Family, Republic of Georgia

Brat Attack

I cannot disguise my intense dislike of my host brother. He is disgusting. And a total brat.

I’m sure everyone is thinking, “Come on, Amy. Aren’t you being a little harsh? He’s just a little kid!”

I do not feel that I am overreacting. I have suffered with this kid for four months and the entire time I have been cutting his slack. There is no more slack left. The very end of the rope just slipped through my fingers.

Maybe it’s the way he will cry and cry and cry until he gets his way. And then when his exasperated mother gives up on whatever the current enterprise is he turns around with this huge grin on his face.

Or maybe it’s the way he instigates things and then his older sisters get yelled at.

Or maybe it’s the way that he full on coughs his nasty mucus-y coughs all over the dinner table.

Or the way he fills the house with constant noise, namely his crying and his shouting.

Or the way he ignores me at home, but whenever someone is visiting or we are out in public then he is hanging on my elbow looking like a little lost lamb. Actually, no, that’s small potatoes. I just ignore him.

Or the way that every meal, every homework assignment is a constant battle, filling the house with his wailing, his crying, and the accompanying yells of his mother, father, grandmother, etc.

Or the way he always takes the best seat at the table, even over this 80 year old great-grandmother, and always insists on serving himself first, even though he refuses to ever eat half of what he takes.

I want to smack this kid so hard. There’s this wave of tightly leased anger that just crashes over me. I contemplate how satisfying it would be to really hurt him. He is just the worst brat I have ever seen. I cannot believe that his family lets him get away with all of this.

Not sure Giorgi is going to be safe with me next semester.

Bad kids at school. Bad kids at home. Just needed to vent a little. And there’s no Georgian CPS, Dad, so I don’t think you can report me. Plus I haven’t done anything. Yet.

Communication, Family, Republic of Georgia, Village Life

My Days Are Numbered

Zoe, my fabulous sister-in-law, told me that I should not neglect blogging in the time until I get back. That is a good word.

So, how do I feel knowing I have only 10 days left in Georgia? Conflicted.

This week has been strange. Prior to getting the word on my airplane ticket I was on pins and needles. Tickets were a disaster when I came to Georgia. I am sure my immediate family can recall that last week in August. Bad. Very bad. I was nervous that it was going to be a repeat experience. And even if I only got word days beforehand, my second worry was whether they would get me back in time for Christmas.

On Tuesday some people starting hearing on their tickets. The 19th. Then the 22nd. The fact that I was not hearing anything and the dates seeming to be going up made me think that maybe I would be flying out on the 23rd maybe? The 24th? Please no. My last name is Van Gundy. Maybe they were booking them alphabetically. Yes, pins and needles. That was how I felt.

Second factor this week has been a nagging case of indigestion. All week it has been a strange affair. If I ate, I felt vaguely nauseous immediately after. If I didn’t eat my stomach seemed to be wrapping itself around my spine. So I would eat. A little. And then I would feel sick. I would swear I would not be fooled into eating again. But then it would be doing back flips and I would give in. And then I’d feel sick. Sigh.

With my eyes fixed on that December 25th spot on the calendar, the week also seemed slow to a . . . . (insert non-cliché here. I can’t think of anything but ‘snail’s pace’). It didn’t help that some of my already scarce classes got cancelled. So I was bored. And slightly ill. With nothing but empty hours in front of me.

My slightly tune-deaf 8th grade students are plunging ahead on a most peculiar rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. The girls in 7th class are singing Jingle Bells. We worked for over 45 minutes to get them to stop pausing in the middle of the verse. This was throwing off the students playing the piano and generally making them sound worse than they already do.

But the home life is good. Always good. Mom’s answer to prayer. No complaints. Really. Other than wanting to smack Giorgi. I will truly genuinely miss them. And I will be oh-so-happy to be coming back to them in January. I was a little shocked at how long I will be away. Over 4 weeks. And I will be missing all the best holidays in Georgia. New Year’s, Nestani’s birthday, Christmas, Old New Year, my birthday.

I will miss out on the New Year’s turkey and the Christmas pig. I will not get to eat gozinakhi unless they save me some. I would love to see Tbilisi with all its Christmas lights. And the fireworks in the village on New Year’s. I really feel like I will be missing out on a lot.

