I already feel like I’ve been living in Georgia for at least a week. I’m spitting out greetings in Georgian left and right, albeit sometimes not exactly perfect, but the Georgians seem to appreciate the effort and find it endearing. (One of the cleaning ladies I was trying (key word) to have a chat with even grabbed my cheeks as if I was some adorable five-year-old).
|Outskirts of Tbilisi|
It has definitely been quite the advantage that I have some Russian proficiency. When I went out in Tbilisi with a few friends of mine, our cab driver spoke Russian and even gave us a free tour of the area. I translated as best as I could to my friends and when I didn’t understand something we all just went, “ooohhh” and “aaahhh” as if we were told some magical tale (which seemed to please our driver). He did tell me that the President of Georgia was killed that morning (which is not true) so I can’t imagine how factual the tour actually was. One of the TLG team leaders, Nino, told us that Georgians will often fabricate an event just so it’s more interesting. How fun, right? It’s as if storytelling is a huge part of Georgian culture!
From what I’ve seen of Tbilisi so far, I can definitely say it’s a beautiful city. There are lots of interesting statues everywhere, and a lot of the buildings have really unique architecture. We walked down Rustavelli, one of the main shopping streets and saw lots of luxury stores like Swarovski and Cartier which is something I suppose I didn’t expect to see. One thing I found interesting was that the McDonalds in Tbilisi didn’t have a drive-thru window but it did have a walk-thru window. Almost like the McDonalds was a little bodega shop.
|A theater on Rustavelli street.|
|Forget the drive-thru, they only have walk-thrus in Georgia|
While we were walking around Tbilisi we found this sweet little park not too far from Rustavelli with a few park benches and an old statue. Well, while we were sitting and chatting of course these three Georgian men walked on over as if they were on mission. One of the girls I was with, Ilana, speaks Czech so I tried to say to her “speak in Czech” so we wouldn’t be able to talk to them and they’d walk away. However I made the mistake of saying “speak Czech” in Russian. Goodness did I open up a can of worms. So there I went translating from Russian to English and back again, trying to be polite but insinuating that we had to leave. No, Georgian men do not understand, “We need to leave” apparently there is always time for coffee. Finally after lying and saying that I had no phone, forgot what hotel I was at and that I never drink coffee with boys I meet in parks they slowly began to take a hint. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if they were making fun of my Russian or if they were simply amused by it, but I have to say, as creepy as they were they did help me with my conversational Russian! So, spasiba (thank you) creepy park boys.
On a more cosmopolitan note, this morning all ninety two of us TLG people went to a press conference at the Ministry of Education and Science in Georgia. I sat in the front row and got to be on Georgian TV and I also got some great pictures of the Minister. He told us how excited he was for us to be here and that he knows we’ll all make a huge contribution to the Georgian education system. The curious person that I am, I snooped around the building (not sure if you can do that, but hey, how often are you a guest at the Ministry of Ed?) and I found this great podium that must be used for other types of press conferences. I definitely had to take a photo of myself eating my nametag at the podium, much like President Saakashvili eating his own tie during a press conference in 2008.
|Me and my friend Emily at the Ministy of Education and Science|
A Video of the Press Conference (Look for me! I'm in the front row!)
After the conference, all 92 of us we went to a beautiful restaurant in Mtskava, this quaint little town outside Tbilisi. The restaurant we ate at was right on the water and so beautiful. Oh and the food could not have been more delicious. Tons of different potato and mushroom salads, khachapuri, fresh squeezed juices, delicious veggies and fruits- and these were just the appetizers! It is easy to eat like a queen when you are in Georgia. (Oh and the wine? You have not tried wine until you’ve tasted Georgian wine).
|A few appetizers from our lunch in Mtskava|
|A train station by the restaurant|
Currently though, I am in Kutaisi. We just arrived here a few hours ago (I slept on Melissa for the entire four hour bus ride; she’s such a good friend she even let me drool on her t-shirt) so I’ll give a nice report on the area once I do a bit of exploring. We’re going to be here for about a week taking classes in Georgian language, teaching methodology, and cross-cultural awareness. I’m excited for all this! I just hope I won’t get cabin fever (we’re sleeping in dorms in the same building all our meals and classes are in). Speaking of class in the morning, I should possibly get some sleep. Those few hours sleeping on Melissa didn’t quite do the trick.