Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Being Rootless Means No Spring Cleaning

In the New York Times article, Getting a Jump on Spring Cleaning, the author gives excellent tips for the annual (or for some germ-phobes, semi-annual) cleaning extravaganza.

I never was much on such grand gestures when I was rooted, but sometimes I felt guilty about it. Now I have no home to spring clean and pretty much no stuff. Ergo, no cleaning and no guilt. Tra la. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Georgia: Teacher Talking Time

I was invited to give a presentation at a conference in Tbilisi. The conference is this Sunday, March 4. The organization is CETE (Center for Excellence in Teaching English), which is affiliated with TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), and of which I am an individual member. 

I cast about for presentation topics and settled on reducing teacher talking time (TTT). Too much TTT was a particular challenge for me in my CELTA training, and it is a decided challenge for Georgian instructors in general. As I prepare for my presentation, I'm really glad I chose it because it's refreshing my knowledge about TTT and how I can continue to reduce mine. 

... and speaking of teaching in Georgia, classroom management is always in the top 5 of the hot topics. So I loved Phil in the Blank's crooked-book strategy for same (reference Phil's #1). Phil used to be a middle-school teacher so he knows whereof he speaks. 


Monday, February 27, 2012

Georgia: Spring Coming?

Flowers have appeared in the Georgian markets.

Is it possible? Could it mean .... there will be a spring?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Letters from Matt #4: Haramachi, Japan: Fear in My Eyes

Letters From Matt are letters from my brother, Matt, from various of his domestic and international travels. The letters span decades, and I share them on Living Rootless at intervals, in no particular order. 

8 July 1990
Haramachi (now part of Minamisoma), Japan

Dear family,

… Today was a beautiful day. I went to the beach with about a half a dozen students and friends. The people here are so nice to me. (But I have to be careful – last night at a party, some girls asked me what my blood type was.)

We went swimming in the ocean. I got sunburned on my face and legs. I can feel the heat now, especially on my legs, as I lay on my futon writing this letter. The waves were enormous, frothy, and crashing down on me – filling my nose and mouth with salty water. After getting out, my skin was sticky with salt. Many Japanese were surfing today. One of our friends brought two surfboards. He offered for me to try, but I had already swallowed enough ocean for the day. Maybe next time.

One of the girls made lunch. It’s amazing how carefully prepared Japanese food is. She made egg salad sandwiches with white bread - sounds simple, but she sliced the crust away from each sandwich and arranged them neatly and tightly; packed in a box as if they were made for astronauts.

She also made fried chicken drumsticks. The skin and meat from the smaller end of the drumstick were peeled upward so as to leave bare bone on one side that could be used like a handle for eating without getting your fingers greasy. It was like a popsicle sort of. The end of the bare bone was wrapped in foil to be sure no grease touched your hand.

After a nice long day at the beach, we went out to a restaurant. While we ate, they taught me some Japanese phrases like – Anata wan han sai des? means how old are you? and biru kudasai means I’ll have a beer, please. The latter phrase could be quite useful, so in gratitude, I taught them a couple expressions such as I drank like a fish and I’m going to sleep like a log

Oh yeah, at the beach I started to build a sand castle. The girls were very curious of my strange, child-like behavior I guess, but they started to bring me water to help make the sand wet for me. Then a couple of guys built a wall around it. When finished, it was about a meter tall (we’ve gone metric in Japan; so sorry) with towers and flags, a moat with a drawbridge. When we left, the tide had just begun to slosh water through the gates and into the moat. It was cool.

Last night, at my suggestion, all the adult students (mostly female between the ages of 18 and 28) joined in a party to celebrate Independence Day, a farewell to a student leaving for Australia, a birthday, my one-month anniversary of Japan life, and Tanabata.

Tanabata is a Japanese holiday that has something to do with some sort of stellar convergence that happens once a year on about July 7th. Anyway, part of the tradition is to have a tanabata tree, a leafy top section of a bamboo (which grows abundantly in these parts). The tree is decorated almost like a Christmas tree with little pieces of colored paper folded into many different shapes. Then everybody writes a wish on a piece of colored paper and attaches it to the tree. This ritual, along with the stellar convergence, is supposed to make all of your dreams come true.

