Published: January 2nd 2012December 8th 2011
On Monday night I sleep really well for the second night in a row and wake up in a great mood on Tuesday. I don’t think I realised how rubbish I’d been feeling until I wasn’t! It’s nice to be back at school after my day off. I tell Maia all about my weekend and everyone asks me about Bakoriami and Maia tells me a story about her weekend. Apparently her and Eka had a training session in Zugdidi and during the break they were sitting in a café with a ‘negro’ boy (her word not mine). One of the other volunteers I think. Some Georgian guys at the next table started throwing cake at him. They had to persuade him not to call the police! Honestly, some people. For all its wonderful qualities every now and then you get a stark reminder that in some ways Georgia is still very backwards. Maia and Eka were mortified.
While I was waiting for a marshrutka into Zugdidi on Friday my director had told me about a place she knows of where my friends and I could stay in a little village in Ajara so, much earlier than usual, I start making potential plans for the weekend, which basically involves trying to get more details out of my director. Apparently there’s a place we can stay for 20 lari a night and, whilst this is actually more than we would normally pay, it includes all our meals and we were just saying at the weekend that most of our money while we’re away seems to go on eating out so it sounds like a good deal to me. After school I have my lesson with the sixth grade Abhazians. I’m playing games with them in two teams but two of my other students, Michiko and Giorgi, are hanging around in the classroom under the pretence of sweeping the floor and keep giving them the answers so in the end I have to put my stern teacher face on and throw them out. I come home, sew up the zip on my coat which I managed to break at the weekend, wash my clothes and feel like I’ve had a productive day. The kids are off doing their own thing so Gala, Eka and I have lunch together and then Nino comes round so I’m left on my own to write for the rest of the day, which suits me fine. I just wish I could teach Mari to read in her head! I’m starting to have mixed feelings about leaving now with just over two weeks to go. I know I’ll miss my family and the school, but I’m also seriously ready for some independent living. I feel like it’s time to start making plans for my time post-teaching. At the moment the idea is to spend Christmas at Ara’s aunt’s house in Armenia and then I’m thinking of renting a place in Tbilisi or Kutaisi until I go home. I’m still planning to do a lot more exploring before I leave but I find the idea of having my own place to go back to every now and then unbelievably appealing.
I pop into town after school on Wednesday to visit the doctor. I have to wait an hour but apart from that it’s an entirely positive experience. The doctor speaks flawless English and is lovely. I’m expecting to have to pay, in spite of the medical insurance provided by TLG, but my ‘treatment’ is free so I decide to treat myself to a couple of glasses of wine and an actual salad at the American bar. Not that the food’s anything to write home about but it does give me the opportunity to use their wireless. Probably not worth it since when I go to pay I realise the wine was six lari a glass! On the other hand I bump into Sam and he’s leaving next week so at least I get to say goodbye. I come home and one of the neighbours is round so we sit in the kitchen drinking wine and eating. I don’t actually remember too much of the evening after that point but I do know I ate and drank far too much. They drink so quickly that you kind of feel like you have to keep eating to soak up some of the alcohol. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! Gala and our neighbour tell me they’re going to two funerals the next day and they all have a good laugh about the Georgian tradition of keeping the body at home for seven days while Gala does in impression of the wailing women at the funeral. It’s massively inappropriate and very funny. I can only assume they’re not terribly close to the people whose funerals they’re attending!
Thursday is a good day. After the crippling cold of November the weather has actually warmed up again. I can get away with only wearing one pair of tights to school under my trousers! I wake up early with the faint overtures of a hangover and, having not showered for a few days, climb out of my bedroom window and wash my hair in the icy water spouting from the shower head; as any sane person would do in my situation. School is as it always is and I wander home after my classes because Eka is still teaching. When I get home the unexpected happens. Shock horror; the house is empty. This has never happened before. In nearly three months. As it happens I do nothing I wouldn’t have done anyway, should my family have been around. It’s more a feeling that I could that makes me happy. Everyone returns sooner or later and we enjoy a big lunch followed by coffee and cakes. Afterwards Eka calls me outside and I find her standing next to a pair of industrial scales (I imagine they use them to weigh the bags of nuts and fruit they sell). Yesterday I told her that when I was at the doctors they weighed me but I hadn’t looked at the scales because I didn’t want to know and this somehow translated into, ‘Let’s weigh ourselves!’ Anyway, she’s not happy and I’m even less so. Later I’m on the phone to my mum in my bedroom and I see Gala trying to instigate a water fight with Eka. He’s at the outside sink lobbing double handfuls of water at her. I’m just glad to be out of the firing line. Later still, I’m sitting in my chair reading as usual when Gala calls me outside. They’re raking up leaves in the fenced off part of the garden so I grab a spare rake and join in and for the first time in a while I feel like one of the family. It’s great to be outside doing something physical too. We rake all the leaves into one massive pile and set fire to them. Eka then accidently sets fire to her broom as she’s raking up a few stray leaves and ends up waving it around like a flaming torch. Not to be outdone, Gala promptly falls out of a tree and we all piss ourselves laughing at him. He then tells me that, while we were at school earlier, he had cut down a really big tree so we all traipse off down to the bottom of the garden to take a look. Eka tells me it doesn’t look all that big to her but I’m suitably impressed. I speak to the others about potential plans for the weekend but nothing’s decided. I tell them I think the village my director told me about is off the cards because I haven’t heard anything about it since. All week she’s been saying she will call to make enquiries but she keeps forgetting. Later one of the neighbours comes over with a vat of wine. I remember I’ve told Eka I will write a test for the sixth grade so I do this while I’m drinking. I’m sure this is a fairly regular occurrence in Georgia. At this point, after more than two months of living with them, I find out that my family is speaking Mingrelian half the time. Between that and Eka speaking English I never really stood a chance of learning Georgian living with them. I do, however, manage to say, ‘I think my Georgian family and friends are wonderful’ in more or less flawless Georgian and given how drunk I am I’m pretty pleased with myself. Once again I eat and drink far too much, a much more regular occurrence in Georgia!