Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Been awhile...

A pretty neat looking picture of the steeple of the Martvili Monestary and an early Moon. As my Pops would say, Trippy Man...

So as you’ve noticed, I stopped making excuses for my truant posting a while back. But that’s not going to stop me right now, as it’s been nearly a month between posts and I feel as if I owe you an explanation. There’s several reasons for the lack of posts, which I’ll try to get through as quickly as possible before I can get on to some real observational thoughts.

It’s amazing how quickly things have gone by, considering where I am. The average person would think that being in rural Western Georgia would cause time to move at a painfully slow pace, and although there have been some sluggish periods, I’d say that overall, time has flown by like a BMW-wielding Georgian.

Before I went abroad, my friend who had taught in Korea for a year told me that your feeling towards time shifts like a bell curve. In the beginning, you’re really excited and everything is a wonder. As I was going over some of my earlier posts this past weekend, my friend’s comment certainly proved prescient. Look back on my September posts and you’ll see how I come off as some wide-eyed newcomer who think they have it all down after a few experiences (I cringed at reading over some of my innocent ignorance).

A random castle (you get a lot of those in Georgia) sitting atop the road from Bandza to Senaki.

But then you hit the dog days, and there’s a lull. My trip to Southeast Asia (in the words of Scarlett O’Hara, As God is my witness, I will get to those Vietnam thoughts before I leave this earth. That’s how it went, right?) helped to stave off any feelings of monotony, but as the winter lagged on, there has definitely been some times during which I’ve thought, Good Lord, can this go any faster? The goofy weather (I thought we turned a corner a few weeks ago, but it’s been rainy and cool for the past week [there’s fresh snow fifteen kilometers up the road from me]) and the frequent electricity disruptions (we had another three day wind storm a few weeks back that cut power to my village for five days) haven’t helped.

Number One Threat to Georgia? Bears! This beast was roaming the inside of it's cage in the Tbilisi Zoo (entrance fee of 50 Tetri [30 US cents], making it easily the cheapest Zoo ever).

But even then, I still had things to keep me busy: my Kindle that is jam-packed with classic literature thanks to Project Guttenberg, increased tutoring of the boys, trying to make sure I don’t add winter weight by running on the weekdays (I don’t really look forward to running, while I enjoy it even less in cold weather), big trips on the weekends (went to the Georgia/Croatia Euro’12 Qualifier in Tbilisi that Georgia won on a ’90 goal, immediately after which I was hugging every random Georgian man I could find in my section), looking for a teaching position for the summer (I will be in Turkey) and this upcoming school year (I will not be in Georgia, a topic for another day), and planning more lessons for my classes at the Bandza school (Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, my skiing trip, and the upcoming Easter holiday have given me ample topics).

So now it’s mid-April, I have two months left, and it’s back to the excitement I felt in the beginning. But that excitement isn’t due to my departure, it’s more of an energy producing excitement that reminds me how I must make sure to take advantage of the little time I have left. Although with that excitement comes a sort of wistful feeling, so instead of observing the new, I’m blinded by nostalgia.

A shot of Senaki and the Samegrelo Valley, probably the only completely flat area in Georgia.

So I probably won’t have too many mind-blowing observations during my time left here, although it’s not like I ever did. But I will still do my best to conjure up some magic and be more cognizant of the fact that with each day that passes, I’ll have one less day to expound on this unique and authentic culture.

But there’s been a lot that’s gone over the past two months that I can probably bumble on about. Here’s a few quick thoughts old school style.

Erti – There have been two deaths in relation to my host family in the past six weeks, the first was rather expected, while the other was far more tragic that occurred only ten days after the first. I’ve already talked about the Georgian grieving process, but I never realized the expectations on the immediate family during the forty days that follow a death. TLG should probably mention this during our orientation, because it sure would have helped me, but basically don’t practice the piano, don’t play music at all, don’t expect any meat at the dinner table, and never, ever smile. That last one’s a bit of hyperbole, but I would say the past month has been the only time I’ve felt uncomfortable with my host-family, if only because I was walking on egg shells with zero direction.