Well, anyway, one of the girls brought a Tanabata tree to the party, along with lots of little pieces of colored paper. She showed me how to fold the paper into a paper balloon and I and others made a wish to place on the tree. It was fun.

The party, at my suggestion, was held on the roof of the school, one of the tallest buildings in town. The moon was full. You could see the shadows of mountains in the distance, a few kilometers away. (So sorry, metric again neh. Eeeeee. I think I’m turning Japanese neh.)

G*, a girl who I’ve got a crush on, brought a big plate of sushi. She fixed a big plate for me. Oh no!!!!!! The raw fish kind of sushi is no problem. I even like it kind of. But she honored me with the more expensive delicacy of raw salmon eggs wrapped in seaweed. 

Salmon eggs --> Human delicacy. Photo credit: Randy Johnson
Because of the way it is here, you are supposed to put the whole thing in your mouth all at once. Somebody sensed the fear in my eyes so they rushed the video camera and spotlight over to me. The whole group watched the barbarian almost gag on what they consider heaven. All I could think of was, yeah, I’ve seen this stuff before in jars in the sporting goods department at Sears – used as FISH BAIT! 

Salmon eggs --> Fish bait. Credit: OLX.

I almost threw up, but didn’t. My honor was left intact and I soon recovered after a few beers. …



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Georgia: The Human Sex Ratio

In an English class yesterday, I wondered aloud: Why do there seem to be so many male police officers who are married versus so many female police officers who are unmarried?

I think the explanation is a function of several variables, but the police students in this class (all unmarried women) said that the gender ratio in Georgia = one Georgian male per seven Georgian females.

I knew already that Georgia has negative population growth. Some of this is due to a declining birth rate and some is due to an economic diaspora of Georgian adults to the U.S., Greece, Italy, Spain, Germany, and other parts. Georgia's Patriarch, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, is so concerned about the population's decline that he has exhorted Georgian women to have more children, promising that he will be the godfather of all third and fourth children in a family.

So when the police women claimed there was only one Georgian man for every seven Georgian women, I wanted to check it out.

Whoa. I stumbled on a South Caucasus anomaly that researchers have been looking at recently.

Georgia is second only to China in its ratio of boys-to-girls in the under-15 population. Georgia has 113 boys to 100 girls, while China has 117 boys to 100 girls. There is a similar situation in neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan. (Note: In the U.S. the ratio is 104 boys to 100 girls.)

Other data show there is an even more marked disparity when one looks at birth order in Georgia. For every 100 girls who are the third-born in a family, there are 150 boys born who are the third-born in a family. 

Such a large gender disparity in the under-15 age bracket puts Georgia on a par with societies infamous for practicing "gendercide," including China and India. The Council of Europe published Prenatal Selection in September 2011, in which it presumes, albeit without direct evidence, that the disparity in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan is primarily a function of pregnancy selection, aka abortion. 

It's important to note that, notwithstanding the under-15 disparity, in the 15-64 age bracket, Georgia is in the bottom 25 of the world for the number of men-to-women. In this cohort, there are only 93 men to 100 women. (Note: In the U.S., there are 100 men to 100 women in the 15-65 cohort.)

A 2000 World Bank report noted there were 124 Georgian women per 100 men. Unfortunately, the report didn't define the age range for these figures.

You never know what you're going to find when you start looking under rocks.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Travel Blasphemy #2: Bus Tours Are OK

Credit: HotelClub

"Real" travel is all about exploring on our own, getting lost and laughing about it, discovering hidden nooks and crannies of a place, stepping off that much-maligned beaten path, having that memorable conversation with the old guy you encountered in the dusty corner shop who's experienced a remarkable, adventurous life, and eating a homey meal offered to you, out of the blue, by a complete stranger who invited you into her house. Right?  

All of these are wonderful parts of travel. I love them.

And. Sometimes it makes sense to take a bus tour.

"A bus tour?" You ask, aghast. "Only bourgeois peegs take bus tours! Je suis un voyageur!"

