Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tbilisi: New Blood

This morning, the sun shined, the air was cool. I walk pertly out of my building, whipped around the corner, and heard my name being called. I looked up and saw Tia, her sister Mari, her mother-in-law Lali, and her daughter, Nino, leaning out the 6th floor window, with laundry aflutter. "We're cleaning the house! You go Tbilisi?" Yes, I said, and we waved at each other, and I took a picture.

I continued on my merry way to the local marshurtka station (by the church), passing the ladies from the building behind me. They sat at the picnic table generally occupied by the men; I could see coffee and breads. I called out a hello, they waved me over to join them, and I politely declined, "I'm off to Tbilisi!"

Just as my mind was casting about for the melody to the Andy Griffith Show, I encountered a neighbor who smiled at me, and we exchanged the one-kiss-embrace and the how-are-you's and she pinched me on my cheeks and told me something nice. I chuckled and we made off in our separate directions

How'd that Mayberry song go?

I arrived at the marshurtka station, got on the correct marshurtka, and we presently took off for Tbilisi.

... and then an ever-escalating verbal conflict arose, ascended, and almost came to blows between two women on the minibus. The other passengers showed considerable restraint in their studied appreciation of this operetta. Me, too.  

My plan for Tbilisi was to watch a basketball tournament rustled up between TLGers, American Embassy staffers, Ministry of Education folks, and Peace Corps Volunteers. I somehow found my way to the TLG office, where I met other TLGers new to me. While we waited for the TLG van to emerge, which would take us to the Police Academy for the tournament, we got acquainted.

External lift, Abishadze Street

Within about five minutes a TLGer and I got into a somewhat heated conversation regarding a cultural issue (which I'll post on some time in the future when I believe I have a better handle on the subject). I had to laugh with him later because one of the things I really admire about my fellow TLGers is how damned interesting they are (and often, smart as hell), so these kinds of exchanges make me smile.

Music school on Abishadze Street

The basketball games were mildly interesting - what was more fun was talking with the representatives from two different TLG cohorts. (I am in Group 21; my companions today were mostly from Group 22, with a scattering from earlier batches.)

Pavement work, Abishadze Street

Toilet instructions, Thai restaurant on Abishadze Street
After the game, our little crowd went to the Thai restaurant on Abishadze Street. Serene and soothing ambiance, solicitous staff, high prices, but only so-so food. I did like that the toilet had operating instructions; it was one of those with the rotating plastic wrap on the seat. The group included teachers from the U.S., New Zealand, and England. (Among the Americans was a fellow "kind-of-from-St. Louisan.)

After filling ourselves up on Thai, a few of us spun off into separate adventures, and the rest of us dropped by Prospero's, where the 22s found two compadres - one from Canada and one from North Dakota. Then more stopped by - from Philadelphia, LA, and New York.

I had already decided to return to Rustavi for the night, but I wished I'd planned for an overnight in Tbilisi. The 22s intended to find some live music, as in blues, and that was so tempting. As it was, we walked over to a artsy little cafe bar that looked out over Rustavelli square. I loved the warehousy-artsy-lofty space with the homey farm-style tables and wood chairs. We laughed at our English-teaching stories and shared how much we enjoyed teaching the police here.

Eclectic backgrounds: Some of us have overseas teaching experience in S. Korea, Poland, Zambia, and Cameroon. Two are certified teachers, one in the U.S. and one in Canada. One was a Peace Corps volunteer.

Forgot to note that on the way to Prospero's, I ran into Jost, the Dutch journalist and NGO staffer who's been in Georgia for about 6 weeks. We'd met at the Big Star Hostel a couple of weeks ago. This was his last day in Georgia before returning home.

Well, after a really enjoyable time at the cafe bar, we split up -- the 22s going on to a place with cheap drinks to "tank up" a bit before going to the pricier club, the 20-group member who struck out for his out-of-the-way hostel, and me for Rustavi.

Tbilisi is so beautiful at night - all lit up. Many people, of all ages, walking about, eating, drinking, window shopping. Made me think of Paris. I'll be sure to spend some after-dark time in Tbilisi in the future, just walking about to see it shining.

I took the metro to my marshurtka station, found a marshurtka, and was on my way home.

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