The winter here in Shamgona is very wet, and today started the way most days have since I've been here - with rain. I awoke to the sound of the raindrops on the roof, and since I had nowhere to be, I just lay in bed for a while listening to the rhythm of the drops. I got up a little before 9 and had some breakfast, then caught up on replying to some emails and paying bills. I really wanted to go for a walk, but the rain kept coming down, and walking in the rain here is a bit messier than walking in the rain on paved sidewalks! I read for a bit and talked with Tea. Around 3, the rain finally cleared out. I walked out to one of the rivers that surrounds Shamgona, and followed a road I had not yet been on. It wound around for a while, and I kept expecting it to join up with my road, but after about 15 minutes or so, I decided to turn around and retrace my steps before I ended up lost (although I'm not really sure that's possible here....). Not long after I started heading back, one of the police trucks came by, passed me, then turned around and drove back. They stopped just in front of me, and the driver got out.... with a bunch of red roses! He gave them to me, and said something in Georgian -- I replied (in Georgian) that I know only a very little Georgian, and he said something back while pointing to himself -- I have no idea what he said although I imagine he was probably offering to teach me his language, but I thanked him for the flowers and wished him and the officer still in the truck a good day. With a smile and a wave, they drove back down the road. As I walked along, I was thinking that they must have either picked or bought those flowers and had them in the truck to give me whenever they saw me today. (Shamgona is small enough that I see the police everyday when I am out walking or running.) I am quite amused at the constant showering of flowers....maybe the police have a crush on me! Or maybe they give all blonde visitors roses!?
When I got back to the house, some of Tea's family was over, and a few minutes later, her cousins that I had met a few days ago (Zaza and Maga) drove up. Maga speaks very good English, and asked if I would come over to her house for the evening. I agreed, and then she and Zaza decided that I should see some of the surrounding countryside, as well. We brought Elene along and drove to a friend's house - Alik. He also speaks some English - it is relatively broken, but good enough that I understand him. The five of us drove then around some of the surrounding roads through very rural country until we got to the river that borders Abkhazia. The place that we parked had a ruined railroad track that was in service during the Soviet days, but now sits in rusted disuse. The railroad bridge that spans the river is also rusted, and is twisted and broken from the 2008 conflict when the bridge was bombed. There was a very random group standing on the riverbank - a wedding party and some other people - I don't know if they were refugees or not. The river is very shallow, and they were being ferried across in a horse-drawn cart. The sight was very bizarre! A wedding party, random shoppers with bags, and farmers working their way across the river with the twisted wreck of rusty metal jutting into the sunset overhead. Alik was very uncomfortable being there. He said that the time was so bad in 2008, and being there brings back the fearful feelings from that time, so we left and drove to Maga's house. Little did I know that there was dinner waiting for us - a suphra! I met all kinds of Maga's family - immediate and extended! There was (as always) so much wonderful food, and wine, and toasts and more wine and more toasts and more food! We sat around talking and laughing and eating and drinking for a few hours. The toasts are a picture into the priorities of the Georgians (at least from my perspective) - peace, friends, family, and more peace.
It was a good day.