Well, I dunno about you, but I've got finite resources in time, money, the number of learning curves I want to climb per day, and tolerance for arrangement hassles. I want my satisfaction utils to exceed the expenditures of these resources.

Here are circumstances where a bus tour might make sense: 
  1. First visit to a large, sprawling city
  2. First visit to a city with many landmarks 
  3. Limited time
  4. Limited knowledge about a location (i.e., event, cultural, or architectural history)  
  5. An experience or secondary destination that is difficult to arrange on one's own
  6. Physical challenges

Credit: Euro Travel

1. First visit to a large, sprawling city

In some cities, most of the interesting sights are concentrated in a relatively small geographic area. With some exceptions, Washington, D.C. is a good example of this; Chicago is another. I can walk to most of the sights or get around via the fairly-easy public transportation systems.

But in other cities, the landmarks are dispersed throughout a large geographic area, requiring one to master local transportation systems, the hours of operation at various venues, and the distances to visit them on my own. I'm totally on top of this for some trips. Other trips, I don't want to work so hard.

A bus tour is an easy-button way to visit the sights in such cities. If I want to take a longer look at one or two of the sites, I can return on my own. 

Another advantage of the bus tour is it gives me a 3D recon of the city. As I sit in my comfortable bus seat and watch the city roll by, brain pleasantly in neutral, I can note interesting neighborhoods and venues that I  want to explore later.

2. First visit to a city with many landmarks

Not all landmarks are created equal. I know some won't keep my interest longer than 15-20 minutes, but I do want to see them. Allocating more than, say, one hour of energy (physical, mental, emotional, financial) to get to and from each of these sights = poor return on my investment.

String a number of these kinds of landmarks together, and I've got an excellent case for a bus tour. I can  consolidate the sights in half a day with a small allocation of my finite resources, freeing up more to spend on other, more fascinating things on my trip list.

3. Limited time

If I'm going to be in a city for only a day or two, a bus tour may be the only way for me to see parts of the city I don't have the time to negotiate on my own.

In Istanbul, if you've got a long-enough layover and it's at the right time, you can get a tour of the city for the cost of a visa - 20 bucks.

4. Limited knowledge

Some of us do advance research on intended destinations, reading not only travel guides, but fiction and nonfiction books about the destination, perhaps even taking up some language lessons before departure.

I wish I were more like such travelers (well, not really, but I feel I should want to be more like them), but I'm not. An advantage of a bus tour is that tour guides usually provide interesting color commentary on the city, its history, the various sights and neighborhoods the bus passes, and often a scandalous bit here and there.

5. An experience or side trip that is difficult to arrange on my own

I'm defining difficult to mean "more trouble than I care to take" or "more time than I can afford" to design a custom experience or find my own way to a desired destination.

6. Physical challenges

There are some people who love to travel, but who have physical challenges that limit their abilities to explore on their own for any length of time.

For one, it may be an endurance issue - she knows she can go strong for a couple of hours, but then must rest. Another might have eyesight issues that affect his peripheral vision or depth perceptions, making walking about difficult. A third person may have mobility issues. Bus tours can extend the travel day and expand the travel experience for those of us with physical obstacles. 

So, put on those bermuda shorts, a fanny pack, and Bing Crosby hat and get on the bus!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Georgia: Georgians Are Not Afraid of Electricity

Georgians are not afraid of electricity like we Americans are.

Men and women regularly fix electrical things with pliers, tape, and I don't know what else.

My host, Irakli, opened up a power strip, fiddled with its guts, applied some tape on its cord, put it all back together again, and plugged in a radio.

Rustavi: Irakli fixes a powerstrip

Rustavi: Irakli fixes a powerstrip

Speaking of guts, my hostess, Neli, cleaned up a dead chicken while Irakli worked above. Did I know unlaid eggs were in a hen when it was butchered? I guess if I'd thought about it, I'd have maybe said yes. But I didn't, so I was morbidly scientifically interested in seeing this.

It's the damndest thing.

Rustavi: Eggs in hen

Rustavi: Eggs in hen

Rustavi: Eggs in hen

I didn't know this, but Neli uses these unlaid eggs in a special soup she makes of chicken broth, flour, milk and herbs. The soup I ate earlier today, from a different chicken.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Letters from Matt #3: Tulum, Mexico: Stung by Stingray!

