Friday, August 27, 2010

More Spare Thoughts...

It rained all of last night and into the morning, so I had a ton of free time to muster up some more epiphanies. 

My plan today is to take a marshutka to Senaki where I'll be meeting my buddy Bill, and then we'll both be heading to Zugdidi for the weekend to meet up with a ton of the other volunteers (Zugdidi is where a ton of us were placed). So I really won't have much up between now and Sunday if all goes right, but this is Georgia, and rarely do things all go right. Enjoy.

Erti - For those of you who think that pigs are cute, I now vehemently disagree with you. They’re disgusting. Seeing them on the sides of the roads eating garbage while snorting loudly… Babe was just a mirage; don’t buy into the pro-pig propaganda. In fact, I just heard that another volunteer has to go to a funeral on Sunday for a guy who died inside a pigpen, after which all the pigs ate his remaining flesh. Amazingly, the funeral will be an open casket. Only in Georgia.

Pigs are not cute

Ori - The other night, I played basketball with another volunteer, Ian, in his town (Martvili) along with a few of the locals. Most of the Georgians play exactly like guys who have played soccer their entire lives; physical, arms flailing, constantly darting about, and pretty much no skill. But they really do love the sport over here; there are hoops everywhere. In fact, most of the country is staying up past midnight tonight to watch the National Team play in the FIBA World Championships. James Naismith would be proud.

Sami – When I go running in the morning or even walk into town (and I’m using that term quite loosely; the town of Bandza is a few markets, this ridiculous gas station (picture below), bus stop, and the police station), I get stared at a lot. I know why they stare when I run (running as a form of exercise is such an odd practice in Georgia that everyone stares at anyone who is running; where are they going, what are they running from, etc.), but I also wonder if they stare because they know who I am already (the new English teacher) or if they just know I’m a foreigner (that guy doesn’t look right, what’s he doing here). Not too many people in Bandza have ever even seen a foreigner before, let alone an American (which, as I said before, is a good thing in Georgia).

The Bandza Gas Station

Otkhi - The only Georgian words I seem to be remembering are tchame (eat) and dalie (drink) because that’s all they do here. We are constantly eating or drinking. In between meals, we nap. It’s a pretty simple living.

Khuti - I don’t think I mentioned this, but during the first dinner we sat down to at my host family’s house, they asked me what town I was from. I said Pittsburgh without any expectations of acknowledgement, but Lasha, my host father, immediately says, “Pittsburgh Penguins!” I replied excitedly thinking he knew of Ivegeni Malkin. But instead Lasha mentions the names of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. Who would of thunk it? Then at the Suphra the other night, when he toasted to me as a visitor and to my homeland, I pulled out an extra Penguins towel that I had brought with me (for what reason, I can’t even recall) and I gave it to him as a gift (picture below). Pittsburgh Penguins, bridging international gaps since 2010. I also brought a terrible towel with me that I think I’ll give to someone else eventually. But I did figure out that sports towels make for great gifts.

Lasha is and will always be a Pens fan

Eqvsi – My host Babua (Grandfather) Rezo is the man (picture below). In between tending to some crops and the cows, he just sits in the eating house with his button-down shirt undone, ripping Georgian cigarettes and smiling. I don’t know what it is, but he gets it.

Babua Rezo tending to the cows

Shvidi – On a related note, I’m still not sure what the men do for a living in Bandza. I know a lot of them tend to their farms, but most of the men are sitting on the side of the road without their shirts on. I also don’t know what Lasha does, but he drives a nice Mercedes (in fact, a lot of people around here drive nice Mercedes or BMWs), has a fairly large property, owns a new computer with internet, and sends his kids to a private school in Martvili (which seemed odd to me, considering I am going to teach at the local public school, which apparently is not good enough for his children). I’m not judging or complaining, I’m just askin’.

Rva – At the Suphra, the guy sitting next to me, who looked exactly like the character Phil Leotardo from The Sopranos (pictured below), knew very little English but basically told me how much he loved George W. Bush and how disappointed he was when McCain was defeated by Obama. I completely understand this sentiment coming from Georgians as Bush/McCain were pro-Georgia while Obama is neutral when it comes to the Georgian-Russian conflict. Fortunately, we were told during orientation that we should never engage in a political argument with a Georgian, not because it may end in bloodshed or anything; but it’s a fruitless battle and we will never win. I tried to tell Nino that political arguments are like that everywhere.

The Georgian Phil Leotardo chugging some wine out of a husk

Tskhra – I wake up every morning at about 5:30 a.m. to every chicken/hen/rooster on the property making some ridiculous sound. I have to put my iPod on just to fall back asleep.

Ati – I used to give my Greek buddy a tough time because he called every Greek acquaintance of his a cousin. It only really creeped me out when he would say something like, “You gotta see my cousin, she’s smoking hot.” But I get it now, because it’s the same thing in Georgia; every acquaintance is defacto family. Like my buddy Ian’s host family in Martvili; they came to pick me up and there was this random 20-year old guy named Zaza (by far my favorite Georgian name I’ve heard so far) in the car. I asked Ian how Zaza was related to the family, and he just said, “I have no idea, but he’s always over at the house.” But the family treated him like a son, and he acted the part of big brother to the two young boys (Tsota and Luka, who is just a little ball of fury; I saw him fall at least five times), plus when we were walking around Martvili, Zaza knew everyone, I know because he introduced me to them all. It really is a culture of family; no one is excluded, and as soon as you ask ragora khart (how are you), you’re one of them.

The Family


  1. If Kevin Kolb is hunting wild boars in TX with a knife (, then you can kill some stray pigs in Georgia JS.

  2. That is my Hometown right there, I miss it so much, I grew up in Veditkari, which is next to Bandza.