Sunday, January 30, 2011

Interesting Conversations on the metro..

So, as per usual, let me first apologize for not updating my blog more. I actually was intending to put up some new posts about my Istanbul trip, and some other things, but just got lazy. It's really cold here, and that just makes me lazier. The holidy season was a blur, I lost my Iphone on new years so I've been with this shitty phone that I am incapable of texting with. I don't know how people text so fast with those 9 number button phones. I was one of the few people in PC Georgia that stayed here I think. So the time past by very slowly, and nothing really happened...

I was take the metro in Tbilisi just a few minutes ago, when on the metro, this guy across from me starts talking to me and going into a rant on why Chinese people like sushi so much. Or something like that. It was all in Georgian, and since I've moved out of my host family apartment, my Georgian has stagnated. But I think the gist of his rant was why Chinese people like sushi and what kind of fish do you like, and so on.. I interjected at some point that sushi is a Japanese dish and I like tuna and salmon. Not sure I got my point across. I think the conversation (or rather the monologue, since I was barely participating) went on to cover kick boxing and karate and Jackie Chan. I think i've been called Jackie Chan more than 2 dozen times in Georgia. I guess thats the only chinese person they know. These type of conversations are very common place for me in Georgia. I definitely yearn for the anonymity I have in America.

I'll try to post more... maybe... no promises...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pictures from the Slaughter!

The lil guy before the slaughter.

Avert your eyes if you hate the sight of blood!

Decapitated, and ready for skinning and cooking.

Chopped and seasoned!

Over a very warm toasty fire. In the end it was very delicious, very fresh.

Holidays in Georgia

So since I'm not going home this holiday season, I'm spending holiday's in Georgia. It's going to be interesting, and cold. I already spend some of the holiday season here, starting with Giorgioba! Basically you put -oba at the end of any name and it's the birthday celebration of that person. So you could call my birthday party "Engioba." Which I will. Giorgioba is the celebration of St. George, the patron saint of Georgia and its name sake.

For this Giorgioba, I went up the mountains to have a traditional Georgia feast with many wine, toasts, and meat. In fact, we slaughtered a small sheep for the festivities. It was very interesting seeing an animal killed, skinned, then chopped up and cooked before my very eyes. I usually go to the supermarket and buy meat there, neatly wrapped and artificially reddened. As always, in any Georgian supra, we have many toasts. The typical ones are for the family, for the moms, dads, sisters, brothers, children, grandchildren, grandparents, etc... We also have for love, for peace, for Georgia, for America (since I'm there), for the fallen, and finally for God. Mind you we have to drink an entire glass of wine for each one, so I get pretty hammered by the time we get to God. It's going to be interesting re-adjusting to America when I have wine, then just chug it. It's how we do it in Georgia, I might forget that we sip wine in America.

I also made a Thanksgiving dinner where we had music (my guitar teacher came and played songs), lively conversation, and lots and lots of food. Except turkey. Not sure where to get Turkey here, I sometimes see them wandering around the train tracks, but I never see anyone eat them. Maybe next year I'll chase one down and eat it. This year, I made chili, fried rice, salad, bruschetta, sweet carrots, mashed potatoes, and apple pie. It was exhausting making so much, luckily I had someone helping me, other wise 2 days of straight cooking wouldn't have been enough. The dinner paled in comparison to the PC thanksgiving dinner, which was hosted 2 weeks before actual thanksgiving. That dinner was awesome, and I'm pretty sure I gained 5 (very needed) lbs that weekend.

We're also planning a Christmas dinner for those who are too cheap to go home or don't have family who want them home this Christmas. Hopefully we'll have some pumpkin pie. Or at least some eggnog.

Home made wine for chugging!

The spread before the meat.

Serious Georgians making serious toasts.

Thanksgiving with Peace Corps. Roasted Pumpkin seeds are good!

New Routines, New Beds

So I understand I haven't updated my blog in forever. Seems like a common theme of all my blogs, first I start by apologizing for not updating, then I update hastily about my life. Well, thing's aren't changing! Sorry for not blogging more, there has actually been stuff happening in my life, I guess I'm just too busy or too lazy to do blog about it.

