For those of you who don’t know (and that group included me until last Saturday morning) Richie Dixon was the coach of the Georgian National Rugby team, until the end of the last world cup. Apparently Georgia has a very good side. That is, in its entirety, my knowledge of the game of rugby. But I’ll start at the beginning.
<span> I’m kind of hoping to get out of school early on Friday but it doesn’t happen. The reason I want to get out early is cos I know that, if I do, I’ll be able to hitch to Tbilisi with Ally or Ara and it will save me 15 lari but they both get out hours before me so I’m on my own. I wait for ages with Eka and Maia outside the school, hoping for a cab or a marshrutka to show up. Eventually Maia asks some young people in a car outside the school where they’re going and they’re driving at least as far as the main road so I jump in with them. They turn out to be a couple of Georgian models who are driving round the schools in the area looking for potential new ‘recruits’. I can’t wait to tell the boys about it ‘cos I know how jealous they’re going to be. They drop me at the next school along and I jump on the first marshrutka that goes past, which turns out to be the slowest vehicle known to mankind. I practically kill myself getting to the bus station for 2pm only to be told there isn’t a marshrutka until 3pm so I have to tell the guys I’m going to be even later than I thought. I’m sat up front with the driver, as usual, and we make good time into Tbilisi. The boys tell me to head to Freedom Square so I attempt to get a cab. Easier said than done. I manage to find the only taxi driver in the world who can’t speak and there ensues a kind of pantomime. I’m not sure if he’s got a really sore throat or if there’s something seriously wrong with him but all he can do is make a strange kind of gargling noise. Plus my usual trick of miming a statue of Saint Giorgi doesn’t work. After about five minutes I finally manage to make him understand where I want to go and I ask him how much. He asks how much I want to pay and I say four lari. At this he basically says, through mime, ‘I’m not going to take you for four lari but my friend’s car is much shitter than mine so maybe he will.’ So we go to talk to the taxi driver in front, but obviously the first taxi driver can’t tell the second one where I want to go because he can’t talk, and so the whole pantomime starts again.
When I finally get to Freedom Square Ally and Ara are waiting for me with a Georgian guy called Luka who Ara met on Couch Surfing. The first thing Luka asks is if I know what the situation is. Ally admits he’s told me nothing about it. Forgive me for being a little suspicious. We jump in another cab and, stopping to buy food and vodka on the way, drive out of the city for about 20 minutes. To a shack. That’s right; we’re sleeping in a shack. Actually, I get the impression, from what I can see in the dark, that it would be really nice in summer. It’s basically one wooden room with a bed in it and some other items of furniture, a few books etc. We manage to unearth an old woodstove and an axe and Luka and the boys set about chopping up old furniture while I play the girl card and sit there drinking vodka. And that’s our evening basically. The four of us sit in the shack, chatting, drinking vodka and eating hot dogs we’ve heated on the stove. The fire and the vodka keep us warm and, all in all, it’s a pretty good night.
We walk into town the following morning with vague plans to find somewhere to shower. On the way in we pass the Rugby Federation building, at which point Ally remembers that the Georgian rugby coach is Scottish, and decides to go see if he’s around. He talks to a guy on the door and finds out that Richie Dixon is actually staying at the Marriott in town so we carry on into Tbilisi. I grab a coffee with the guys and then ditch them in favour of going to the hostel where other Ali is staying to take a shower. Ali’s arranged to meet Judy, one of the girls from our orientation group who I haven’t seen since, to take her to get a new tattoo done so I decide to go with them and agree to meet up with the others later. Ali and I actually get bored waiting with Judy so we go and grab some lunch and then I go to meet up with the boys and Pricilla at the National Museum. By this point I still haven’t heard from the woman who suggested I house sit for her so I’ve kind of given up on the idea. Ally, on the other hand, hasn’t given up on the idea of meeting Richie Dixon, so we leave Ara and Pricilla and head over to the Marriott on Rustaveli where the receptionist, with absolutely no regards for his privacy, informs us that Mr Dixon’s staying at the branch on Freedom Square. Ally marches straight up to the reception desk and asks to see Richie Dixon. They call his room but there’s no answer so they suggest he may be in the bar. Which is exactly where we find him. He’s just finishing up a meeting so he tells us to take a seat and shortly after comes to join us for a beer. He turns out to be a really nice guy and we chat for an hour or so about life in Georgia and Scotland and, to an extent, about rugby. Before he leaves he goes up to his room and brings us some Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers he brought over from Scotland. I’ve rarely seen Ally so happy! Mr Dixon has to go to another meeting so we check in with Ara and head over to meet him on Rustaveli where he’s waiting with a bunch of other TLGers who are all out to celebrate the birthday of an Australian woman from our group. We go to a Peruvian restaurant and we have a pretty good night, but Ally and I duck out early and head back to the shack. Ara stumbles in with some random guy he’s met at about 6am, just in time to stoke up the fire for us.
We get the bus into town the next morning and I decide I’ve had quite enough of the boys and the shack for one weekend so I go to meet other Ali at the hostel. I also decide I can’t face the marshrutka ride home so I text Eka and ask if it’s ok if I go home on Monday. I know this is kind of cheeky, but it’s my last week and for the previous three weeks the school has offered me Monday off anyway so I try not to feel too bad about it. Ditching the boys actually has a practical purpose – there are things I need to do in Tbilisi and I never get anything done when I’m with them, I shower at the hostel and Ali and I spend the day shopping. It’s actually great cos I’m desperate for new trainers and I get almost all my Christmas shopping done for my host family too. We walk for miles and we’re pretty knackered by the end of it so I go shopping for ingredients. We have a really nice night in the end. It’s the first time I’ve cooked in months so I love it. Judy comes over and weeate dinner and then watch a movie with wine and popcorn. Ok, so it’s not the most Georgian night in the world but it’s nice for a change.
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