 Letters From Matt are letters from my brother, Matt, from various of his domestic and international travels. The letters span decades, and I share them on Living Rootless at intervals, in no particular order.

Stingrays. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

14 July 2003
Tulum, Mexico

Dear Mzuri,

Now I am living on the beach in Tulum. My hut has a thatched roof, stick walls, a flimsy door, a concrete floor, a dirty bed, but with washed sheets. This is one of the best huts because it has a concrete floor and a bed and it is closest to the beach so I get blasted with a fierce ocean breeze that keeps me cool and eliminates all but a few mosquitoes. I sleep with the doors open all night feeling the breeze and the ocean glimmering in the moonlight and framed in palm trees. The ocean is just 150 feet from my door. Beautiful girls from Europe sunbathe topless outside my thatched-roof front porch, where I stay in the shade most of the day.

Yesterday, I was snorkeling … I saw a small manta ray laying in the sand under water a half kilometer from the shore. I went under to agitate it just a little to see it wave its winglike body so gracefully like a butterfly. It wasn’t a manta ray, but a stingray.

His tail stung my hand, leaving it bleeding and paralyzed with pain. I tried to squeeze out any venomous or infectious stuff or stinger even though I don’t know if any of these things are a part of a stingray’s bite. My fingers couldn’t move and the light bleeding wasn’t stopping immediately so I swam to shore without the use of my left hand. By the time I got to shore, my hand felt like it was on fire and someone put out the fire by smashing it with a hammer. Soreness moved up my arm almost up to my shoulder. This lasted about two hours.

Concerned onlookers offered thoughtful suggestions for treatment. The first was from a guy who helped around the scuba shack.  He was a tall and thin Mexican man, a heavy drinker and smoker who like others had found a lifestyle hanging around the beach catching work where he could find it. He had many tattoos,very muscular, had skin like leather.  In previous conversation I found he knew something about traditional healing.  He earlier mentioned a kind of wood that could be brewed in tea to treat kidney stones. His suggestion for the treatment of a stingray sting was to allow a friend to urinate on the wound. The tourists and locals who were standing by looked at me to see what I would say, then away from me or to the sand as if realizing I might recruit them.  I suggested I would pass on that treatment

A Mexican guy poured alcohol on it and then swabbed it with merthiolate. His name is Iban. I thought Iban liked me, but after his first aid, I’m not sure, because that hurt like hell.

A French-Canadian gave me some Bactarin ointment. I guess this may have helped prevent any chance of infection, but nothing for pain.

An Israeli asked if I wanted something for pain. Damn right I did. He gave me a little white pill. He couldn’t remember the over-the-counter name, but said it was good and would work in a few minutes. He was right. My hand feels fine now. However, people keep melting in front of my eyes and a palm tree turned into a bird and flew away.

Just kidding about those last two details. I’m fine now and see the world as a benevolent place. … Anyway, I want to get back to the beach, now that I know the difference between a manta ray and a stingray.

And now I know why they say don’t touch anything in the ocean.



Saturday, February 18, 2012

Missouri: From Country Bumpkin to World Traveler

Rosalyn Pursley. Credit: eMissourian

From Country Bumpkin to World Traveler is a cool article about Rosalyn Pursley, age 69, who lives in Port Hudson, Missouri. (Written by Karen Myers, featured in Senior Times, eMissourian.)

Port Hudson, Missouri, isn't so much a town as it is a widening in the road. Closest actual town is Leslie, population 87.

Rosalyn didn't venture outside Missouri til after she graduated from high school.

Since then, Rosalyn began out-of-state vacations with her husband and children, later on duo trips with her daughter, and then eventually out on her own. Rosalyn's backpacked solo to Europe, Asia, Africa, the middle East, and South America. 


Friday, February 17, 2012

Rustavi: Food Poisoning

Credit: Food Poisoning Symptoms Info

This morning, I called T, one of my police students, to let her know I'd be unable to be in class today.

It was an opportunity to increase her English vocabulary with the words diarrhea and vomiting.