First things first, I moved out of my host family. There was nothing wrong with the host family, and in fact, there are things I miss about living with one. But, in the end, I think it's better this way. I get more independence, which was vital for me, since I've been living on my own for the past 7 years, and it was weird to be back with a family being so dependent all the time. And, most importantly, I'm closer to work. Before, my commute was one hour walking, and now it's less than 10 minutes. I moved to the center of town, so I'm close to all the markets as well. I can also stay up late and make all the noise I want without anyone bother me. Only downside is that I have to clean after myself and do my own laundry. I can't just leave for Tbilisi on a weekend and have everything cleaned and tidied up by the time I get back home.

I also picked up some new routines. I picked up formal guitar lessons, which I have twice a week, and Judo lessons, which I have as many times a week as I want. The guitar instructor used to play for this band, and he's been teaching me classical songs as well as pop songs. Although I feel half the lesson is him writing chords in my book (by hand, painstakingly) and singing songs to me, and the other half me actually practicing. Also, he doesn't speak English. So it's an interesting lesson usually when he tries to explain something new to me. It's basically my Guitar/Georgian lesson.

Judo lessons are similar. No one speaks English, and I'm confused half the time I'm there. I'm also with the 10-16 year-old boys, and I usually spar with the 15-16 year olds, who are my size and can usually kick my ass. The fun part is when we practice throwing, I'm usually behind, so they always offer to let me throw them around. I throw them. Then they get up and say "kidev!" (again!) and then I throw them again. I feel kinda bad throwing around a 15-year old 20 times until I get it right. It kinda hurts to be thrown on the mat, which isn't very soft in the first place. But I guess they get some advantages as well as they get to practice falling?

It's also practically freezing here in Borjomi. I basically walk around in my room seeing my breath follow me every time, day or night. These are the times I miss sunny California.

My new digs! See, I messed it up already!

My new small kitchen. Which I recently used to feed 16 people in a Thanksgiving dinner.

My warm fire place. Which I used only twice because I don't know how to start a proper fire.

My guitar teacher. Which has taught me a few Georgian songs. Which I can't sing.

My Judo class. During warm-ups, I feel terrible fighting 15 -year olds. I feel even worst getting my ass kick by them!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How Small is this Town?

Today as I was walking home (look!, I'm writing a blog about something that happened recently, instead of several weeks ago!), I thoroughly undressed one of the repeat offenders who routinely yell "chineli!" at me and other nonsense. As I addressed him in very firm Georgian, he recanted everything he said and I had him back-tracking on his statements. However, honestly, I didn't take pleasure in half-way yelling at a 12-year-old Georgian boy. He's not the only one who does these things, but it definitely reminds me of why I want to move closer to work. My one-hour walk home definitely affords people the opportunity to stare and yell things at me.

In thinking about these incidents, I often consider how much safer Georgians have it (especially in a village, which Borjomi is not). First I think to myself, how often do they see me walking by that they aren't used to me by now, then I think to myself, how we Americans think of staring at someone as rude and why we don't usually do it. Looking back at my own childhood, I'm reminded of incidents of my precocious nature and how that got me in trouble. I remember flashing a light into a car once, and the driver of the car in return pointed a gun at me. I was only 6, but I definitely stopped flashing flashlights at people then. I also remember staring at people in my youth, only to be yelled back at in very aggressive terms like "what YOU looking at boy?!" or the equally aggressive stare-down plus head nod which usually, in my experience, is a precursor to a fight which usually involved guns or knives and unequal amount of opponents. I guess growing up in Echo Park and East Los Angeles is a lot different than growing up in Georgia. Although I guess if I grew up here, I would probably be worried about the Russians invading again.

Now, to distract you from this serious post, I would like to show you a picture that has me cracking up every time I see it:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Borjomoba Pictures

Georgian Folk Song performance. The girls to the left in blue and grey are from California.

Very athletic Georgian dancing for guys. I know, I tried to learn, its crazy tough.

Georgian folk dancers in costume.

More costumed dancers

They had stands out where they made kikani, one of my favorite dishes. It's basically a dumpling with meat inside.

Is it cold here? Or am I just getting old?

I know I haven't written in a long time. I keep thinking I should write something. But then I get lazy and I forget. So instead I'm going to write a long post trying to hazily remember the past few weeks.

