A group of TLG teachers consisting of myself and four Canadians went into downtown Tbilisi. We wanted to find the presidential palace, and after a while of wandering toward it, we found ourselves asking for directions from a Russian cab driver.
He did not speak any English and none of us had good enough Georgian to ask for the presidential palace. He kept saying “Russko.” “Jaz govorim chisto malo slovensko,” I volunteered – “I speak a very little Slovenian.” His face lit up. “Russko!” he said, nodding his head. My fellow teachers looked at me expectantly. I have no idea how to say “Presidential Palace” in Slovenian, much less Russian. Then it struck me.
“Misha!” I said. I pointed up a hill. “Misha?”
“Misha,” the cab driver agreed, enthusiastically, pointing in the same direction and nodding.
Misha, you see, is the nickname of the President of Georgia. It would be like going to Washington DC, wandering up to a cabbie, and saying “Obama?” and pointing in the general direction of the White House. Crude, but effective.
“Spasibo,” I said as we walked away. “Dobro jutro.” “Thanks, Good morning.” At least, in some kind of broken, bastardized Slavic.
We did find the Presidential Palace. We weren’t allowed to go near it, though. The police looked at us, held out their hands – “stop” – and shook their heads. Communication is fun and easy!