Reading my phrase book in the Kutaisi McDonald’s this morning, I found some important phrases:
I see you in my dreams. Mesizmrebi.
There is no greater happiness than being close to you. Shentan q’opna q’velaze didi bednierebaa.
We were just too different. Ubralod dzalian gankhvavebulebi viq’avit.
Please, use a new syringe. Tu sheidzleba, akhali shpritsi ikhmaret.
I was slouched in the corner, waiting, with coffee, for Anna and her host sister Solome to pick me up. I imagine Solome’s name with an accent over the e, like Solomé, even though georgian has no accents and the stress falls on the first syllable anyways. Also I was thinking about the idea of eternal return, a reincarnation sort of thing, where you tread the same places and events in your life over and over again, kind of like how Uncle Karl was explaining his life and his siblings’s lives as 30-year-long chemical reactions, smeared across time, to the same catastrophe that was their childhood. Sip. Am I hungover? Sip.
Yesterday I’d called up Anna and Joe in Kutaisi and warned them of my impending arrival. After three days of adjusting to village life, I’d started to suffer from cow shock, plus I needed batteries for my camera. I had no idea of the transportation difficulties I was to face. That city is a BEAST.
After school (yes, there was school on saturday–after a week of cold closures, the gov’t tacked on a token saturday), Temo walked me to the end of the village road, which meanders into the singular highway that crosses Guria. There was an abandoned gas station next to the bog. We waited there until we spotted a marshutka, flagged it down, and then it drove me through the mountains, to Kutaisi. The city! Kutaisi! (easy. I got this.)
We pulled in at McDonald’s. This is also the bus station. Joe called and told me they were meeting at a church by the city center. Seven phone calls and a bus and a taxi and an hour and a half later, I was at a huge building of broken bricks and glass. The Kutaisi Sport Palace.
“Joe,” I asked, “Where the fuck am I?”
He tried to give me eighteen different ways to get lost on a marshutka, but I’d given up by that point. I took a taxi to the city centre. We went and had dinner/beers with some other TLG people who had been placed in Kutaisi, and one of them, Matt, was gracious enough to lend me a floorbed for the night. Then, waking up to a hot shower and snow, covering the many hollow crusts that pass as buildings around here. It’s so strange–miles and miles of buildings ruined by poverty and neglect, and then an ancient bridge, or a monastery, or a statue. Sparkling clean. Plus, the georgian people take great care in their own appearance. Matt told me that his students always leap out of their seats if he’s got a little chalk dust on his sleeves. “Does it not concern you that you smell like a donkey?” Anyways.
Anna called me to say that she and Solome were going to big orthodox church and would I like to come? The problem recurred: I was to meet them at McDonalds. After wandering about in the snow, and asking for help twice, I was at the end of a mushy road, my shoes were soaked, and I was very, very lost. A stray dog began to size me up. So…I gave up, took a cab and discovered that both people had pointed me in the opposite direction. (Jari: I employed parusk both times but it was apparently bad parusk.)
So. There I was at McDonalds, thinking about eternal recurrence, eating a big maki, which is the same everywhere around the world, reading about the phrases that are actually in my phrase book which the author actually found useful enough to print. Like, would you mind terribly much wiping that needle down before jamming it in me? Geogia.
They showed up an hour late, and we took three marshutkas on the way to church and got lost, and hopped off at a large building of broken bricks and glass.
“Oh, let’s go in,” Solome dragged us inside. Ok.
Inside the Kutaisi Sport Palace were the finals for an international dance competition. We bought coffee and khatchapuri and watched pro ballroom dancers from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia do their thing. It was AMAZING. Even a few five-year-olds in tailored shirts competed. They did the cha-cha-cha.
“Solomé?” I asked. “Where the fuck are we?”
Afterwards, we waiting for a marshutka for awhile before giving up, taking a taxi back to Anna’s place, and then I missed my own marshutka home. Solome made walnuts wrapped in cabbage leaves and soup and tea and her brother played Pirates of the Carribean on the piano. And of course, it was another two marshutkas back to McDonalds, and I missed mine to Chokhatauri again, and had to wait in a glorious bazaar for an hour, and I forgot the batteries anyways. I’m pretty sure I’m going back next weekend. Mesizmreba, Kutaisi.