Why don’t we do it in the road? Because you’ll get killed!

After a wonderful 3 week vacation in California, I’m back in Georgia with my host family, and becoming very accustomed to the climate.

Back in November, my host mother would always say that January and February were going to be warm, and I figured she was making a joke, but it turns out her predictions were somewhat accurate. We’ve all enjoyed some sunny and warmer temperatures during the day since I’ve come back, and I can say without any doubt that I’ve lived in colder climates than Georgia. More recently the weather has turned very cold, and we’ve been without water for several days now. I think it’s time to take some pictures of their water tank and plumbing, and ask my Dad and Mr. Kunhardt to take a look, maybe brainstorm a solution that wouldn’t require thousands of Lari.

So I had a wonderful Christmas in Northern California, and then had the audacity to enjoy another Christmas in Georgia. I could get used to this! If the reader is unaware, most of Central Asia, Russia, and Eastern Europe (including Georgia) celebrate Christmas on January 7. December 25 is just another day. Most of the gift exchanges, if there are any, occur on New Year’s Eve.  And really there isn’t much “celebrating” on January 7. My host family never goes to church, and Christmas was no exception, although I’ve heard from one of the locals that she stood in church for several hours as part of her commitment to worship on Christmas. Maybe I just didn’t understand her correctly, but it sounds a lot different from the protestant Christmas Eve services I used to enjoy; plenty of Christmas Carols and a short homily, then everyone went home with a smile. Traditions are much different on this side of the world, but the holidays are still a lot of fun. There were no celebrations on January 6th or 7th, but there have been so many other parties, you get the idea that Christmas is intended to be a day of REST!

On New Year’s Eve we had a small party and set off some fireworks. It wasn’t as loud and crazy as the New Year’s Eve I witnessed in Chisinau (2007), but there were still lots of rockets set off around the village. The youngest member of my host family (Giorgi, 7) was given the honor of holding a long, cardboard rocket launcher and it sounded like a shotgun when the rockets launched out of it. It was about 1 meter long (about the size of a large roll of holiday wrapping paper) and it set off about 8 rockets (I wasn’t counting) like you would expect from an old-fashioned roman candle, but these were exploding rockets! Sorry, no pictures. I was trying to enjoy myself.

Since January 7, I’ve been to a lot of parties! There’s a celebration for “old new year” and “epiphany” which I guess is supposed to honor the baptism of Christ, although my host family called it “Godmother’s day”. I’ve also been to a few birthday parties, which are another good excuse for a suprah (if you’re older), or a big party at a restaurant (if you’re a kid). I suppose the most noticeable tradition at Georgian birthday parties is the sparkler cake. I haven’t seen these used anywhere else, but I’m not the world traveler I’d like to be, so maybe it’s not really a Georgian thing. Anyway, it’s pretty spectacular!

Lighting the sparklers

The baby looks intrigued, yes?

Pay no attention to the doll on the couch 😉

Okay HURRY, these things don't last forever!

He looks happy 🙂

15th Birthday for Tsiriko at a very popular restaurant in Gori

I’ve made a few more friends among the locals while trying to promote a photography business. I can tell there is a lot of excitement for a photo studio, but I can’t find a room for rent that’s big enough in Gori, or that doesn’t cost less than $500 a month. So I’m not pushing forward with that idea yet. If I can get any business in the spring and summer, then maybe next winter I can afford a studio, or maybe I’ll get lucky and find a large enough room with heat, good fuses, a changing room, western toilet, and a small front office for less than $300 a month. I’m not asking for a miracle, right? <cough, cough>

I’ve been taking walks nearly every day. I guess it’s about 4 or 5 km, but I don’t have a car to measure the distance. It’s a long way. I’m walking along the only paved road in the village, and at its narrowest point it’s usually enough room for two cars to pass each other. If a truck or a bus is on the road, then someone needs to slow down and pull off the road. Georgian drivers don’t like to slow down, and this includes going into a blind “S” curve!  Auto accidents are very common in Georgia, and fatalities are supposedly very high (I don’t have any statistics). It’s really no wonder TLG doesn’t allow volunteers to own, rent or otherwise DRIVE a car in Georgia (it’s in the contract). So going for a walk in my village is a stark reminder that Georgian drivers are a bit rude and impatient when it comes to sharing the road with anyone, especially pedestrians. The idea that a pedestrian has the right of way is a completely foreign idea (pun intended). It’s a bit aggravating to deal with Georgian drivers because it seems like half of them will go OUT OF THEIR WAY to scare you off the road, even though there is plenty of room for them to pass around you, they’ll honk their horn and aim their car directly at you (as they’re coming towards you from the opposite direction). And I also get the feeling the driver is laughing about it. So I’ve learned not to fight it…I just step off the road, in the mud and cow pies, and let the cars pass.  It’s really hard to understand how a country that embraces family values, friendship and hospitality towards their guests still has so much to learn about sharing the road with pedestrians (and there are many pedestrians in the villages and cities).

So let’s review the things I don’t like about Georgia. At this point there are only 3 things I’ve come to really dislike, but nothing is all that bad—I’ve learned to accept:

1)      Slow, expensive internet

2)      Georgian drivers

3)      Frozen water pipes in the winter

School started today, but my co-teacher is in London, or something. And I’m not supposed to teach classes without a Georgian Co-teacher, so I’m enjoying a longer holiday break. My health is good, and I’m REALLY looking forward to warmer weather in April! Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to go skiing at one of the resorts in February. I keep reminding one of my friends that he wants to go! 😉

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