Tuesday, October 25

Culture shock?

It's funny, I thought I'd be going through culture shock already.

But things are happening to make me feel right at home.  Or, more accurately, right-where-I-am-which-is-lack-of-home.
Not that being home for a month wasn't a Good Thing.  Naturally it was great to see my parents and sister and some friends again.  Naturally, it was GREAT (!!) to be able to shop at a grocery store and be able to make wraps and scones and mujadara and chive butter and broccoli 'n' cheese and brownies with writing on 'em-- whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, without fear of taking over kitchen time from someone else.

And then there was the buying my first car ever (meh.) and driving across the country by myself.
Cool parts of the road trip:
-belting along to various songs
-stopping in Sandwich, Illinois
-cool countryside on the backroads
-getting Indian food in Toledo and putting together an Oreos puzzle with Cara at her grandparents' cottage

-getting lost in Illinois
-getting lost in Ohio
-getting lost in Gambrills (like 15 minutes away from my new home)

So, basically, if there is a way for me to get lost, I'll find it.  Which, by the way, continues to this day, but that's fodder for another post.

The main thing making me feel right back where I was--aside from working and working and not having anything to show for it--is our wonderful recurring houseguests.  Ctenocephalides felix.  Aka, the cat flea.  I've documented the ordeal on Twitter as a Pokemon battle.  Excepts include:

CTENOCEPHALIDES FELIX appeared! Ender, GO! Enemy C.FELIX used BITE! It's super effective! Ender used SCRATCH! It didn't affect Enemy C.FELIX

Mary joined the battle! Mary used TOXIC on Ender, Babushka, and Sami! Enemy CTENOCEPHALIDES FELIX is Poisoned!

Vacuum, GO! Mary used FLEA COLLAR on Vacuum. Vacuum's ATTACK increased! Vacuum used ABSORB on CTENOCEPHALIDES FELIX. Critical Hit!
So, raise your hand if you thought the insect infestations wouldn't be a prominent part of your lives anymore when you got back to a first-world country?
And it certainly doesn't help that I'm at home three to four days out of seven.  Come on, I will work to my nerves if you'd just hire me... 

You can view my resume here.  If you like what you see, or know of any job opportunities you think I may be interested in, please contact me using contact info listed on the CV.  Thank you so much!

Thursday, September 1

Everything happens twice: Hiking and goodbyes.

SURPRISE!!!! Whoops, did I skeeer ya? Bet you weren't actually expecting to hear from me again, ever. Truth to be told, I'm no longer in the land of the Kartveli, but I am forever a White Crow, whether I like it or not. More on that later.
I never actually covered the trip to Svaneti, other than a meager post on Stalkernet with an urge for you to Wikipedia the place to see how beautiful it is. Now you can do the same, but with pictures from yours truly!
I'm also thinking about making this a more regular thing, although as I transition, I should probably create a new blog, and maybe even try to make a living blogging and choose a focus that will actually be interesting to a wide variety of people, not related to me.
But there's still some unfinished business from Georgia coupled with all my culture shock. So, instead of doing things purely chronologically (numbers are my wolfsbane [or, you know, this], and time's wicked hours are no exception), I'll completely ignore my post-service jaunt in the UAE and Thailand with the lovely Cara Bragg and do a rundown on my thoughts on two things: hiking and saying goodbyes.

Hiking/traveling in general.

Mestia, Svaneti vs. St. Mary, Glacier National Park, MT
  • Things don't always turn out as you plan them. Helicopter flights can be postponed and cancelled in a moment's notice, and the cheap, long way home may turn out to be the more reliable one.
  • Certain old Megrelian women need to learn a) what a line/queue is, b) what people standing in front of her look like, and c) how not to mouth off to people when questioned about their blatant disregard for both a) and b).
  • My dad is not the conversationalist on topics of my/PCV and guests' interests such as how cool glaciers look, stressing about landing a job, what love means, or bowel movements, but I did learn about how polyethelyne is made and what his favorite car he ever owned is (and how to revive failing pistons). The man also hiked 10 hours with me on 13+ miles of trail, over trees and glaciers and shit (literally-- there was bear scat). Not only did he keep up, he hiked about 3/4 of the way back with a toe the color of Barney blushing and a blister the size of South Dakota. He deserves heaps of street cred. Props to my pa.
  • Hiking up to and on glaciers is sweet. It's a lot easier with proper gear. (Thanks, online shopping. But, by the same token, it's hard not to feel like a dork-in-snob's-clothing when you're wearing something with THE NORTH FACE promulgating its superiority from your chest.
  • 1500 mL of water is not enough to take for oneself, when one's hiking companion has only brought 1/3 that amount. Thanks, Peace Corps issued potable water tablets.
  • Waterfalls are pretty.
  • Even though I didn't grow up doing it, (Iowa?) hiking's rad.
  • I'm going back to Glacier. Look out, Cracker Lake, there's a storm comin'.

