Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Greetings from Georgia!

Well I made it to Tbilisi! I’ve only been here for what feels like a few hours and I already have thousands of anecdotes to share. I guess I’ll hop to it and fill everyone in on my adventure thus far.

To be honest, I could write a book based on the plane ride to Munich alone. Melissa and I sat by this very kooky woman named “Lady Jane” who rocked a green and pink sequin skirt with old sneakers. Our plane actually ended up having some engine problems and was delayed for two hours, but Lady Jane enchanted us with her life story for the entire two hours. Yes, the entire two hours (I’ll spare you all the details). The rest of the plane was filled with kids en route to Florence to study abroad, and a very angry crying baby. After an hour or so Melissa and I got bored and began walking around the plane giving out chocolates to nice people. Needless to say, it was quite the entertaining flight and the Lufthansa staff made sure Melissa and I always had a full glass of water. Lesson learned: bribing your flight attendant with candy will get you special treatment.

When we finally landed in Munich, all us Greenheart Travel participants were able to recognize each other (Facebook stalking is actually useful it seems) and set out for the city. Our group (there were six of us) found a free tour of Munich and this young, peppy Scottish man took us all around the city and showed us some interesting sites. We got to see several old, beautiful churches and some important sites of Third Reich history.

I met an Englishman who agreed to let me walk his dog (Byron) around Marienplatz (the old city in Munich).

The best part about Germany was having lunch and beer at the Hofbräuhaus. This is the same restaurant where Hitler revealed the swastika for the first time and the first site where Jews and communists were attacked by the S.S.. As a Jew, it was really powerful to able to eat here and get such friendly service. This might sound strange, but it was strangely meaningful. Plus, all the beer at the Hofbräuhaus is brewed right there and it was absolutely delicious. Plus, our group of six was incredibly eclectic so once the beer kept coming it was uh… a good way to get to know each other. And by eclectic I mean we had a 56-year-old former spy for the CIA, a 28-year-old Canadian who has never traveled outside the U.S., a Mormon from Utah who just graduated from college, a college athlete (who later became my roommate) who spent the past four years in Montana and Melissa and I. It was awesome to all chat and get excited about teaching in Georgia. Plus, it was really cold and rainy in Munich so the two liters of beer that we drank (it’s a miracle we made it back to the airport) kept us nice and warm!

Me, Melissa and Ilana enjoying delicious, German beer at the Hofbräuhaus

Eventually, of course, we did take off for Tbilisi! I was so exhausted I feel asleep before we even took off and woke up just after we landed. (I may be the only person who finds that the more turbulence there is on the plane; the easier it is to sleep). The six of us and about fifteen other Canadians that were also in the TLG program where greeted by two TLG representatives named Data and Maryam at the airport. Despite the fact that it was 4am when we landed, it was exciting to begin to start using my newly learned Georgian. When I greeted Maryam in Georgian her first response was, “Whoa!” (which I’m taking as a good sign).

You can imagine that after traveling for oh, thirty hours, all of us just wanted to shower and sleep and TLG definitely foresaw that. Our orientation doesn’t even begin until Friday. For now, all we’ve been doing is sleeping, meeting the other participants and eating. (My oh my, the food is good!) New participants are arriving until Thursday (there will be 92 of us in total) so every few hours there are new people to meet. Tomorrow I’m going out in Tbilisi for the first time with some new friends that I made today! Should be fun to do some exploring!

But even though I’ve only been in Georgia for uh, fifteen hours, there are still lots of very evident cultural differences. For one thing, smoking indoors is completely acceptable. When we first pulled up to our hotel, a Georgian man who was smoking a cigarette saw me struggling with my chimidani (baggage) and began to carry my huge suitcase to the lobby. He carried the suitcase with one hand, and smoked a cigarette with the other. And then, after dropping off my suitcase he just saw at the couch and continued to smoke. I can't say something like that would not happen in the United States! It's also definitely a plus I lived in Israel because I completely am not fazed by the hotel's cigarette-esque aroma.

Also, it seems completely evident who is Georgian and who is American from the way people dress. I went for a walk outside with my roommate Ilana (Melissa and I are trying to not be cliquey and meet new people) and Melissa (well, clearly we’re still inseparable) and saw how many of the locals were dressed. The young women I saw where wearing long skirts, and cute t-shirts and many of the boys were wearing slacks and colorful polo shirts. Tomorrow the TLG organizers are taking all of us to a supermarket and Goodwill store to shop for any items we forgot at home. Goodwill is actually described by Georgians as a “Georgian WAL-Mart”. The foodie that I am, I'm pretty excited to check out the supermarket.

I wish I could write about the many awesome conversations I’ve had with all the amazing people I’ve met in just the past two days (including a conversation I had in Russian with one of the hotel workers who speaks no English (Mom aren’t you proud?)) but I think this blog would take seven hours to read if I did that. I better quit while I'm ahead.

The view of Tbilisi from Melissa's hotel window (my view is of a generator).


  1. Hi Michelle! This post is fantastic! I was wondering if I could link part of it to the Greenheart Travel blog site? Keep up the great work and have a wonderful time!
    Jill Robinson
    Greenheart Travel

  2. Michelle, I am very proud of you. I hurry home every day after work to see if there are any new entries. Hope you are having the time of your life.

    Enjoy your adventure!

  3. michelle!!!! this is so inspirational to read. I love hearing all the details and I'm SO glad you're finding time (and internet might I add) to blog! Keep up the good work! Miss you!

  4. Jill- I'd love to be a part of the Greenheart Travel blog! Feel free to post whatever you'd like!

    Mom- Everything has been amazing! Love and miss you!

    Manda- I'm so glad you like it! I'm taking advantage of the internet while I have it! Miss you too!