So in Borjomi, we recently held the annual Pan-Parks conference. It's a rotating conference, and it just happened to rotate to Georgia this year. The Pan-Parks organization is a confederation of National Parks that promotes wilderness in Europe. It has parks from all over Europe from Portugal, Finland, Italy, Bulgaria, etc... The cool thing about having the conference here is that representatives from every country come and I get to meet them. Even representatives from Rocky Mountain National Park came, and from the U.S. forestry dept. It was cool being one of 4 representatives from Borjomi Kharaguali National Park, and probably a bit confusing for everyone else. I'd never thought I would meet so many rangers from all over the world before. Peace Corps is definitely giving me a bunch of really interesting experiences.

I went to Tbilisi again, it's a monthly thing (hopefully). I don't want to go into the details because if you know me its the same drunken craziness that happens every time I drink with purpose (the only way to drink in my opinion). Needless to say there was lost phones, running from police, wandering around the city till dawn, and marriage proposals. Typical weekend in Tbilisi. I did enjoy the fact that when I bought a bottle of vodka at a bar/club, and offered shots to two Georgians, they put the bottle on their tab. Very kind. Although there was another scenario where a few Georgians had bought Jack Daniels for us and then they drunkenly left without paying. It was an awkward situation.

It was my birthday last weekend. It's also been getting really cold here. There's no heating in my apartment building, so it feels even colder in my room than outside. Not sure if I'm going to survive through the Borjomi winter. To celebrate my birthday I went horseback riding with a few friends. It was a fairly adventurous day with us climbing a wet rocky mountain and then climbing down. I thought I was going to die at several points during the trip. My horse even slipped a few times and that was pretty scary, especially seeing a 200 ft drop a foot away. But It was really fun, and as a souvenier I had a really sore ass for a few days. I also had an American Supra with a few friends and lots of wine. I've done these American Supra's (basically a dinner party with lots of wine + toasting) many many times. Sometimes for Americans, but mainly with the accompaniment of Georgians. I usually try to make something different every time, but I always feature my crepes, which has been a hit here in Georgia (courtesy of Teddy). Horseback riding + American Supra was Saturday, Sunday was the Borjomoba. This is a festival to celebrate the founding of Borjomi, where everyone in the village comes out for dancing and festivities and food and drinks. I'm not sure who sponsors these things, but there were many stands and everything was free! I drank from many bowls of wine (not a good idea then since I was hungover from the night before) and even ate a rabbit! It was delicious. I also went to a circus that was there for some reason and as I was leaving, the ringmaster pulled me in to participate in a performance. It was weird standing in front of hundreds of Georgians and having someone yelling instructions in Georgian. There was also a performance at the cultural center theater which was one of the most bizarre experiences I've had in Georgia yet. Basically it was a bunch of groups singing and performing Georgian songs and dances. Except some of the groups were from California, Norway, and England! The Georgians loved it! I think they always appreciate when someone tries to learn their culture, I know I get good remarks when I speak to them in Georgian. I got to hang out with some of the Americans after the performance and learned that they were from the San Francisco area and they've been performing Eastern European songs for a while but for most of them it was the first time to Georgia. I meet a lot of Europeans here, but seldomly do I meet Americans (except for PCV's) so it's always a treat to talk to them.

On Monday, my actual birthday my host family threw me a Supra. They invited this girl that has been coming to my house every now and then. They've been trying to get me to marry her, or something like that. Who knows, I might have already agreed; when I don't understand what someones saying to me in Georgian, I usually just say "ho" (which means yes) a lot hoping to not look stupid. I should be more careful about what I say. At the Supra was also the girl's mom. Which I feel was a definite sign they were inspecting me or something. On a side note, did you know that Mama in Georgian is Dad, and Deda is Mom, it throws me off every time I hear a child yell Mama! and then their dad comes over. So after this extensive weekend of partying, activities, and drinking, I feel very sore. It doesn't help that it's been cold. In the past, I could've done this easily and been fine. Now I have chest pains, soreness that lasts longer than I could remember, and other ailments that afflict the old. I also find myself telling people "you're so young, just watch, when you get my age, you'll know" in reference usually to people's optimism and hopefulness. I guess being old beats that out of you. Or maybe I'm too jaded for my own good. Hopefully I survive the winter.

Sunset on the Black Sea in Ureki. Where they have black magnetic sands which Georgians love to roll around in (for medicinal purposes).

Bridge in Borjomi that's lighted up at night.

Horse Convoy... I wasn't in back for long, my horse was kinda wild.

Many many bowls later.... (there's wine in there)

Borjomi Festival!