Sunday, December 5, 2010

Some random thoughts and stories from this weekend

Friday night Tea and Koba caught the train to central Georgia to go to a family member's birthday celebration. Elene stayed with some other relatives here in Shamgona. Leban stayed at the house with me and "our grandmother" (as Tea calls her) as the "man of the house." Tea had arranged for her sister-in-law (I think), Teona to stay at the house also to take care of the milking, etc. and to make sure I had something to eat. But Teona speaks no English! So Lika (the university student who lives up the road) who speaks a little English brought her Georgian/English dictionary over and stayed, too. We talked as much as we could with long pauses while one or another of us looked up a word and tried to formulate the simplest way to say what we wanted to say. I made a couple of mistakes - at one point I said that I was going to the "magida" (table) instead of the "maghazia" (store). Grandmom looked very confused. It didn't dawn on me what I had said until I was halfway down the road!

At one point yesterday, Lika and I walked to her house to see her little brother - a cute, shy little 3-year-old named Goga. We sat at the table in the main room, talking with Lika's mother and grandmother, eating hazelnuts. Suddenly Lika's grandmother got up, came over to me, took my face in her hands, told me in Georgian what a nice girl I am, and kissed me several times on the cheeks and neck. I must say that that was the first time I've been kissed on the neck by an old lady! But the longer I'm in Georgia, the more sure I am that it won't be the last! That seems to be pretty common, and next time I'll try not to be so shocked.

Lika and I brought a bag of fresh hazelnuts back to the house. We opened them all by tapping each with a pointy hammer on the kitchen floor and then sorting the nuts from the shells. Then Lika roasted them in the wood stove, rubbed off the dark, papery skin, and served them warm with honey (from Zaza's bees) drizzled over them. Two such simple things straight from nature match in flavor perfectly!

Yesterday I took a walk for about an hour and half - most of the pictures that I posted yesterday were taken then. On my way out of town on a road I hadn't walked on before, one of police trucks drove up behind me and stopped. The driver started talking to me - I realized that he was asking me if I spoke any Russian. I told him no, and said in Georgian that I only speak a very little Georgian. He asked where I was going and if I wanted a ride. I tried telling him that I was just out for a walk to enjoy the day, but I couldn't remember the word for walk. I got my point across, though - he seemed to understand. He said that they were there for my security and didn't I want a ride? He knew a couple of words in English - "security," "zone," and "border." He said something about being close to Abkhazia, and then said (along with some charades) that he didn't want me to be taken and carried off to Abkhazia. I tried telling him that I am not afraid, but I couldn't remember the word for afraid, either! (Darn it, I need to study more!) I told him that I would just walk back - We introduced ourselves to each other then - of course they knew who I was, and their names were Eduard and something with some "z's" in it! These Georgian names are so difficult for me to remember! They were satisfied enough that I was headed back home.

This morning I went for my weekly long run - an hour run - out of town and back. I had noticed a spring that was piped out of the ground on the other side of the river toward Zugdidi last weekend when I ran, and I asked Tea about it. She said that the water is very good and clean. (I have not been drinking the well water from the house yet except in coffee or hot tea. I want to get used to it slowly, so I've been buying mineral water every day.) I decided to try the spring water today. I took my water bottle with me on my run and filled it at the spring. It was good water - and I'll find out soon enough if it is clean enough to not make me sick - I drank a whole bottle of far, so good! On my way back into town, I again received some roses from the police and a mandarin orange from a lady in the street. Running is becoming an exercise in nimble feet to keep my footing around the stones, potholes, and animal droppings as well as dexterity to hold onto fruit and roses without getting stuck by thorns!

Something that I noticed today as I walked back from the store: I am getting used to things here. The look of the houses is not so unique. The animals in the road are beginning to feel less novel. The occasional horse-drawn cart going by and the chickens or turkeys that have to be shooed out of the house don't feel so foreign. It's progress, but that means that the second phase of culture shock will hit me sometime soon: annoyance and irritability with things that are different from my "norm." I am hoping that knowing the mood will come and knowing that it will be temporary will make dealing with it easier than it's been in the past when I've had culture shock! I've had some pretty significant negative cycles in moves that I have made, but I never thought about the validity of culture shock when moving from one place to another. Part of our training week centered on dealing with culture shock, and I have learned a lot about the symptoms and how to deal with it. I hope that I put my new knowledge to use so I have an easier time of the negative phase this time around before assimilation into the new culture happens!

Week three of teaching starts tomorrow - my goal this week (aside from teaching well) is to learn the rest of the names that I don't know. That's a lot of names! I'll let you know how I do!

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