Saying goodbyes

  • -Easier when you just don't let thoughts like, "I'll probably never see you again, and if I do it won't be the same," creep in.
  • That said, leaving my host family was probably the hardest thing I've done. Some waterfalls are pretty, some are disconsolately sad.
  • Drinking large quantities of alcohol and toasting one another can bring "closure", but it can also be dangerous territory for emotions of all kinds.
  • When you have time to prepare for goodbyes, you have to deal with the whole impending thing for weeks/months where people get all passive aggressive toward one another to make parting easier, even though it's a dumb solution. When goodbye's unexpected, you have to deal with the whole pain-like-a-battle-axe-hack-at-your-heart thing.
  • Goodbyes hurt.
  • If all else fails, take my bidzashvilishvili (first-cousin-once-removed) Paul's lead: Hug the people you think are nice, but refuse to speak to or look at the person you think is coolest in the hour of parting. Remember, if you don't say goodbye, they don't leave.

Bonus!  Blathering philosophical metaphor about life!!!!!!!!11111!!

The time, love, memories, life I've shared with those I met in Georgia can't be undone-- until I become senile or get hypnotherapy, of course. Part of them lives in me, and I live in part of them. It's like if I had been living in the same, clay-ridden soil my whole life, and I shoveled my sprouts into a pot and took them to Georgia, and the people I met had other things-- good peat moss, exotic sand used to growing different types of plants, apathetic rocks, and smelly but kinda useful manure, and it got all mixed up in my little mound. Some of them threw some seeds in there that I'd never seen before, some of them showed me alternative sources of light, some treated me more like a chamber pot. I tried my best to cultivate love, but sometimes I was just too tired and sick of the the scratchy plants and the sun beating down on me.

I know I need to get back to tending my little bit of earth, though. The time I spent in Georgia will nourish me in the future in ways I can't see, and most of all, I hope desperately that I've done something that's mattered, that's good to other people's garden's, too. I just hope it don't get raked away or burned up.

Thursday, July 7

CS, FRIDAY, and The Three Adventurers: Kutaisi Edition

These past few weeks have been an odd dichotomy of surprisingly enjoyable and mind-numbingly dull. School's end was anticlimactic, as expected. Students trickled out day by day, and the last actual day of school was nothing special. There really isn't a bad thing strong enough to kill the inherent joy of the End of School, but there is one to dull it a bit: exams. Students and teachers alike were freaking out about preparing for the exams, so this year wasn't as joyful as most. Ah, well.

Last week, I had the joy of hosting a wicked awesome Couch Surfer. I'm sure my host fam's had it with me having people spend the night, even though it's not like they really have to dig into my allowance to feed them once and wash their sheets. Whatever. He was a cool guy from Germany, just out of high school, who's been teaching German in Tbilisi for a year with the German equivalent of Peace Corps. We took a walk with Ana to Tsminda Giorgi church (my new running path every morning, btws) and I learned fun and interesting German words such as Schlagbaum and Glühwürmchen.

I went in to Tbilisi on Friday for some last few medical check ups. Apparently I didn't sit on enough concrete these past to years to make my ovaries fall out, because everything works just fine. I also introduced TaChalla to her newest craze.

Then, Saturday was the long-awaited (and multiple times delayed) Race for the Cure. SUPER PUMPED doesn't describe how I felt when my weeks of pointed preparation (on my new running path toward Tsminda Giorgi church, a good hour jaunt up and down the mountains) came to its culmination. I played Frogger with the less critically thinking Georgians who were walking in both directions during the race, I sprinted in attempt to return some dude's fallen number, and I had no idea how many laps we were supposed to actually run. Word on the street was 4; I was told to stop, but others with me were still running, so after a confused bout of walking, I ran and caught back up to Katrina. I had already expended most of my energy pushing it up the hill for what I thought was the final lap, so I was exhausted and dourly thought I'd never make it. Katrina (famous for her multiple broken feet/leg problems because she runs so much and lacks a proper diet here) picked my spirits off the pedestrian trodden, sweat laden ground with a "You're fine, you can finish." Without her, I don't think I would have as strongly as I did. (Which was not stellar, but still) <3

After Race for the Cure, we chilled in Tbilisi for the night. Mostly it involved me worrying (somewhat) unnecessarily about job stuff. At dinner I asked, halfheartedly, if anyone was planning on going to Svaneti, and, lo and behold, Lang was going to go with his family! Some other people were tagging along, too, so the next day we bought train tickets and Krisanne, TaChalla and I headed out to Kutaisi in search of dinosaur footprints.

