Saturday, April 23, 2011

I ♥ Batumi

After walking by a tattoo parlor along Batumi Boulevard this evening, James and I joked that we should stop in for a lasting memory of Georgia -- James suggested a "მე ♥ ბათუმი" (I ♥ Batumi) somewhere where no one else would see it..... We both decided against it! As much as we do love Georgia -- Batumi and all -- tattooing ourselves with it just wouldn't do justice to our experiences here. 

At dinner tonight we talked about what we are going to miss most about Georgia when we leave. Both of us decided that, in some aspect, the people are what we will miss the most. For my part, I will certainly miss Tea the most. She has become a very close friend. But generally speaking, country-wide, I will miss the hospitality of these people. 

James and I are staying in a guesthouse in the city -- basically, we are sleeping in extra rooms that the family has in their home which they rent out. The family is very nice. They have made us feel welcome and at home. Although breakfast is not included in the price of the stay, they invited us to have breakfast in the mornings. Of course, we accepted the offer. We were pleasantly surprised this morning to find a table set with bread, cheese, sausages, hard-boiled eggs (dyed red for Easter), rolls, cake, jam (cherry tomato jam -- surprisingly good), and tea. The son of the proprietors is the only one who speaks English, but with mine and James' combined Georgian skills (James' more-so), we could communicate with the mother of the premises with no problem. She offered us anything we needed, and invited us to sit and watch television with her and her husband. We declined the TV-watching, but thanked her over and over for the wonderful breakfast. She confirmed with us what time we would want to eat tomorrow morning. 

Such beautiful, genuine generosity -- with a warm smile and honest eyes. That's what I will miss most when I leave this place. 

Sitting by the sea, watching the waves roll up onto the rocky shore and the dolphins roll up then under the surface, I am surrounded by beauty. Wild, untamed beauty that cannot be described -- it can only be experienced. Likewise, no words can truly express the depth of generosity of the people of this country. For all the differences that a Westerner may label a "fault" in the Georgians -- smoking, unemployment, lack of "inside-voices," lagging educational standards, unmotivated society, sub-modern medical practices -- the beauty of the culture of these people is as wild and untamed as the sea that borders their land. The rocky shore resembles the difficult past this country has had -- riddled with invasions, war, poverty. The blurred line between the sea and the sky is like their desire to be something different from what they have been...... but they are not there yet. The constant rolling tide is the deeply ingrained tradition that keeps Georgia Georgian. And here I sit, observing it all. Not quite a part of it -- close, but not quite. I can touch it. I can watch it. I can appreciate it. But it will always be something that is foreign to me. I could put on a wet-suit and tanks and mask, and swim down in the sea with the dolphins for awhile, but I won't know what it is like to be a dolphin. I may experience their world for a little while, but I won't know what it is to be one -- know its struggles, its joys, its fears, its background, its philosophy, nor its life. 

That's how I feel about Georgia.

No matter how much Tea shares with me her customs and traditions, I will never fully understand them. But that doesn't mean I can't experience them. I can take in everything around me to the best of my ability and learn everything I can from everyone I meet. In this way, I will gain a broader appreciation for humanity as a whole -- and Georgians as a special part of that whole. 

Yes, I ♥ Batumi. 

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