I seriously considered staying here for the holidays at one point. But I am a sucker for family and the thought of consciously choosing not to be with the family at Christmas was just too painful. And memories of how un-fun it is to be sitting in a room full of people and being unable to truly communicate with any one of them. Maybe that was the deciding factor. I want to be able to communicate with people. And I can really only do that in English.

So I am looking forward to coming home. Of course. Hugging my family, hugging my cat, eating lots of things dipped in Ranch dressing. And lots of quality coffee with half and half. But I will miss Georgia. And I am glad that I will miss Georgia because that means I will be excited to come back. The break will be good, but I am not ready to be done with this place for good yet.

Food, Republic of Georgia, Village Life


Our front yard was covered in turkeys the other day. Having come from California where turkeys sporadically invade our yard, I had to check with my host sister to verify that they are indeed OUR turkeys. They make the cutest sounds.

Kinda sad when I think that they will only be on this planet until Christmas. Pretty sure that these are a business venture by Grandma Neli. Need to work on not developing fond feelings for these turkeys.

Oh, and the other day when I was passing through another village I saw a REAL Tom Turkey. Complete with the huge feather fan. I was astonished. I sort of thought those were a myth. It was fantastic. If only I had had a camera.

Family, Republic of Georgia, Transportation, Village Life

Those Georgian Friday Nights

We received a text message on Thursday night letting us know that the local cinema in Sachkhere would be showing a movie in English on Friday night, 5 PM. I found this news interesting, but knew that it would be unlikely I would be able to go. It is almost impossible to go into town in the evenings. There are never any martshutkas and taxis are expensive. Though it’s not so much the expense that bothers me as the impression I feel taking them conveys to my host family. I already feel like an American wastrel. Taking taxis does nothing to contradict that impression.

So I resigned myself to not going. I whined a bit to Jason on Skype. He suggested that I see if any of the other teachers on my side of town would split a taxi with me. At first I disregarded this suggestion. However, later one, after thinking of everyone having fun in town without me, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to send a text out to see. Amber, the teacher two towns down, surprised me by saying that she’d go in with me. Wow, cool. Movie night after all.

The last English class on Friday afternoon ended up getting hijacked for rehearsals for the mini-Christmas recital the English students are participating in. We did our rehearsing and then I headed out. There were some disappointed looks for the really devoted students who actually like coming to English class. Sorry kids. Amy has an important meeting in town. A movie.

There was debate in the teacher’s lounge on whether or not there would be a martshutka at 4 o’clock. Not reassuring. The last time I tried to go into town in the evening I ended up walking back to the house after waiting for 40 minutes. I ate lunch very quickly. Grandma Neli was even less reassuring on the subject of martshutkas. She said, “Well,” long pause, “maybe”.

Turns out Neli was right. I waited. And I waited. I paced. I called Jason. Jason and Susie were also waiting. Bad sign. Two martshutkas passed, seemingly with plenty of room. But they did not stop. There is something mysterious about martshutkas. Capricious seems to be the word for them. I can think of no reason why they would not stop if they had room. But they don’t. Maybe someday I will understand.

There were three other ladies in the shelter with me. I am thinking we should split a taxi. A taxi split four ways is not very expensive. I keep thinking this. I look at my cell phone and I think it again. But what would be the reaction to this? I don’t want to be suggesting something that is going to get me strange looks and three polite refusals. I chew a fingernail. I cross my ankles. Suddenly all 3 women are getting up. Martshutka? No, they’ve decided to take a taxi. Come on, they say. Hah.

Well, it was the worst taxi I’ve ever been in. Amazing we even made it to town. I found Amber. We made it to the movie relatively on time. Not that it started on time anyways. The movie was good, but the hang out time with other teachers afterwards was even better. Some of them will not be returning after Christmas so we have to enjoy each other while we can.

I laughed as we walked towards the restaurant and commented that it was Friday night around 8 PM. The entire city was quite. Lights were off in most of the houses we passed. I felt like we were disturbing the peace just to be walking down the street. Friday night and it takes almost an act of God to get into town. Friday night—the night when it’s almost mandatory to be out and about in America. How far away that all seems.

