China, Food, Republic of Georgia, Social Customs, Travel

Gone Over to the Dark Side

An unexpected casualty of several years abroad is that my taste in coffee is getting worse. First step is to admit I have a problem, right? So. Deep breath. Hi, my name is Amy. I like instant coffee.

How did this nasty addiction develop? It started in Georgia. Though real coffee beans were available, my host family was firmly entrenched in the instant coffee camp. They drank a Brazilian instant coffee, called Café Pele, that once I got used to it I grew to like, even love.

I left Georgia with a gigantic Yuban-style can of Café Pele. At home in California, I explored the delights of how convenient making iced coffee is with instant coffee. I found that the French Roast that had been my mainstay through grad school suddenly tasted like mud. I tried to readjust, but it just wasn’t working. In desperation, I bought a bottle of Nescafe. I know, right? Nescafe. Seriously?! But it tasted good to me. Another step down a slippery slope. By the time I left America again I was on a half brewed, half instant coffee diet, having somewhat readjusted to “real” coffee.

I came to China last year with the end of my Café Pele. When it was finished, I went out and bought a ceramic one-cup coffee filter and some ground coffee. But it just wasn’t working. Maybe if I had a real coffee pot it would work. But by the time the water had finished dripping through my coffee was usually cold. And if I wanted a second cup? Do it all over again. And me and Nescafe were just getting along so…so well! I liked the taste. I liked the convenience. It was great. My ground coffee sat in the cupboard, sad and neglected.

This past summer was a repeat of the year before. I struggled to find a drip coffee that tasted good to me. I, coffee purist, even experimented with flavored coffee. Maybe a nice mild vanilla-flavored coffee would taste good? No, though it smelled good, it tasted like chemicals. I bought a small jar of Nescafe. Used it up. Bought a larger jar. Oh dear. This was serious.

On vacation with the family, my brother gasped in mock horror at the bottle of Nescafe I’d brought along. “You’ve gone to the dark side, eh?” I couldn’t really deny it. Maybe I was a double agent. Behind enemy lines, exploring the dark side of instant coffee culture. Or maybe I was actually a triple agent, professing reluctant use of instant coffee due to present circumstances when, in truth, my allegiance had changed. Stockholm syndrome? Maybe a little.

Some communal coffee drinking with my brother weaned me off a 100% instant diet. Coffee drinking is very social, you know. As with alcohol, it’s much nicer to drink coffee with other people. No one likes to drink alone.

In defense of instant coffee, you do realize that it’s popular the world over? I have no reason to be ashamed of instant coffee drinking. America is one of the few places that scorns instant coffee for mysterious reasons. Starbucks had released its Via instant coffee in Europe long before it attempted to market it in the States. Did you know? We are the lone holdouts. American instant coffee drinkers must sip in secret lest their preferences open them up to the ridicule of their friends and neighbors. Having their instant coffee shipped in plain unmarked boxes. It’s tough. Maybe someday there will be acceptance of instant coffee drinking in America.

I don’t think I’ll be giving up instant coffee anytime soon.

You’ll still love me, right?

Cultural Differences, Food, Republic of Georgia, Village Life

Cure for the Georgian Cold

Saturday afternoon in Georgia. 2:09 PM my time. 3:09 AM California time. You are all blissfully sawing Z’s. Or you should be.

It continues to rain. Big sheets of rain being blown around by the wind. I observe this from bed, from under my 3 ½ blankets and hooded sweatshirt. I just made a trip downstairs to the bathroom. A trip I do not make lightly, especially in this weather.

I am sick. A nasty cold and cough. I feel the inevitable creep of this condition down, down, down towards my lungs. Hello bronchitis? My stash of supplies for this eventuality somehow got left out of my luggage. So now my only defense is lemons, water, and sleep. My mother has lectured me on going to see a doctor if it gets any worse. I cannot express how little I want to have that experience. When a fellow teacher got sick, the doctor told her to drink lots of coffee, wine and cognac. Yes, that was the recommendation of a medical doctor. See why I don’t want to go see one?

I spent most of the weekend downstairs by the wood-burning stove, which remains the only heat source in the house. Once the sun goes down my second-floor room is only just bearable under my blankets. My pockets were being perpetually empited of snotty tissues  and refilled with fresh tissue. My Nalgene was with me always in case of a coughing fit.

In Kutaisi last weekend I bought a box of tissues. I was very excited about this because I have not seen any in my town. Really should’ve bought two as it is almost gone now. Not sure what I will do in their absence. I am not eager to embrace the cloth handkerchief, regardless of how evironmentally friendly it may be.

In town, my host family took me to a pharmacy and helped me buy something for my cough. An act of faith since all the packaging is written in Russian. They also encouraged me to drink a lot of wine at dinner. Didn’t make the connection until later. I thought it was because the kids’ greatgrandmother was visiting. And they were much pushier about me having some vodka too. (Probably thought it was a good substitue for cognac). They were always checking to make sure I have taken my mysterious Russian  medicine, which I always had. Believe me, I am most anxious to feel completely well.

Sunday morning after breakfast I watched dumbfounded as the rain turned to snow and began to carpet the yard. October 31st. My Halloween treat. In the afternoon I had a brief snowball skirmish with the kids. Teo managed to shove a snowball in my face when I was not paying attention. Twice. I only got her back once. But I know there will be plenty more snow to come.

I played checkers with Giorgi and managed to beat him twice. (Yes, my pride is intact. I beat an 8-year old at checkers.) I hung around the stove and ate chestnuts hot out of the oven. Like the “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” of the song. I had never had a chestnut before I came to Georgia. Pretty good actually.

I continue to sniffle and occassionally cough as I finish this post off. Sunday’s snow is melting in the yard. Apparently only a preview of coming events. Hopefully my Russian medicine will work its magic and kill my cough. If not there is always plenty of wine, coffee, and vodka at my house . . .

Food, Republic of Georgia, Uncategorized, Village Life, Weather

Shameless Behavior

I cannot lie. I went to school today for the sole purpose of coffee and cookies in the teacher’s lounge. The colder weather has been settling in this past week and I have not been adjusting to the change well. I have broken into almost all of the warmest clothing I brought: the Capilene shirt and long-johns, the heavy wool socks. I’ve been sleeping in at least 2 layers of everything underneath my comforter and 2 blankets I purloined from the spare beds outside my room. If this is what it is like in October, how am I ever going to survive when there is actually snow on the ground?

I am seriously not trying to be dramatic, but a few nights this week, before I put new measures into place, I was having a hard time falling asleep because I was too cold. Nasty flashbacks of backpacking in Yosemite. Leadership Trek #2. You remember, right Jenn? The fallout of this is that I sleep restlessly all night and then tend to fall deeply asleep in the morning once it starts getting a little warmer. Twice this week I woke up 15 minutes before I needed to leave for school. That’s okay. I am a professional quick change artist, but it is always a nasty jolt to see the clock.

So today I slept deeply from about 7 to 9 and then woke up. It was just so cold once I was out from underneath my covers! The whole house is shaded from a big front porch on both levels, so there is never any sun to warm up the rooms. I looked longingly down the road at the school where the sun was streaming in. I had no reason to be at the school. No classes. But it was 11:15 and if I was at school before 12 I would most likely be served cookies and coffee in the teacher’s lounge. And that is one of the sunniest rooms in the school. So stay in the house and shiver or shamelessly go to the school for hot coffee and sunshine? There was no question. The coffee was hot and the sunshine was warm.