This is my little buddy Luka on his 6th birthday, obviously not old enough to cut his own orange, and therefore getting Gogita (his neighbor) to do it for him. Look at the anticipation in that little guy's eyes.

Ori – I finally decided to help out with some farm work. It was the first official day of work a few Saturday’s back. There were some guys I recognized at the breakfast table, and they were passing out shots of tchatcha. Afterwards they went out to work while I went to my room to read and then went on a run (after the tchatcha buzz faded). When I got back from the run, I decided it was time to man up. So I walked over to the vineyard, grabbed a shovel and started churning some farmland. It was a quite a sight for all of the real men there; they stared as if I had just solved the Riemann Hypothesis (if you don't want your head to hurt, do not click on the link). But I don’t think I did much of a good job, since I haven’t been asked back since. Mission accomplished, I guess?

Sami – On Wednesday after dinner, all the men of the household were intently watching the European Figure Skating Championship. I don’t know if it was for the view or the art, but they all seemed mighty impressed with the double and triple axels these young were pulling off (whole lot of De-da’s and Op-pah’s). But the best was when a black skater from France stepped on the ice. Lasha looked at me and instead of dropping the n-word, said, black. These are the type of small success stories I savor.

In honor of the upcoming holiday of Easter, here is a crooked cross (I can't remeber why so many crosses in Georgia look like this, but it's not really crooked as it's supposed to look like that [Cue random Georgian reader to correct my ignorance]).


  1. Hey! It's St. Nino's cross which is recognized by its slightly horizontal arms. The original St. Nino's cross was made out of grapevine and held together by her own hair.

  2. Oh and can I just add that most people in Georgia do not know that the "n-word" is a derogatory term. Most Georgians listen to rap music and hear the word being used over and over and just assume that is is completely acceptable to use it. And since Georgia does not have the history of slavery, jim crow laws, civli right etc. they have NO idea about the historical term of the n-word.

  3. Nino, thanks for the info on the crosses!

    As for the whole n-word thing, I've covered the topic before, and I never blame anyone here for using it, for the reasons you mentioned. I also think it being a generally accepted Russian term for people of African decent doesn't help either (although I'm not sure if it's a slur in Russian context of not).

    I do know that Georgians have their own word for black people which sounds something like Zanghi, which I believe is a pretty bad term? Although, again, I could use some enlightenment here.

  4. Hey! Yes, Russians do use it a lot. It's an outdated term in Wester Europe/America as we know already know(Russians specifically use Negro, Negroes...) but Russian people continue to use it.

    Zhangi is probably the most widely used term in Georgia to describe black people. But in all honesty I don't know if it carries negative connotations or not because I don't know the origin of the word. Is Zhangi a Georgian word for Negro? I've always wondered but I'm not sure it is. Anyway, I really like your blog! It's very interesting to read someone else's perspective on Georgia!

  5. The word zangi comes from Persian word, as many words used in Georgia and it indicates the color, but I'm not sure about its discriminating meaning.

    This word is used in Vefkhistkaosani" (The Knight in the Panther's Skin) which was written in the 12th century and refers to black colored slaves.

    So the use of the word is really complicated.

    The word zangi is used more often than the word shavkaniani (black skinned)in Georgia. Personally, I use this word but to indicate the color of the skin not in discriminating meaning, but it's true that sometimes we use it in negative meaning as well.

    But we cannot blame Georgians in negative use of the word while the derogation of the black race came to Georgia from other countries through TV, movies, etc. Racist feelings are noticeable in every part of the world, and not only towards black people. Georgia cannot be an exception, but I can assure you that Georgia is much more tolerant and hospitable country than many others. (and don't take it as Georgian superiority feeling:)

    We are all God's creatures and have the same rights. Black, white, red or yellow races they are all EQUAL! There is no "favorite" nation or race.

    The whole thing is about the individual attitudes and traces of historical past of black people.

    We cannot change the world, but still can change some individual attitudes. Let's hope for better! and sorry for such "huge" comment:)

  6. Just discovered your blog today. It has been really cool to read your adventures.