafe. I am fortunate to live in the part of the city where most of the non-Georgian restaurants are located.

Walking in, you get feel of an authentic Italian place. And I was also lured to thinking that since this is not a Georgian restaurant, the service will also be non typical of Georgian service. More on that later.

There were a few families seated already, but it had an upstairs, too. Upstairs was fairly packed. Looking at the menu, it was clear that this was an Italian Steak house. Walking up the stairs, I saw they had a brick oven for the pizzas and an open kitchen full of fresh ingredients.

On the menu to my delight, were several pages of tasty sounding dishes. We started with the bruschetta and it was indeed delicious! I ordered a pesto penne dish (which they ran out of pesto), but had to settle for a meat penne dish. The penne was cooked a little too long, but not bad. My friend ordered a cream sauce linguine dish. It needed salt, but was still tasty without. All in all it was indeed a good restaurant.

But the service was typical Georgian. Servers nowhere to be found. Not anticipating the needs of the customers. For example, when I asked for water, they brought exactly one glass of water. They didn’t ask if my friend wanted one or didn’t just bring them one anyway. I wanted another glass of Coke, but she never came back around. I tried to not let those things bother me as I usually let it slide with patience, but being in a non-Georgian themed place, it only amplified the problem.

All in all though it was a great experience.

Now I want Indian…

***

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That’s amore
When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine
That’s amore

That’s Amore, Dean Martin

 

Sameba Cathedral

Sameba Cathedral

Sameba Cathedral

Some Georgian friends took me on a walk in a section of Tbilisi called Avlabari. Avlabari is where Sameba Cathedral is located. I had gone to the cathedral before, but I didn’t know it contained other hidden gems. This time I was shown the side chapels and also we went down under the main church. The church descended down two more levels. And on each level there was a big church. Not as big as the main cathedral of course, but still bigger than other stand alone churches.

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I got to thinking while walking through the cathedral, not only how big it was but also how new it was…brand spanking new. It was new, but it also was built the same as churches of old. Which means the look was exactly the same as hundreds of years ago when they, too, were new. Polished granite and marble, walls and grout smooth to the touch. Imagining such a grand structure in the Middle Ages changes my perspective.

Church of the Transfiguration

Church of the Transfiguration

Along with that thought, we next went to a nunnery, Church of the Transfiguration, located nearby. The nunnery was built in the middle ages, but the frescos were bleached out. They are now restoring the paintings to their full luster. Seeing these paintings as they were, must have been a truly spiritual experience.

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At the same nunnery was a restored part of an old castle where the Queen’s quarter’s used to be. Satchino Palace was a summer residence of Queen Darejan, the wife of the Georgian King Erekle II (1720-1798).

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***

“Here is the church, and here is the steeple;
Open the door and here are the people.”

 

Skool Daze

I was asked a while ago by a cousin of one of my students from Oz, if I could come and speak to her University class. Yes Please!!!

We finally got the timing right and I went in to speak this past Friday. The school was Ilia State University and the class was a tourism class.

Initially she had asked me to prepare some visuals. But the night before she said it was fine to just speak.

I had been curious about the facilities of universities in Georgia. They don’t usually have a campus, as one would see in a U.S. university. The building are somewhat grouped together in the same vicinity. There are no dorms or housing facilities for the students. They have to provide their own housing which for most people, is a huge problem do to cost involved. Unless you know a relative who lives in Tbilisi that you can stay with, you probably couldn’t afford to attend school.

I also think that there is a cultural aspect to the housing situation, too. I think the idea of having females living alone in close proximity to boys is too scandalous a proposition for Georgian society.

There was another speaker from India who went before me. He spoke for a LONG time and i thought there wasn’t going to be time for me, but it was a 2 hour class.

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I spoke on my take of tourism as an American in Georgia. I think I did pretty well!

***

The medieval university looked backwards; it professed to be a storehouse of old knowledge. The modern university looks forward, and is a factory of new knowledge. – Thomas H. Huxley