Sunday, January 28, 2007

I’m back in good old Georgia now after my trip to Turkey and Greece. To be honest, I was a little reluctant to come back after being in such wonderful countries for a while. The thought of returning to chaotic, messy, cold Georgia was not very appealing to me as I sipped lattes, margaritas, and watched CNN in Greece. But thankfully, now that I’m back, I’m reminded that while Georgia is chaotic, messy, and cold, it’s really not that bad. I’ve just got to remember that if Georgia were a country with Pizza Hut and Starbucks (as Greece and Turkey both are), I wouldn’t have a job to do here… However, my homesickness would decline considerably if I could get a chai latte occasionally. I need to write those guys a letter.
Project Get Out of Georgia got off to a bumpy, yet beautiful start when awoke to a snow-covered Lanchkhuti, the first snow this year in western Georgia. We boarded the slowest bus ever to Batumi, but thankfully it also stopped every 5 minutes to pick up additional passengers. The snow continued and thickened as we approached the steep, windy roads near Batumi, so a trip that usually takes an hour and a half took four. Georgian traffic is always a nightmare, but Georgian traffic in bad weather is downright terrifying. Despite the odds, we arrived to Batumi unharmed and found a taxi to take us to the Georgia/Turkey border.

We were all giddy and anxious in the cab, visions of doners and Turkish delight dancing in our heads, enjoying the beauty of snow-covered Batumi and the Black Sea coast, when our taxi suddenly fishtailed, spun around, almost collided with a marshutka, and landed in a snow bank. If this had happened to me 7 months ago, before Georgia, I’d have been shaken, scared, adrenaline would have pumped through my veins. But no, not this time. We all just kinda looked around, shrugged our shoulders; we got out of the cab, unphased, and got behind the cab to start pushing. No big deal; close calls in traffic are a daily occurrence in Georgia and we’ve all been desensitized. I also documented this event on camera.
The rest of the trip went a bit smoother. We eventually arrived in even snowier Trabzon and spent the night in a Turkish dormitory. Long story. Our flight to Izmir the next morning was only slightly delayed because of the snow, and when we touched down again there was no more snow, only sunny skies and surprisingly green mountains. I LOVE TURKEY! I really do recommend that everyone visits Turkey, especially Istanbul. There’s not a cooler city to be found; well, maybe there is, but I haven’t done too much traveling. But in my limited international travel experience, Istanbul rates extremely high.
And Greece… I’ve always wanted to go there and it did not disappoint. Athens is such a lively, modern city so nicely surrounding one of the world’s most ancient sites. I think that’s cool. And Santorini is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I love it and I don’t understand why Ryan said we couldn’t live there and serve coffee in cafés. I thought it was a really good plan.
I won’t write in detail about the trip here, I’ll just give a brief skeleton list of our adventures: Hassled by would-be tour guides, “rare” Roman coin salesmen, and bus company men in Selcuk; took over 100 pictures at Ephesus; left Asia and entered Europe by crossing the bridge over the Bosphorus; ate lots of doners; tried lamb again and finally decided with conviction that I don’t really care for it; went inside the Blue Mosque; saw lots of beautiful Turkish things I can’t afford but would like to come back for someday if I can afford them; saw three fireworks shows at once from a rooftop overlooking the Bosphorus; drank Starbucks for the first time in 7 months and ate at Pizza Hut; bought a new book for the first time in 7 months and a British Cosmo; slept on a train for the first time; saw the most beautiful sunset in the world on Santorini, every night for a week; adopted a pack of stray dogs; ate my weight in baklava; picnic on the beach; DIDN’T wear long-johns for the first time since November; walked around the Acropolis; drank margaritas at TGI Fridays…
Those are some of the highlights. Of course, I have a million pictures and I have (or will have, depending on if I do my blog post or facebook post first) posted lots of them on my facebook account. If you’d don’t have a facebook account, email me and I’ll give you my facebook password so you can take a gander. If you want, no pressure.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I've decided to just start posting random pictures that have nothing to do with one another. Here they go:

Snow in Dimi a few days before Christmas. It had been so long since I'd seen snow, I got pretty excited and a little snap-happy, naturally. Those are persimmons rotting on that tree, the last few still hanging on from fall. There are persimmon trees everywhere here in the fall. But in this picture you can't tell that they're rotting fruit and they look quite pretty in the white snow. It also snowed on Christmas morning, something I'd never experienced in my life. White Christmas' are freak accidents in Texas, so again I got kinda giddy when I woke up to snow falling on Christmas morning.

This is my 5th form class, my favorite class, the only class I do not occasionally want to strangle. They're just awesome, really smart, motivated, active... At least for the next 2 years or so until they become to cool for school like all the older kids. But, for now, they're the best thing about my school.
Front: Gvadi, Delmari, Aliko, Ana, Barbara, Salime, Mary.
Back:Nino, Giorgi, Vasiko, Ana
This was the day I taught them Santa Clause Is Coming To Town... And discovered that, like you Katie Ree, I have the kindergarten teacher gene. It was really cute and fun.

My host sisters-Ana, 11 and Nata, 13. They are also both my students and speak English pretty well, which makes things easy at home. They're standing in our petchi room, the only warm room in the house, where we spend all of our time. ALL OF OUR TIME. I find myself going to bed later and later just to stay in the warm room... These girls are really cool, smart, fun... They are always asking me to write down the words to American pop songs for them and against my better judgement, I oblige...

My host mom, Ia, teaching me how to make lobiani for Barbaroba, St. Barbara's Day. Georgians eat beans on Barbaroba, and lobiani is basically a bean pie. I didn't know this was a religious holiday, I was just under the impression that it was Georgian Bean Appreciation Day or something. All my host mom said was, "Paige, on Sunday, we will eat many beans! Everyone eats beans!"

Just a very pretty picture of a village, Dimi. I have an infinite collection of such scenery pictures of the various landscapes of Georgia. I also seem to find it neccessary to take about 5 of the same picture whenever I take such a shot. But I especially liked this one for some reason.

This was taken way back in September at Jeff's birthday supra in his village. That's Ryan, Ian, Jeff, Lyssa, Jen, and myself standing in Jeff's family's vineyard. We stood around talking and picking and eating grapes from the vines that day...that seems like a long time ago. It was a cool time though, as I recall...

Here I am looking slightly goofy and awkward "interviewing" the US Ambassador to Georgia at the breast cancer walk in Kutaisi. Considering my extensive journalism experience, I was asked to play reporter for the day. That's our country director, Kathleen, behind me. I tried to interview him as we were actually in the midst of the walk...very professional.