Last night, I was struck with food poisoning, a first for me. Cramping stomach, diarrhea, nausea and then vomiting, shivering with cold even though I curled up under two duvets, embracing my hot water bottle. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

During my many sojourns to the bathroom, while shivering and clutching my abdomen, I reflected on:
  • Yesterday's conversation with Justina, a TLG colleague, about the courseness or fineness of Georgian toilet paper. I felt grateful that the 55-tetri toilet paper was on hand versus the 30-tetri product.
  • The experience of another TLG colleague, Hannah, who had to flick ice off of the toilet seat in her host family's house before using it.
  • And, thank God, I had an inside toilet to use, instead of traipsing through a frigid yard to a frigid outhouse. I cannot even imagine it. I think I would have had to find a bucket in that situation.

With morning came some relief, but I stayed in bed til about 3:00 p.m. 

The idea of ingesting the local cure, chacha with some salt, made me grimace this afternoon, but I may take a shot of same before I go to bed tonight.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tbilisi: The WC Down Under

Tbilisi - Station Square - Down to the WC

I went to Tbilisi today for a hangout at Prospero's, the expat bookstore and cafe.

Hoo-wee! I had to go to the bathroom super bad by the time the marshrutka got to Station Square (aka Vagswal) metro station. I knew there was a WC there, down under, presumably one of those squalid toilet places you don't want to use except in desperate circumstances.

It was that kind of situation, so I went down into the deep.

Tbilisi - Under Station Square

And I found a bustling underground shopping mall that carried some pretty nice merchandise!

Tbilisi - Under Station Square

And though the WC was of the Turkish toilet variety and it cost 20 tetri or so to use one, it wasn't in bad shape.

If I have to go again, I'll go again. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Teaching Police versus Children

A child student excuses himself from class: I have to go to the bathroom.

A police officer student excuses himself from class: We just caught a killer.

One hopes the student washes his hands before returning to class.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rustavi: To Market

Rustavi: Pigs at market

 Today, Sandy and I went to Old Rustavi's market. I bought:
  • Carrots for a delicious vegetable soup Nely and Ketino would make later today (1.5 lari)
  • Pink plastic shoes for the bath (4.5 lari)
  • Toilet paper (to replace the roll I accidentally dropped into the toilet yesterday) (30 tetri)

Sandy bought some sole inserts for her boots, some spinach, dried persimmons, and a long lighter for the stove at her host family's house.

Those pigs at the top of  this post. Every time I see this picture, I wonder: What kinds of pigs were these? As in, their personalities. They look like maybe they were mischievous, fun-loving. I hope they had a good life before they died. 

It was slushy and cold outside. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Letters from Matt #2: Tulum, Mexico: Medical Emergency!

Letters From Matt are letters from my brother, Matt, from various of his domestic and international travels. The letters span decades, and I share them on Living Rootless at intervals, in no particular order.

Mexico. Credit: Matt

1 August 2003. Tulum, Mexico.

Dear Mzuri,

I have been caught up in the powerful windy vortex of beach life, mesmerized by the sea's vast emptiness and captivated by the constant adventures and treasures that wash up on the shores.

It is a big day if I learn a new Spanish phrase, meet a new friend, snorkel on the reef, find a shell, swim in a freshwater sinkhole called a cenote, and cook a wonderful meal with my improvised kitchen on the beach.

I have the best cabana on the beach, Cabana 13. It is a natural magnet, a gateway, a garden of beauty, and I am its king, and it is my palace. I lay in my hammock and court visitors, vendors, vagabonds, vegetarians, vegans, and varmints.

The night before last, my palace was invaded by the return of an agonizing pain in my kidneys [that] I'd experienced 10 years ago. It happened at midnight after having gone to bed an hour earlier. I was agonizing with pain for six hours before waking up my Swiss friend, who happens to be a medical assistant. She had wanted to see the sunrise, so in tears, I said please wake up and see the sunrise, and then take me to the hospital.

We took the taxi an hour's painful drive to the nearest hospital where M* and I had to learn new Spanish such as rinyon for kidney and piedra for stone. (Every experience has its opportunity for learning.)