Leaving the restaurant around 9:30, Amber and I found a cab. I hadn’t really even been sure if there were going to be cabs around then. But we found one and headed off into the dark countryside. I turned my cell phone back on which had been off since the movie. Nineteen missed calls from my host family. Nineteen. I don’t think I’ve ever called someone 19 times simultaneously in my life. But it was almost 10 o’clock. And it was dark. And I’m a girl. And this is Georgia. Need I explain further?

A Georgian Friday night is worlds apart, both socially and culturally, from anything I’ve known at home.


I Hate My Blog’s Name

I have taken a strong dislike to my blog’s name. Anyone have any good ideas for me?

Blogging is such a strange activity. Whenever I publish something I either feel like an idiot or an ego-maniac. I think and I wonder what you think about what I think. So what do you think?

And someone give me a new name for the blog!

Food, Republic of Georgia, Travel

The Pact

I finally made it to Tbilisi, the capital, last weekend. Since I hardly feel that my initial arrival counts, it was truly my first time in the city. I think it is a shame that it was my first time. I am not really sure why I had not gone earlier. Mostly I blame my teaching schedule which goes all the way to 4 PM on Friday afternoons. Makes it hard to take trips to anywhere of any distance.

 Cruising into Tbilisi on our miraculously uncrowded martshutka, food became a topic of conversation. Stories of the wonderous food to be found in Tbilisi have reached even the far corner of Georgia that I reside in. Chinese food. Pizza. Mexican food. McDonalds. Visions, not of sugar plums, but of Western food, were dancing in our heads. Not really sure who initiated it, but someone, maybe even me, said we should eat no Georgian food unless absolutely necessary. A pact! We agreed. I was surprised at the enthusiasm this created even though I felt it myself. We piled our hands in the middle to signal our solemn oath.

My last post got me some comments on how I was obviously over any initial attraction to Georgian food. That is true in part. Some meals here are endured, not enjoyed. However I think it is healthy. It keeps food in perspective and it forcibly reminds me of Kathleen Norris’ discussions on monasteries and aestheticism in The Cloister Walk. While any given meal might be something I despise, it helps me to realize that it is just as likely to be a favorite meal of someone else in the family. It’s the militant hospitality that gets to me more than the actual food itself. But I digress.

Here’s the summary of how our pact played out:

Thursday night (Thanksgiving dinner): Irish pub

We consumed slabs of pure meat, unimpaired by bones, gristle, fat, or skin, and drank excellent wine and/or beer. It was glorious. I would’ve sung a love song to my steak if I’d been asked to.

Friday morning: Swiss Bakery

Ham and cheese croissant and mini-chocolate croissant. We would’ve had coffee (Susy and I) but for some reason it was not available. Even though there was a shining espresso machine behind the counter. How very Georgian.

Friday afternoon: monastery in the middle of nowhere

After an entirely unanticipated hike that only my innate pride and stubbornness got me through, I chugged a Nalgene of water, ate a mandarin orange that our driver gave me (out of pity most likely) and a pastry that Susy had had the foresight to purchase before we left town.

Friday evening: Georgian Restaurant

I felt that this dinner slightly dishonored our pact but we really had no other options. We were all starving. We had barbecued pork, spinach, French fries, mushrooms, and a lot of wine. Susy’s argument was that none of this was something we had on a regular basis in the villages. I guess that was true.

Friday night: porch of our hostel

More beverages, Swiss cheese, and Sour Cream and Onion Pringles. How American is that?

Saturday morning: Muesli, bananas, milk, coffee with . . . creamer! I think I would’ve come to Tbilisi just to buy this. But the muesli was amazing. And so was the milk.

Saturday afternoon: Cheese, salami, bread, salad, and Lay’s Potato Chips purchased at the grocery store

Saturday evening: The worst Mexican food ever. It wasn’t Georgian, but it sure wasn’t Mexican either!

Sunday morning: More muesli, bananas, milk, and lots of coffee with creamer. Heaven.

Sunday afternoon: Leftover cheese and salami for me. Jason chugged the yogurt. We hit a cake shop on the way to the Metro.

The change in food was just that: a change. And we all know the saying that change is good. Change was very good that weekend. And when I got back Sunday night, opened the door and saw my family eating little grilled fish with leftover lobio, I sat down with relatively good cheer and had myself some lobio. Which is proof that all Georgian food is not bad.