We have a typical day now, since my day count on Buknari just hit the seven mark. I’ve locked myself inside right now, because it’s pouring rain and shitty here, so this is the perfect time to write about it. Listen:
I wake up at about eight, spread what remains of my deoderant under my arms, and then head downstairs. (I usually throw some clothes on over my thermal pajamas.) Irene is baking fresh khatchapuri in the oven under the woodstove, and placing the same six items on the tablecloth: pickles, bread, old bread, old cheese, figs in syrup, and fresh yogurt in a plastic cup. Some mornings (or dinnertimes) we have this magical concoction of softening cheese in hot browned butter. We brew tea extra strong in a tiny teapot, pour a little of the juice into each mug, and then Irene dilutes it with boiling water from one of those automatic water-boilers. Then she takes the khatchapuri out from the oven, cuts it into pieces using scissors, and bam. Breakfast.
Then it’s the walk to school. Today there was a guy (probably named Giorgi) standing on top of a cart pulled by a very old horse. He shouted something to me, and Temo translated: “You want ride?” Yes. Yes I did. Unfortunately he was joking.
We pass the itinerant pigs, cows, horses, and ducks along our street, and watch ancient tan cars slow down as they approach the nets of potholes. Along the way, we pick up a few friends, whom have either caught up with me to say “Hello!” in the best american they know, or with Temo’s friends who he calls en route.
We walk past the fence of sticks and wires, through the rusting gate. Inside, Temo splinters off to get to his classroom. I head to the teacher’s lounge, where six figures dressed in black shroud the woodstove. Lela’s wiry frame stands out against the flaking blue wall. I greet her, and yell “GAMARJOBA!” to the room. This never fails to make the crowd happy.
Then, LESSONS. We take turns. Lela jumps back and forth, piping shrill instructions at the kids in spitfire georgian. Lela sets them up for exercises from the book, straight from the book, and then has them recite the answers like a greek chorus. She gives them the answers. I play games and sing songs and try to give them dialogue practice. Few can respond spontaneously, though if you want them to, they can snap to attention and recite the twelve months, in order.
Back in the teacher’s lounge, we talk. “Lela, our students can’t speak english.” She makes me instant coffee. Then Teona comes in, late, and I go with Teona to her lessons with the first-graders.
She’s a little more disengaged than Lela. She tends to lean back in the tiny chair at the front of the classroom, and adjust her white wool hat. Her idea of lessons is having them come up, one by one, to write a few letters on the board. She yells at them when they cannot do it. I called her out. “Teona, it really bothers me when you do that. You know just as well as I do they’re six and can’t write in Georgian yet, let alone English. Why do you yell at them?” She shrugged. We walk upstairs through the crumbling pink, and kids leap and shout “Hello!” “Gamarjoba!” and “Staroaaaa!!” which is parusk teenager-dialect for the first two. “Hello how are you! I am fine thank you! What is your name!”
Ernesti,” Lela will say to me, curled at her desk, back in the lounge. “Correct my pronunciation. Die-show-nest.”
“That’s ‘dishonest.’ Not a ‘sh’ sound.”
Then the math teacher with frightening skin who speaks zero english will creepily smile at me and offer me a shot or a cigarette. Then more lessons.
“How is your president?” Lela will say to me, back in the lounge. “You like?”
“Woo! Obama’s great. Go-bama.”
“What think you of George Bush?”
“You not like? Tsudia?”
“Not obama tsudia?”
“No, obama’s kargia. Bush did a lot of bad things to the economy/started a stupid stupid war.”
“I not like Obama. His skin, so dark.”
“His eyes, teeth, so white, they flash…I so afraid!”
“Huh. That’s uh…pretty racist. You should probably never say that in Detroit.”
Then the final lessons of the day, then Temo and I walk home, past the itenerant cows, dogs, chickens, and turkeys, usually drawing a large crowd of seventh grade girls who want my picture, and to try and trick me into saying I love them. (Me shen mq’varkhar). Then Irene has lunch waiting for us when we get home, with the same six items, pickles, bread, old bread, old cheese, figs in syrup, and fresh yogurt in a plastic cup, plus a main dish of some sort. Today, it was beans. Lobio.
Then we watch bad dubbed TV and movies downstairs. I’ve tried to help with the work—doing firewood, laundry, etc, and they laugh and call me a good boy (kargi bitch’i, lulz). Lela calls me three or four times during the evening to ask me things. Hours pass. Then dinner—the same six items, plus the leftovers from lunch, plus a new main dish—egg curry or vegetable stir-fry or fried potatoes or pickled salad. Absolutely everything tastes amazing, especially with the yogurt. Poor Irene.
Plus, Jamal finally shows up from wherever it is he goes during the day. Babua (grandfather) speaks russian or turkish or georgian at me, and his mother (!) eats bread and yogurt with her hands. She lives on our couch. Our neighbor Teona (different teona) comes over and sews, and we watch bad dubbed TV. Temo plugs in his phone charger and taps the nib to his lips, checking if the outlet has charge. I lazily pluck something out on the uke.
“Medzinebaa,” I declare, “it’s bedtime.”
“Ghamo mshvidobisa,” the family says back, Temo, and Tengo, and Irene, and Jamal, and Bebua, and Bebua’s ancient mother, and Teona, and they four or five strange men who are also in the house. “Good night!” And I head upstairs to watch House. House is awesome.
Somewhere around three or four in the morning, I will awaken to the howls of roosters and the wild wind.