Four doctors attended to me along with a radiologist and nurse. With my Swiss friend to be my companion, the kindness of the medical staff, including a urologist who drove an hour to consult on my condition, I was in good hands. I had an allergic reaction that they had to quickly counter with a hydrocortisone shot.

I was in the hospital about seven hours and spent five hundred dollars. Cheap if you ask me, because I would have let them take anything to relieve such pain. The x-ray confirmed a 1.2 cm kidney stone, up from the 7 mm stone I had 10 years ago. They gave me some pain killers, some anti-inflammatory drugs, and an antibiotic, and Claritin E and said I could finish my vacation and take the surgery or other resolution to the problem when I return home. The urologist said my only risk would be more pain and not damage to my health.

.... my friends from Switzerland and Mexico just found me here in the internet cafe and are ordering me a banana smoothie with milk. The girls picked up some medication for me from the pharmacy and brought me some chicken, chili peppers, broccoli, and other items for us to barbecue on the beach tonight.

Life is good and even out of the dark comes light.



Thursday, February 9, 2012

Georgia: Warmth

It's still cold in Georgia, but I have a new best friend:

It actually warms the entire room. I can relax my tensed muscles.

The radiator is oil-filled. Neither Nely nor I feel comfortable leaving it plugged in at night, but that's OK. The room is warm at night before I go to bed, I've got the two duvets, and my hot water bottle to keep me warm.

Big, good change in quality of life.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Georgia: School's Out!

Rustavi snow, February 2012

Woke up to snow in Rustavi today.

Rustavi snow, February 2012

It was pretty, really. Except I'm so ready for spring, so tired of cold.

Rustavi snow, February 2012

The streets were a slippery mess.

Rustavi snow, February 2012

The government closed down all of the schools in Georgia until Monday because of the cold. The children were ecstatic!

Rustavi snow, February 2012

The branches of the pine trees could hold the weight of the snow only so long before they bowed down, releasing their loads in airy avalanches.

Rustavi snow, February 2012

 Our communal water spigot carried on, as usual.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Travel Blasphemy #1: Turkish Coffee

Nescafe, this traveler's friend. Credit: Nestle.

A lot of international travelers rave about turkish coffee and sneer at instant coffee.

I like a good cup of coffee, myself. I drink it black, no sugar.

If I'm going to have an espresso drink, I'm going to have an espresso or an americano. Because there's no milk, sugar, or other flavorings in the coffee, I can taste the beans, the roast, and the preparation. I know the difference between a good cup of coffee and a bad cup of coffee.

Hell, I've even been to the birthplace of coffee. Twice.

Coffee roasted Ethiopian style

If an establishment doesn't make a good espresso, then I'll just have the house brew, thank you very much. Why spend the extra money for a product that's no better than the brewed?

So when I say I am just as happy with a cup of instant coffee, strong, as I am with a turkish coffee, I do so without embarrassment. In my experience, most turkish coffees are no more flavorful than ol' Nescafe, giving me insufficient reason to suffer the sludge at the bottom of my cup.

And when I'm traveling, instant coffee is a loyal friend always ready to give me a dose of energy without any fuss.

For the record, though, my favorite coffee is at Coffee Zone in Jefferson City or Columbia, Missouri. Their everyday brewed Rocket Fuel is so muscular, it'll walk your cup right off the table if you don't keep an eye on it. To get Taisir or Osama's espresso would be redundant. (But for those who like turkish coffee, you can get that, too.)

Taisir Yanis' Coffee Zone, Jefferson City, Missouri

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tbilisi: Buses, Toasters, and Jam

Tbilisi: Buses at Station Square

Buses or busses. Take your pick.

Justina, a TLG colleague, introduced me to the world of Tbilisi buses yesterday. I'd focused on marshrutkas and the metro prior to this, but my destination on Sunday was the big Goodwill to meet another TLG colleague. To get there, a bus made the most sense.

Tbilisi bus stops have LED signs with both Georgian and English information about bus numbers, where the buses go, and how many minutes before they will arrive.

Tbilisi: Bus stop LED board: Bus number, final destination, and minutes til arrival at this stop. In Georgian.

Tbilisi: Bus stop LED board: Bus number, final destination, and minutes til arrival at this stop. In English.

