Autumn has covered the mountains of Georgia! I’ve officially moved in with my new host family in Okrokana, Georgia, which is technically not Tbilisi but nonetheless a 5-15 minute ride down to the centre of the city (depending on which mode of transport I choose and how in/capable the driver is). Making the twisty, turny, and somewhat dangerous trek up the mountain to my new home makes me nervous for only a moment until I glance over the cliff at the wondrous view of all of Tbilisi below me. To my right and left, the foliage has begun to change colors and drop to the ground beneath, which sweetly reminds me of fall in Chicago.
My new home is near perfect. I’m greeted at the gates to my driveway by two large Dobermans and enter to a beautifully landscaped side yard equipped with outdoor dining furniture and an in-ground pool. I live with my artsy and cultured host mother, her parents, and her two children. My host brother is 25 and studied in New York City; he’s good to have around because not only is he extremely protective (not in an overbearing way), but he seems to know every person in the city. My host sister is 19 and is someone I know I’ll quickly develop a close relationship with; she’s studying drama at the university and I’m not merely boosting her confidence when I say that she is the most amazing aspiring singer and dancer I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Every evening, my host mother plays the piano and the two of them lull me into true relaxation as they play and sing the most beautiful duets. They gave me permission to videotape, so you can look forward to getting a taste of what I am fortunate to hear on a daily basis. Everyone in the family (even my Soviet-raised host grandparents) speaks English—and when communication fails, they’re helping me with my Georgian, which is thankfully sure to improve even in such an ambitiously studious and multi-lingual family.
My new school is right up the road and is populated by 200 smiling faces. I’m working with two young English teachers and am still working out my schedule. After school, I usually hop on the bus down Rustaveli and find myself in a quaint little coffee shop. It’s funny because I almost always am running into another TLG teacher; we’ve invaded all of the English-speaking coffee shops ;) My favorite is Prospero’s, which is a bookstore/coffee shop combo and serves spectacular cappuccinos and omelette sandwiches. My mouth is watering as I type!
Before I moved to Okrokana, I had just gotten used to taking marshrutkas to get around the city. Since marshrutkas don’t go up to where I’m living now, I’ll take the bus into the centre and then hop on a marshrutka or take the metro if I need to go anywhere that’s not walking distance. There’s only one bus that goes up to my village, so I thought I was wholly capable of traveling solo…note the key italicized word.
I went on a photo hunt with my friend Raughley after dark the other night. It’s a goal of mine to visit all of the beautiful sites and cathedrals of Tbilisi at multiple hours of the day in order to capture the best photos. We walked up to Parliament and up further to Sameba (“Holy Trinity” in English) before looping back down for gelato and a small walk through Old Tbilisi. We made it to Freedom Square where my bus had been dropping me off. #90 pulls up and I step on the bus to consult the driver, “Mivdivar Okrokanashi, ho?” and he responded by motioning me on the bus with his right hand and quickly started to move again. I gave Raughley a hurried goodbye and took my seat.
I have now been in Tbilisi long enough to know that the bus is surely heading in the opposite direction of my mountainside residence, so I take out my phone to text Nino (as I often do when I find myself in trouble…poor Nino!)
“Umm, do buses usually make a loop or do they only travel from point A to point B?” –Me
I didn’t get a response from her right away and, since I am not at all fearful of getting lost, decided to sit tight and enjoy the ride. I mean, since #90 is definitely my bus, I might as well see what the entire route is, right? ;) Sure enough, the bus stops at some sketch bus stop on the other end of the city and the bus driver tells me to get off. It’s not pretty late at night, so I call Nino again.
“So…I’m lost!” –Me
“Carla, I’ll kill you! Put someone on the phone, and not a man!” –Nino
Nino does her Georgian thing, I’m handed back the phone, and she tells me what to do. 30 minutes later, I’m on a bus (#90 again, but this time heading in the right direction!) I’m sitting on the bus now wondering about my previous rendezvous and whether I had perhaps spoken incorrectly (as I sometimes do) when I asked the bus driver if he was headed toward Okrokana—but NO! Me vitsi qartuli…I know Georgian! And I damn well spoke correctly. Newsflash, Mr. Bus Driver: Motioning someone onto a bus with your hand—even if they are a foreigner—means “YES, GET ON!” in any language!
I’ll wrap it up for now. I’m heading on a TLG-sponsored free excursion to Kakheti this Saturday to make wine and churchkhela. It’s also fashion week in Tbilisi, and since my host mother knows the designer of shoes for the events, she’s taking me to the premier event on Sunday evening…very posh. ;)