Monday, September 13, 2010

Kids (and host moms) say the darndest things...

Two days ago, my host mom and sister took me to Ajara for the day. Ajara is the coastal region of Georgia with lots of different beaches and tourist attractions. My family insisted that we go to Sarpi, the southernmost beach in all of Ajara; a beach that is shared by both Georgia and Turkey. You could literally see the Turkish flag waving just a few hundred feet from where we were sitting. My deda (mom) even told me to be careful walking the beach, so that I don’t walk onto Turkish territory. So crazy!

Nini and me at Sarpi. Behind us is Turkey!

While sunbathing on the rocky beach, Nini got very excited that there was a black man sitting just in front of us. She told me that I could speak English with him and encouraged me to go talk him. I said to Nini, “How do you know he speaks English?” and she looked at me and said, “He is black! All black men talk in English. Black men is very, very smart”. She proceeded to enthusiastically exclaim how much she loves black men, and talk about how smart all black people are. At this point I think the man (who indeed did know English) became well aware of our conversation and pretended to ignore us. Little snippets like this make it so interesting to travel the world and hear about different perceptions on things. All the black people Nini has been exposed to, whether in the media or in real life, have been English speakers or simply successful. I found it ironically refreshing to see such a positive stereotype exists in the mind of my sister. Her friends also have a similar viewpoint on black people, they all were jealous that I had black friends and a black president and looked at me in awe when I explained that when you walk down the street in New York City people of all different races, religions and ethnicities walk side by side.

In Batumi with my host family!

Another interesting conversation that I had with my family was when I explained to them that I was Jewish. One of my deda’s dental patients was asking me all about my family and why my parents left Moscow and it just sort of slipped out. My deda didn’t say anything so for some reason I took that as a bad sign. Little did I know, my deda then went around town asking everyone where there is a good synagogue nearby so I can go to some services. Like seriously, how kind is my family! She even told me that she is not going to cook ghori (pork) anymore because she knows I can’t eat it due to Jewish dietary laws.

Interestingly, while my neighbor was over he was telling me that there is even a synagogue within walking distance! I think he was saying that there used to be somewhat of a large Jewish population in the nearby village of Kulashi but that around twenty years ago most of the Jews went to Israel. In all honesty though, this neighbor has a really weird accent and I can’t understand about 80% of what he says. It kind of sounds like he is gurgling mouthwash while trying to sing in Arabic. But gurgling-singing aside, I’m excited to go exploring in this village!

Turning over to the environmental leaf, today while Melissa was over for lunch we asked Nini, Koko (Melissa’s 12-year-old host brother) and my little neighbor (I forgot his name so we’ll just call him Archie) if they recycle. Recycling? They’d never heard of it. All the bottles and cans in town are just thrown out in the trash. I really want to come up with an idea to get all kids in Samtredia to recycle. It’s improbable that someone would pick up any bottles we collect, but it would be nice to make something practical out of the plastic bottles instead of just throwing them away. It would be easy to make planters or decorations but I really want to come up with a school-wide idea that would make all kids want to collect bottles at home and bring them to school.

Not to get negative, but there’s been a few instances in the past couple days when I’ve second-guessed whether or not I made a bad decision to come here. Sometimes it just gets really frustrating to not be able to communicate what I want to say and not understand even the simplest Georgian phrase that someone says to me. It’s daunting to imagine I’ll be living in Samtredia for an entire year. Having Melissa here has been a godsend though. It’s been easier to transition from life in the United States to life in Georgia because she’s here with me, experiencing something similar. Although funnily enough, Melissa’s family gives her too much space and my family gives me no space at all. Nini adores me so much that I half expect her to crawl into bed with me at night. I tried to explain to her that I need alone time to rest and she understood that to mean that every ten minutes it’s okay if she comes over to tell me something. It seems silly though to complain that someone loves me too much and most likely once Nini starts school she’ll lose interest in me and find a boy to obsess over.

While on the subject of men (well kind of) my host mom asked me if I want to get married in Georgia or in New York. I told her I don’t want to get married in Georgia so she shouldn’t even look for a match for me. She seemed a bit disappointed but agreed she would not find me a husband. She additionally made me promise though that if I fall in love with someone I will consider moving to Georgia forever and making her the godmother of my babies. To clarify- I’ve been here three days and she already wants to be responsible for my metaphorical children.

Sunset in Batumi


  1. hahaha :D That is so Georgian that she wants to find a husband for you :D

    But don't worry, it's just the sign that she really likes you :D don't take it too serious :D

  2. Agree with Saba, don't take everything they say seriously, they are just trying to be nice (and that's what they consider nice). You might find pretty soon, people in Georgia, and especially in western Georgia, don't mean a lot of things they actually say :)