It all started so innocently. I was just ambling along my street, on my way home from school, when I saw a smaller dog trotting happily along the road. Not growling, not menacing … just … trotting. I thought nothing of it. There are dogs running all over the streets here, and although I’ve seen photos of giant Georgian mutant dogs with huge muffs, all I see in Khashuri are mutts. So on I go, and suddenly, utterly without warning, I hear a loud yip and feel a bite on the back of my right ankle. Curse that dog! In fact, I sort of did, having involuntarily yelled out “Jesus!” when it happened. As the dog (wisely) ran off down the street, I twisted around trying to see the extent of the damage. Luckily I was wearing socks and pants, so in truth, the damage was very minor.
The scene of the crime
Meanwhile, a group of about 5 women stood frozen in the street staring at me, wide-eyed. As I hopped around like a dog chasing its tail trying to figure out if I was damaged goods or not, one of them finally came over and spoke to me. By then I could see I wasn’t really hurt, so I told her one of the 3 words I knew at that point – “kargit,” meaning “good,” meaning – or trying to mean – “I’m ok.” (Footnote – now this woman knows me, so when we see each other in the street we actually greet one another and she asks how I am, which is nice!)
I went home and told my family what happened – my “bebia” (grandmother), who is about 6 years older than me, was pretty mad and ran about the house yelling. They rushed me in the bathroom and scrubbed my ankle with hot water and soap, which was in fact exactly the right thing to do. I thought nothing more of it, but after reading in Peace Corps materials that dog bites are an EMERGENCY that REQUIRE an IMMEDIATE telephone call to the doctor, I sent a text saying it was a tiny nip and I put a bandaid on it. Within 5 minutes my cellphone was ringing and I was directed to come to Tbilisi for rabies shots the very next morning. No arguments allowed.
So the next morning, already coping with an, um, shall we say, upset stomach (’nuff said) I gulp the Immodium (hey, it’s an hour and half drive!) and off we go in a taxi. To make a long story short, I had to go into Tbilisi 3 times for shots – I’ll get the fourth one next week in Khashuri since the docs will be here anyway. Trainees are not allowed to go to Tbilisi, so it was a bit of a treat for me, especially given that (a) the shots didn’t hurt, and (b) I’ve been sick for 3 weeks now and this gave me the opportunity to confer with the docs about what to do on the hacking cough/incessantly running nose front. Unfortunately not much improvement so far, but not for lack of trying, that’s for sure. Medical attention in the Peace Corps is top-notch. While there, I was not allowed to leave the PC HQ building, but I did eagerly observe the city through car windows. Tbilisi reminds me of Tel Aviv, to my surprise! Lots of trees, tall, old concrete and brick buildings, laundry hanging from balconies, cobblestone residential streets and wide avenues, lots of small shops with apartments above …
So … the “misadventure” part. After my last trip, I perhaps unwisely decided to try out my infantile Georgian on the taxi driver, having learned the vocabulary for directions that very day. I asked him to take me home instead of the town center, because it was raining and getting dark. I did this by showing him my address (in English) and saying it in Georgian. He said ok, we climbed in the taxi and took off. We took an entirely different route from the prior 2 trips though … and as we began climbing a very long, extremely narrow street in an unfamiliar area, I wondered what the hell was going on. Was he doing a personal errand on the way home? He asked for directions, continued up hill, and finally, after about 15 minutes of driving, I saw a street sign on a building that said … you guessed it. My street name (Goshevilli) in Khashuri! OMG. I started laughing and (maybe just a little) crying at the same time, and yelled out in Georgian, “no! Goshevilli in Khashuri, not Tbilisi!” I’m proud to say my post-position use of “shi,” meaning “in,” was correct, even in extremis. We both laughed, and I have to say I got a good tour of an area of Tbilisi I never would have seen otherwise, And it was really, really nice. Sort of like the Village in NYC, filled with sophisticated-looking older people wearing designer glasses and younger people kissing on the street. Now you don’t see THAT in Khashuri! When we finally got home (and yes, I did have an opportunity to use my Georgian direction words, which I think actually kind of irritated him, given my accent and atrocious grammar), I tried to give him a large tip, having checked by phone with our training leader, the all-knowing Tengo, but he wouldn’t accept it.
I regret I didn’t have my camera with me but given how fast he was driving, I don’t think I would have gotten any good pictures anyway, really. In consolation, here is a photo of a group of trainees having a beer after school one day. That was fun.
Hey, next week I am 60. Who would ever have dreamed I would turn 60 here in Khashuri, Georgia? I don’t know about dreams coming true, but it’s certainly not what I expected, that’s for sure. Not really even sure how I feel about it, but – time marches on and all that. It’s just inevitable, so I accept it!
That’s it for now, I’m going to try to be a bit more diligent about taking photos and hopefully will have something interesting in the next few weeks. Next week I am visiting an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp to do job shadowing, and a week or two after that will have my permanent site assignment. That’s a very big deal – where I will be living for the next 2 years – so I’ll be sure to post then. Stay tuned!