Friday, December 24, 2010

Weekends in Oktomberi

September ended & October began & everything was just great! During the beginning of the month, my volunteer friends and I kept ourselves busy by first spending a weekend in Batumi and then Tbilisi. First was Batumi, Georgia's 3rd largest city and the capital on the region of Adjara. It's a beautiful small city on the coast of the Black Sea. Packed with my bathing suit, beach towel, and suntan lotion, I soon discovered we had a pretty chilly weekend. Regardless of the "bad weather", we had a fabulous time. The city center, where we mostly hung out at) is very colorful, clean, and it has a European-like feel to it. I loved it! When you leave the center, however, things start to get a little bit more rough. My friends Teresa, Sheena, and I discovered a cute little cafe that served things such as salads, pasta, pizza, amazing desserts, and other non-Georgian foods. We were delighted! Despite severe complications with the waiter, we returned twice that weekend. Now the weather was chilly and I had no sweaters, so that of course meant I had to do a little shopping..... Lets just say Teresa and Sheena had to intervene. I was not happy then, but I thank them now.

The following weekend, we went to Tbilisi. By "we", I mean Teresa, Sheena, my British friend Mike, and my Puerto Rican friend Walter (a cool group of people). We did a little exploring of the country's capital and basically had a great time. We did some exploring of Old Tbilisi, which I fell in love with and then climbed up to a 4th century fortress, Narikala which offers breathtaking views of the entire city. However, the main reason to go to Tbilisi that weekend was to watch some football! One of my favorite things in the world! It was a EURO 2012 qualifier match between Georgia and Malta. Despite the bad fame of the Georgian National team, they actually won 1-0 and the crowd was happy!

The following weekend very different but exciting. It happened to be the grapes' harvesting season in the region of Imereti and my host family was hard at work hand-picking grapes from their vineyard. I couldn't resist to help! Besides the fact that I got super muddy and ended up exhausted, I was having a blast. The very next day we took those grapes and began the wine-making process! I can't describe this as anything but interesting! As I helped crush the grapes, I couldn't help feeling extremely grateful for this experience!

I ended up going back to Batumi in the middle of the month to spend another weekend. The weather was still chilly but I had a great time. Walked around the city, had some delicious fish and mushroom soup, and hung out with some Peace Corps volunteers that live around the area. It's always great to meet other foreigners!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A series of staring wars and other stories

Since many of the things that happen here are pretty random, I often catch myself thinking that I must simply be missing something and that there must be a logical explanation. I still haven't figured it out. Maybe it's simply the cultural differences or maybe its both. Also, I am positive that plenty of times, things get lost in translation.

One of the main things that has taken me a while to adjust to is the staring. People stare at you ALL the time and they surely don't try to hide it. I walk into a room and everybody turns around, looks at me, talk among themselves while looking at me, and then they look at me some more. Initially, this was extremely awkward, maybe a little flattering, but mainly awkward. After a few times, I got really annoyed and wanted to yell out "Stop looking at me".

Many times I find myself in staring battles with random people on marshutkas (Georgian minibuses), in restaurants, or even in my classrooms. The unfortunate thing is that I usually lose the battles because I simply cannot continuously stare at someone for that long.

But eventually, these (almost daily) rituals went from being super awkward and uncomfortable to simply normal. It usually no longer bothers me that people stare or talk about me as I am walking passed them. I am actually trying to embrace that I am a novelty to them. But, of course when I am having a "Yadira" day, in other words I am in a very bad mood, this continues to drive me crazy. In those very bad days that I've had lately, I found myself staring back and saying something along the lines of "what the hell are you looking at?" Now that I am writing this, I feel horrible for being rude but seriously, it's just not what I needed at the moment in time. Besides, this is supposed to be a cultural exchange and in my culture, staring is simply rude!

I've always assumed that it was simply common sense, or a matter of manners, to not stare at people. But Georgia has taught me that I was wrong. It is simply a matter of culture. (Either that or all Georgians lack manners, which is no where close to being the reality.) So this has been a tough thing to deal with in Georgia and on some days, it is easier than others.

Also, I have compiled a brief list of things that are generally wrong in the United States but are perfectly acceptable in Georgia:

1. Drinking is clearly not a big deal and a drinking age is nonexistent. My 10 year old host sister gets her own glass of beer or wine served occasionally. My 16 year old brother does too, of course.

2. While driving, it is okay to pass the car in front of you when there is on-coming traffic. In other words, you will often find three cars next to each other on a two-lane road. (It's pretty freaking scary the first couple of times.) Also, be careful with the cows because they have the right of way.

3. Supras (feasts with lots of food and drinks) are allowed during school hours. Which in default means that wine is allowed on school grounds. Since supras are vital to Georgian traditions, hangovers are a legitimate excuse to miss work (or so I've been told).

4. Personal space....what's that?! Yes, this does not exist here, which is pretty tough for most Americans who walk around with a bubble around them or get upset when someone gets too close. In Georgia, people stand as close to you as possible. They hug you or kiss you as they please. Also, when someone bumps into you here, you should never expect an apology.

5. There is no filter or discretion when saying or asking something. If Georgians want to know (anything), they will simply ask. (emphasis on anything)

There is definitely never a dull moment in Georgia.

Is it the 29th yet?

I clearly don't hate it here, I've actually had an awesome time. But now, I find myself, praying that it's over soon! This intense desire has little to do with Georgia and 100% based on the fact that I miss home... A LOT! After 1001 complications with my flight, and then having to cancel my very much anticipated Christmas trip to Rome, all I want is to be home for Christmas with my family. But clearly, that is not happening because my flight is for the 29th. To make myself feel a little better, I have resorted to retail therapy. Not a great idea on my "salary". Despite that, I am exhausted, depressed, and extremely anxious. The worst part of all is that I cannot exactly hide how I feel. (I've always had that issue). Therefore, I am positive my host family can sense that something is wrong. The last thing that I want is to make them feel like I'm not happy being here with them. I hate being like this, I feel like a little brat who is just whining because she didn't get what she wanted. But oh well, this is exactly how I feel. I'm not even that upset about Rome anymore (I was devastated for a day, then I got over it). Now, all I want is to show up at my mom's doorstep and surprise her on Christmas Eve, or sometime before that.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh<<<------- (me venting.)

I guess the 29th is not a year away, but it sure does feel like it to me. There is nothing left for me to do then be patient and enjoy my last two weeks in Georgia.

Boo :(