We found much more. These are our stories.

Day 1: Nice place, people don't know directions worth a kopeki.

We arrived at about 3 PM. We took a cab up to our hostel because we had no idea where it was and didn't feel like walking aimlessly around the city-- er, big town-- with all our stuff. We then decided to try and make it to Sataplia, where these dinosaur footprints allegedly reside.

If you want to skip the following two paragraphs, here's a summary:
Total location changes before we got on the marsh to Sataplia: 6

The people at the hostel told us one place. We went there, asked a marsh driver, he told us another place, we went there, waited, went to the tourist info place across the street, who told us some other place (and TIMES). So, we went where the tourist people told us (which turned out to be around the corner from the first place). But we had about 40 minutes to kill, and TaChalla was in dire need of a beer. We thought we'd find a restaurant to go to after we got back from Sataplia, so we asked a random Georgian man sitting outside a beer bar (good idea, right?). He pointed to some restaurant which some English-speaking Georgian dude immediately condemned as awful.
"I know restaurants," he said. "What kind of restaurant you want? A good one?"
We looked at each other.
"Well, I don't want a bad one," TaChalla said.
But we didn't have time for his shenanigans, so we just went into the sketchiest nearby Ludis Bari (what most Georgian bars are named; "Beer Bar") and fueled up for the trip.

We sat down where the marsh should be, was told we were in the wrong spot by some girl, so went to another spot, where someone told us to go back to where the girl told us to go somewhere else.

Sataplia was actually pretty cool.  The only thing it was missing was a clearly marked entrance to the building with the prints.  Also the Jurassic Park theme song.  We took a tour of the cave, guided (against our will... but we met Dennis.  Long story.), and thus missed the last marshutka back to Kutaisi.  TaChalla attempted to befriend some Israeli tourists while Krisanne and I got acquainted with a huge friggin' mountain bee-- imagine my thumb with wings and a deadly stinger. (Sataplia = "place of honey".. so there's mountain bees.)  When the Israeli tourists refused us a ride, we began the 7 K walk back to Kutaisi.  About halfway down, TaChalla persuaded some guy and his girlfriend to take us back to the city, and they invited us for dinner at a brewery.  Much awkward conversation ensued, and we finally parted ways and walked around Kutaisi for a bit, marveling at the streets downtown that don't resemble a Georgian street in the slightest.  Later, because all roads lead to McDonald's (signs throughout the city), we made a pilgrimage there for some McPlurries and McSheikis.  We put up with some Georgian sass inside (GOD I miss LINES!) and out ("Hey, Blackie, are you a boy or a girl?").  Exhausted, we marshed it back and fell into our beds, not before acquainting ourselves with our Polish roommate.

Kutaisi's final grade today: C+


Today we decided to go all touristy and visit a museum and some churches.  The museum was probably the coolest museum I've seen in Georgia (not a very large comparison chart, here, though), though it was lacking some proper labels.  Fair enough.  Then we killed some time in a pretty chill park before catching our marsh to Gelati (a church), after which we planned to hike down to Motsameta (another church).  We payed our respects to Georgian Historical Figure David the Builder (by NOT standing on his grave and taking pictures, like some Georgians there [edit: apparently, DtB wished that people would "stand on his heart" and wrote some poem about it. So that's all apparently cool with him.]) and asked some friendly priests where the legendary hiking trail down the mountain was located.  "Don't try.  You'll get lost.  You need a guide to help you down it," they said.  So we took our leave and searched on our own.  We hiked for about an hour, and when we met up with some cows that didn't look too happy to see us, we decided to just go back up and catch the marshutka to Kutaisi proper.

After a small reprieve at the hostel, we decided to venture up the funicular to check out the Ferris wheel we saw from afar.  We discovered not only a Ferris wheel, but a WHOLE (nearly) LEGIT THEMEPARK, complete with a "DROP ZONE" (!!!!!), over which Krisanne and I totally prevailed.  Pictures to come.

We rounded out the day of celebrating America by going back to the brewery and having some Freedom Beer.  (Yeah, yeah, I drank some beer.  It was "black".  Josh, you and I may be sharing some lagers when I get back.)  And, finally, our day ended sweetly by munching on some cake at the hostel.  Where did we get cake?  We bought it at a place near the park.  How did the cake get to the hostel?  I carried it up the hill.  In a box the size of a pizza box.  Sans lid.  Yeah, freedom ain't free, and neither is enjoying cake in celebration of it.

Kutaisi's final grade: B.  Try to not be so racist next time, dudes.