Those that know me well realize I’m not a fan of artificial recreation. My favorite parts of Amsterdam were the museums, the denizen’s happiness and kindness, and best of all the architecture for the beauty and oddities (for a fun tid bit read this and my favorite part not mentioned is that after about 100 years locals learned instead of entire buildings they could just alter the hooks instead-true legend). However, I still enjoy throwing around the term, ‘natural high.’ Moments when life tastes sweeter than sour, and you are fully aware of it. In less than 24 hours, four events sent your blogger to such great heights:
4. Delivery of my Economist magazine via Georgian mail. Some know that the Economist is more or less my personal choice for a holy book and, when able, I read the paper edition piously. So, to continue with the religious analogies, sending something through the Georgian post can seem a bit like sending it to the the no longer existent limbo.
Mail doesn’t entirely appear to be damned for eternity, but don’t expect any revelations of a postcard delivered on angel’s wings. In fact, from what I’ve been told, it seems things from America would be delivered faster were they on Noah’s boat. I know less of domestic mail and while I don’t wish to compare it to the Pony Express (though a joke about the Cow Express due to the roads would be apt), I am sure delays result from the fact that traversing the country consistently means being a postal worker here is a treacherous Job (not a bad religious pun I do say so myself). Continuing, while international packages do not seem to turn into salt when they hit the Georgian sun-they are apparently opened, searched, and charged considerably more if they contain something valuable. Why? Thy blogger has no idea other than apparently a Georgian commandment is “Thou shall have no other reliable & cheap mail other than e-“.
Hmmm, perhaps too many religious references. Generally, I think I shall receive my Economist 7-8 days after press date-really not too bad. However, as I wish to continue to be your personal Georgian raconteur, let me add that on Thursday (9/30) I received the September 4th & September 24th Economist editions at once. Somehow, I received the 9/11 edition a week ago. How can that be explained? The post office said it got swallowed by a whale…that was the last one I promise. In reality, the 9/4 edition appeared to play pin-ball throughout the country (see photo, each stamp representing a different Georgian city). I was amused when I saw this, my host father unsurprised.
One more entertaining thing is the relaxed attitude regarding the post. My magazine is picked up at the post office by ‘someone’ (no hesitation by the office to give it to whomever), and at one point he/she will take it to my host family’s home. Any frustration at wanting my magazine asap is wiped away by how amazingly communal this is. I feel nothing but part of the Martvili ethos-really a fantastic way to become adjusted.
3. Unrelated to Georgia, I owe a thank you to fellow teacher Cristen Bauer. Received a message the other night saying “did you get a chance to listen to Pete Yorn’s new album?” Unbeknown to me, one of my favorite artists had come out with a brand new album. I was shocked, am still shocked, and now in the process of trying to legally download his new album (support artists you love). As I plan how I will spend my first listen, a wonderful surprise like this easily makes one feel a natural high.
2. The most impromptu event was the picnic in the mountains Thursday night. Oh, and by picnic I mean heavily intoxicated event with a wonderful surrounding landscape. What made it all the more interesting was the fact that Dato, my host father, drove us there in a 1975-ish Russian car-a very fine model despite the lack of seatbelts. He took it because the rocky road would have damaged his regular car. Soon after he said that the stones were flipping up at a rapid rate-but the car had no problem.
Once we reached the summit they said it was a picnic, but in reality just another ‘suphra’ (Qartuli/Georgian for “feast”). While this was not quite as planned as others, there was still more than enough drinking, copious amounts of honorific toasts, and again splendid views despite the occasional blast of rain.
1. Last reason were some things at school such as students giving me notes thanking me for being there. What problems there are at my school are continually overshadowed by the attitude of the students. Additionally, before I was ready to leave school Thursday, another teacher asked if I wished to join the 11th grade on a trip to the famous wine region in the east of the country. While I may not be able to go, it serves as an impetus to get going on my breakdown of Georgian regions (finally).
Therefore, the first region to define is the one I currently live in and know the best: Samagrelo, or as it’s known to those here, Samagrelo.
Samagrelo is one of the bigger regions and it’s located in the northwest of the country (and forms the northwest border of the country since Abkhazia has broken away and formed its own ‘country’). Some things you should know about Samagrelo:
-It’s the best region in Georgia full of wonderfully hospitable people and a rich heritage (I live here, I’d say that about wherever I live…but those two are certainly true).
-It has its own language. Not dialect, language. It is not really comparable to Georgian, and it’s not written. In other words, anyone (such as yours truly) trying to learn Georgian is doubly in trouble because he/she encounters many people who will then try and teach or speak to him/her in Mingrelian (or Megruli). The language is only spoken by around 1 million people in the world…most of them around here.
-Mingrelians enjoy spicy food and have many dishes unique to Samagrelo. One dish which is not spicy (but that I remember the name of) is ghomi (pronounced sort of like homey as in, “Hey homey, step off!”). Basically, a corn paste that tastes good with meat gravy.
-The people are known for keeping the front of their houses and their yards clean. Mingrelians, therefore, are my mother’s favorite.
-One local told me that Mingrelians can lie 4 times in 3 words. Not sure if I believe him.
-Going from the language thread, one of the more funny stories is a Mingrelians once went to an isolated town in the middle of Russia to be a language teacher. He was hired and taught them. However, they thought he was teaching them French when in reality it was Mingrelian…this either proves the former (Mingrelians are liars-or a different rumor that Georgians as whole love to exaggerate…greatly) or that the Mingrelian language is better learned intoxicated (see: Russian…I jest).
-Samagrelo’s biggest city is Zugdidi which is home to some good volunteer friends of mine but also many IDP (Internally Displaced People). I’m not here to write the entire history of Georgia. However, again relating to Abkhazia there were many refugees from a previous war and many that are not in Tbilisi are in Zugdidi. This has led to some problems reintroducing them fully into Georgia and its’ economy, schools, etc., but specifically speaking Zugdidi on my visit seemed quite the nice town. Didi in Qartuli means big therefore the town means, Zug-big…or something like that.
-Samagrelo is along the Black Sea & twice I have had the chance to get to the coast here. There are always discussions over where is the nicest spot along the Black Sea in Georgia.
Regrettably, most Georgian’s tend to say it is in Abkhazia (where they are not allowed to go…again, breakaway territory/country). I have repeatedly asked if this is a consequence of you want what you can’t have but they insist it is the most beautiful. In the meantime, I can say that along Samagrelo’s coast there are some nice spots in a town called Anaklia. Warning: if you find yourself along the beach and the sun is out in Georgia…wear sun screen. Perhaps packages do not turn to salt in the Georgian sun, but your body certainly turns into a tomato.
That’s it for Samagrelo at the moment, but rest assured as this is my region more and more will come out in the future. Next well be the famous wine region in the east: Kakheti. Kargad!