In Tbilisi, I can tag my metro card on the metro, yellow marshrutkas, and yellow buses.

Tbilisi: Bus ticket and a metro card you can tag on the metro and yellow marshrutkas or buses. Bus fare 50 tetri. Marshrutka fare 80 tetri.

There are "yellow jackets" at stops who can tell riders which bus to get for their desired destination. The yellow jackets get on and off the buses to make sure passengers have the bus ticket receipts they pulled from the paybox when they tag their metro cards or insert money.

Tbilisi: "Yellow jackets"help riders get on right bus and monitor ticket purchases on buses.

I took Bus #15 to the Big Goodwill way up in north Tbilisi. The big Goodwill is similar to a Walmart. Smaller Goodwills in Tbilisi are supermarkets-plus.

Tbilisi bus

I arrived at the Goodwill and met Marie, a fellow TLGer. We did some catching up, then commenced to shopping. I'm not all the keen on shopping, so I'll cut to the highlights:

Toasters are expensive at the Goodwill. Marie had the good idea of just using a long implement to toast bread on the gas burner at my hosts' house. We found a basket thingie used to grill fish, with a long handle. Perfect. And less than 10 lari (versus the 65-plus lari an electric toaster would have cost at Goodwill - versus less than 30 lari a toaster would have cost at a Georgian bazaar.)

New "toaster"

Jam was on Marie's shopping agenda. I explained that I could not even think about bringing jam home, as Nely would likely throw me out of her house if I did. She has a huge supply of homemade jam from her village farm and it is far superior to anything I might get at the store.

After we finished shopping, Marie and I had lunch at the little Goodwill cafe, then parted ways.

When I returned home, I told Nely about what I said about jam, and she got a little agitated just imagining the prospect of my bringing jam home.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Letters From Matt #1, Tulum, Mexico: What's Going On?

Letters From Matt are letters from my brother, Matt, from various of his domestic and international travels. The letters span decades, and I share them on Living Rootless at intervals, in no particular order.

18 July 2003. Tulum, Mexico.

Dear Mzuri,

Just checking in. It's hard to spend much time on the computer now. I think I might be having an impending diarrhea event. You know the feeling. Otherwise life is great in Tulum.

I'm surprised I haven't heard from Mom or Sister 2. I was hoping to respond to their emails. As I said, it is easy for me to push the reply on my screen as I can't carry a sweaty piece of paper in my pocket [with their email addresses on it] if I'm hitchhiking six kilometers to town and sitting in a hot cafe with diarrhea and look up their address.

I also am worried that although I replied to Sister 2 with a question about how Maya is doing, I have not received a reply. This makes me imagine she is dead and therefore Sister 2 has decided not to reply so my trip is ruined with bad news. I would rather know than to imagine the worst, so please ask her to reply. Of course, now I know she will just tell me what I want to hear even though my dog has been kidnapped for dissection in a biology experiment or sacrificed in a satanic ritual.

Give everyone my love. TELL ME IF MAYA IS OK.

Oh, and if anyone visits my house, please take in the mail as I forgot to stop my mail before I left. Mzuri, I see you went to Mokabe's, but did you stop at my house? If so, did it burn down or been taken over by drug dealers?

Ok. I think I have to finally go to the bathroom.


Maya, RIP 2011

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Where Do I Live? Revisited

Awhile back, the question arose about how we define where we live versus visit.

(I know where I want to live in the future - some place warm. )

But this post isn't about that so much.

Instead, it's about a guy named Dave and his Longest Way Home. His "global quest in search of a place called home." 

After seven years on this journey, he has some thoughts on:

*I have a friend who selected a pre-paid funeral plan that includes an international clause, ensuring her body will either be cremated in the country where she drops (and the cremains shipped home) or her body intact gets shipped home, I don't remember which.  

**One of my brothers also wondered what happens to our digital life after we died, and he researched that with the service provider(s).

I like Dave's analytical and pragmatic approach to these subjects, even if I don't always have the same take.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Georgia: The Land of Decadently Delicious Persimmons

A bowl of persimmons for dessert, Mtskheta, Georgia
Now having tasted the persimmons in Georgia, both off the tree and dried, I believe the origin story should have involved Adam and Eve and a persimmon rather than an apple.

