Last weekend, as Facebook denizens know, I took a 2-day “cultural trip” (meaning non-Peace-Corps-supervised) trip to the city of Kutaisi, in Western Georgia. Friends, it was glorious, in several different ways. First, aforementioned non-supervision. I completely understand and acquiesce to the Peace Corps’ need to know our whereabouts at all times – one need only think back to the extraordinarily efficient and effective 2008 evacuation when the war started here – but the lifestyle of being told who to be with, and when, all the time, even though expected and unavoidable during an intensive training period, was wearing a bit thin. So the second glorious thing was the chance to spend some quality time with fellow trainees not of my “cluster” (that unfortunate word again). While my clustermates are great folks and I enjoy spending time with them, a break and some new personalities was a lot of fun.
So, as these pictures illustrate, there was a fair amount of eating and drinking. There was a concerted effort to get me drunk, not sure why, perhaps to garner photos to use for future blackmail, but in spite of best efforts, it failed. Maybe next time, guys.
We stayed at a very, very nice “hostel,” I hesitate to even call it that, it was so nice. The 3 girls (well, ok, two women, and one very attractive young girl) shared a room. Here they are after a late night well-remedied by a bathroom that surpassed all of our wildest dreams. Not only a western-style toilet that had enough water pressure to flush, but a shower. A real shower, with real water pressure, and real HOT WATER. Honestly, there is little on this earth as sweet.
So next we all embarked on a day of touring adventures, joined by some more cultural trip adventurers who arrived on a morning martshutka. The city itself was just beautiful. It reminded me a little of Prague – cobblestone streets, lots of ironwork, very old buildings, and very green streets. I loved it. Very hot, oh yes … very. But like New York, even during a heat wave, worth being there.
A trip out to some famous caves was a bust, due to enormous numbers of schoolchildren taking up all the tour spots. Resilient Peace Corps volunteers (ok trainees) that we are, we split up into groups and went off to other attractions. This rather complicated logistic exercise resulted in the most crowded back seat of a cab I have ever seen.
I visited a wonderful old Greek Orthodox church up in the hills above the city. There were two weddings and a baptism going on, along with singing, dancing, and ceremonial walks around the church. Inside there were beautiful icons, alters, burning candles and incense. We all covered our heads and wandered around – no seats or formal services. I had not been in a Greek Orthodox church since my time in Israel and the Old City over 35 years ago and had forgotten what a mysterious atmosphere is evoked there.
After a very long walk and bus ride back to the McDonalds/martshuka station/PCV meeting place (fantastically nice bathrooms there, too, btw – my snobbism about Ronald has been completely obliterated by those bathrooms, and a McFlurry, locally known as a “MacPluri”), some very intense haggling, and a ipod-less ride to Khashuri, I am now back in the swing of training. A few short ending notes – took my mid-course language test this weekend. All I can say is that I don’t think I embarrassed myself – I was able to answer the questions, though some had to be repeated, and used some verbs, some nouns, several post-positions (in Georgian, most of our prepositions are tacked onto the end of words, changing their spelling and pronunciation in the process), some different cases (dative, nominative, possessive, vocative – don’t ask), and even, once, a verb and an infinitive verb in one sentence! Yes! However, I spoke only in present tense, made many errors, hesitated a lot, and corrected myself often. So who knows. I’ll get the results this Thursday, which, as if we haven’t got enough to be nervous about, will also be the day that we find out our permanent assignments. The very next day we depart to our new sites to meet our supervisors and our host families. So no blog posts for a week or two, but look to Facebook for a quick announcement of the what and where before I leave on what promises to be another very interesting trip.
Until then, goodbye to Kutaisi – I’ll always remember that shower, and a lot more.