These aren't the persimmons found most often in the U.S., which are lip-pursing tart until way down the road of ripening.

No, the persimmons in Georgia are, best as I can tell, actually the Fuyu variety of Asian persimmons, a crop that I'd love to see adopted by Americans.

They are sweet and crisp. Wherever you looked in the fall you saw trees laden with large, heavy persimmons. When the leaves fell off, the orangey persimmons remained on the tree, providing splashy color to naked limbs. 

Dried persimmon and churchkhela, Rustavi, Georgia

As much as I enjoyed the ripe persimmons, I was unprepared for the experience of the dried persimmon, a full-on sensory extravaganza.

Dried persimmon, Rustavi, Georgia

White powdery sugar coats the outside of the fruit. 

Dried persimmon and churchkhela, Rustavi, Georgia

The persimmon is fleshy to squeeze and chewy to eat.

Dried persimmon, Rustavi, Georgia

You take a bite and it's like biting into a soft caramel. The flavor is similar to that of a very fine date.

Dried persimmon, Rustavi, Georgia

To create these magnificent sweets, you:  
  1. Pick persimmons before they are ripe - when they have started to turn from green to yellow, and they are still hard - generally in September
  2. Peel the skins
  3. String a number of the persimmons together and hang them in a shady spot that gets a breeze
  4. Wait til they are "ripe," when the sugar coats the outside, three months or so
  5. Store in a box or sack

Dried persimmon, Rustavi, Georgia

It is amazing to me how the sugar within moves through the fruit until it flowers on the outside.

In the wikipedia article on persimmons, I find this disturbing excerpt:

Unripened persimmons

Unripened persimmons contain the soluble tannin shibuol, which, upon contact with a weak acid, polymerizes in the stomach and forms a gluey coagulum, a "foodball" or phytobezoar, that can affix with other stomach matter.[12] These phytobezoars are often very hard and almost woody in consistency. More than 85% of phytobezoars are caused by ingestion of unripened persimmons.[13] Persimmon bezoars (diospyrobezoars) often occur in epidemics in regions where the fruit is grown.[14][15][16] Diospyrobezoars should not be of concern when consuming moderate quantities of persimmons. One case in medical literature from 2004 revealed a 51-year old patient who had eaten a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of unpeeled persimmons each day for 40 years.[17][18] Cases have been rare and required surgical removal, but more recently chemical depolymerization by Coca-Cola has been used.[19]

Not sure which is more alarming, the bit about the "gluey foodball" created by eating unripened persimmons or that Coke is used to dissolve it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Portable Product Review: Convertible Gloves

While on vacation in Missouri, I bought these convertible gloves to bring back for protection from the Georgian winter cold:

I bought them for warmth and for accessible dexterity.

Now that I've used them several times, here's the review:

The gloves are warm and the sleeves are long enough to cover any gaps between sleeves and hands. The suede palm pad is great for gripping items and a vehicle's steering wheel. Their convertibility from mittens to fingerless gloves is a benefit when I need to root around in my bag for something, put on glasses, and with some difficulty, text or phone. 

Unfortunately, the disadvantages of these gloves outweigh the advantages. I've got rather large hands, but still, these gloves feel too big. The mitten part of the glove pulls away from my fingers too easily, exposing them to the cold air. The velcro attachment that keeps the mitten flap out of the way when you're using your fingers - it's in the precise spot to scrape your skin when you scratch your nose. Ouch. And the velcro attachment between the two parts (mitten flap and the back of the glove) isn't very strong, so the two come apart prettily easily. There's already a hole in one glove's sleeve. 

The thumb flap gets in the line of vision when I'm trying to push phone buttons. Super annoying.  

The overall concept is good; I'd just go with a different brand. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Georgia: Yin and Yang

This is what I envisioned when I signed up for Georgia:

Upper Svaneti Pictures
This photo of Upper Svaneti is courtesy of TripAdvisor

This is also Georgia:

Old Bazaar in Old Rustavi on a dreary, slushy, cold, dismal day in January.